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Michelin ‘Can’t Do Anything’ to Change Lack of Female Representation, Director Says

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Just eight percent of starred NYC restaurants are run by women

From left to right: Matt Lambert, Gabriel Kreuther, Melissa Rodriguez, Michael Ellis, Daniel Boulud, and Charlie Palmer
From left to right: Matt Lambert, Gabriel Kreuther, Melissa Rodriguez, Michael Ellis, Daniel Boulud, and Charlie Palmer
Photo by Stefanie Tuder

The Michelin Guide “can’t do anything” to change the fact that so few restaurants with stars are led by female chefs, the guide’s director Michael Ellis said at a panel on Tuesday.

One day after the release of the 2018 New York City Michelin stars, the tire manufacturer hosted the panel at a Times Square WeWork office with five chefs from Michelin-starred NYC restaurants as a way to promote local businesses.

During the hourlong conversation, Ellis introduced the lone female on the panel, Del Posto executive chef Melissa Rodriguez, by saying it was “heartwarming” that she was a female head chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant, since Michelin “can’t do anything” to change that rare statistic.

Michelin is often criticized for the lack of diversity among its guides. Here in NYC, just eight percent of the 2018 starred restaurants have female head chefs, while San Francisco and Chicago are at 20 percent and D.C. at zero. Critics say that widely acclaimed restaurants led by women have been snubbed by the guide, including Missy Robbins’ Lilia, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune, and Rita Sodi and Jody Williams’ Via Carota.

None of the other panelists — Musket Room’s Matt Lambert, Gabriel Kreuther’s Gabriel Kreuther, Daniel’s Daniel Boulud, and Aureole’s Charlie Palmer — were referred to by their gender. Eater has reached out to Ellis to ask why he chose to address Rodriguez as such, as well as why Michelin could not improve the amount of female representation in guides.

Ellis continued to focus on Rodriguez’s gender throughout the panel, asking her what it was like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. The chef replied that she liked to “check her gender at the door” and just focus on the work.

The guide’s director asked other chefs non-gender focused questions. For instance, he asked Lambert about how he used social media, and he asked Boulud how he motivated 175 employees at Daniel. Rodriguez later noted that she also manages about 175 people at Del Posto.

When Eater asked panelists a question about the responsibility to increase diversity in the industry, Rodriguez answered that she feels the need to support a broader set of employees. She also said that the constant gender reminders and references were “very annoying.” No other chef answered the question.

Update: In a statement to Eater, a Michelin spokeswoman noted that the stars are awarded based on criteria such as the quality of the products, mastery, value for money, consistency, and the “personality” of the chef in his or her cuisine. The spokeswoman adds:

Increasingly, more women are entering the profession in this country and around the world. Michelin is not involved in culinary education or recruitment. We deeply value diversity of all kinds and are pleased to see the trend toward greater diversity in the culinary field.

The panel was hosted by Michelin, WeWork, and Charlie Palmer Group in the WeWork Times Square offices to promote nearby restaurants to office workers in the area. A Charlie Palmer Group spokeswoman says that “invites were extended to a range of chefs and the group you saw today was who accepted our invite.”

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