The Southern Foodways Alliance will host its 16th annual Southern Foodways Symposium called “Women at Work” on October 4-6 in Oxford, Mississippi. While much attention has focused on women as stewards of home and hearth, the SFA asks how these farmers, artisans, and cooks built businesses and forged identities outside the domestic sphere. This year’s symposium is sold out, but the SFA will blog about the proceedings throughout the weekend and post videos and podcasts soon after. Between now and October 4, we’re introducing you to some of the women who will be presenting at the Southern Foodways Symposium.
Spotlight On: Charlotte Druckman
Her Work: Author of Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 2012)
Homebase: New York, New York
In 2010, Charlotte Druckman wrote an article for Gastronomica entitled, “Why Are There No Great Women Chefs?” After publishing the article, Druckman was still curious. She knew that great women chefs were out there, and she was pretty sure that there were more of them that she didn’t know about. So she traveled the country, eventually interviewing 73 female chefs about their craft, their careers, and the challenges they faced. The resulting book is what Druckman calls a “communal memoir,” filled with the chefs’ quotes and Druckman’s commentary on everything from balancing career with motherhood to drinking like a dude. Among Southern chefs that Druckman profiled are Ann Cashion of Johnny’s Half Shell in Washington, DC; Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, NC; and Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia in Atlanta, GA.
At the SFA symposium, Druckman will be sharing more of her observations on what it’s like to be a woman in the “back of the house.”
“If Skirt Steak proposed that we shift away from the French idea of ‘chef,’ which has shaped this country’s understanding of the profession, and that we broaden the definition of that term to encompass the various ways in which American chefs perform that job, then focusing on female Southern chefs put that mandate into practice,” says Druckman.
To that end, she pursued a Southern spinoff project after the publication of Skirt Steak. Druckman reached out to a number of the South’s best known and established female chefs and food writers and asked them to suggest those lesser-known culinary talents, who have (and/or continued) to celebrate, shape, and innovate the legacy and culture of Southern food—its flavors and communities.
She selected a dozen chefs to interview, and asked photographer Melanie Dunea to collaborate and photograph each woman. Together, they took a road trip through the South. Druckman’s SFA Symposium presentation will focus on eight of the twelve chefs, and will feature Dunea’s photographs. In addition, twelve original portraits (one of each featured chef) will be exhibited. Both Druckman’s profiles and Dunea’s photos will be published on Medium so those who couldn’t be at the symposium can learn about these culinary dynamos.