Less than 6% of head chefs and restaurant owners are women in the United States.
On Tuesday, December 14, local filmmaker Joanna Jones screened “A Fine Line” at Worcester Technical High School. The film was written and directed by Jones, a native of Holden, Massachusetts. “A Fine Line” also appeared at this year’s Provincetown Film Festival and Napa Valley Film Festival.
A special reception preceded the screening with samples from local restaurants including Val’s, The Flying Rhino Café, On The Rise Bakery, simjang, Lock 50, and Bean Counter Bakery. Over 150 guests were in attendance for the screening. Val’s stood out as one of the few area restaurants owned and operated by a woman.
Bustling depictions of Val’s Restaurant provided contrast to quieter scenes in her living room. Over the course of the film, the audience forged a personal connection with Val’s maternal nature. Other world renowned chefs such as Dominique Crenn, April Bloomfield, and Cat Cora were prominently featured. Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park and NoMad also provided valuable commentary, lending a male’s perspective for balance.
“A Fine Line” proved that it does not matter if you are a Two Michelin Star Chef or a local business owner; it is twice as hard to be taken seriously in the kitchen as a woman. A common theme mentioned by nearly every interviewee is the value placed on “cooking like their mothers and grandmothers.” Others reiterated the simple fact that if it weren’t for a woman giving him birth, no man would ever find his way to the kitchen. James demanded a level of respect for women she found absent in kitchens across the country.
James is just one of the filmmakers drawing attention to this important issue in the contemporary culinary scene. “Her Name Is Chef,” produced and written by Peter Ferriero, focuses a wider lens on the industry as a whole and women’s roles within it. The story follows six women and the varying paths that led them past the double swinging doors and into the kitchen.
Americans are not used to seeing female chefs grace the big screen. Even in star studded movies like “Burnt,” “Chef,” and “No Reservations,” the lead is a man. Both films make it clear that this is not a call for men to step aside in the industry. There is room for everyone at the table – just as there is room for everyone in the kitchen.