This month’s issue features a cadre of top local chefs on the cover, in honor of our Best Restaurants story. They were a sassy bunch, gathered at Burch one afternoon, and it was awesome to hear them chatter amongst themselves and see them comfortably hanging out. One actually thanked us for giving them a reason to chill together for a few minutes, as that never seems to happen.
As I watched them giggle and take selfies with each other, I sat there thinking about the staggering commitment they’d made to local food, the years logged in sweaty kitchens, the lives they’d affected and the boundaries fearlessly pushed. But more than anything, I thought: Crap, I wish there was at least one woman here.
Right, I know that I’m in control here, so it seems like I could have made that happen, right? Well, it’s not that simple. These chefs represented the top 12 restaurants, which were picked by vote and discussion by the whole dining team, two men and two women. It was a struggle, there was plenty of argument and shuffling, and in the end the dozen picked well-represented what we all thought was the top tier. And yet. That feeling.
Because I know what the Gods of Food, that icky Time Magazine story in 2013 stood for. It stood for ignorance and a willful blind eye, and I was repulsed by it. But OUR story represented by the cover is the story of the 50 Best Restaurants, which all don’t fit in the kitchen at Burch. Within that lens we honor Ann Kim and her pizza warrior spirit, Brenda Langton and her founding commitment to local farms, Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson who broke our food truck scene wide open, Christina Ngyuen taking it further with simple arepas, not to mention Diane Yang as an integral part of Spoon and Stable, Niki Francioli who is setting new yardsticks at La Belle Vie, and owners like Desta Klein, Kat Kim, Molly Broder, Tracy Singleton, and Lucia Watson who isn’t even in the game anymore but leaves a massive footprint.
Women are not missing in the story.
But here was the parameter set: Among the 50, pick the top 12 restaurants. If you have to pick the 12 best for a picture, who would you choose? Now, which female would you swap for which male, because there are only 12 spots? There are three medals at the Bocuse d'Or, only one chef walks away from the Best Chef Midwest category with a James Beard Award, you can't say "well let's just add more so we can include everyone." But people have suggested that we should have included women in the picture just to be more fair.
Quite honestly, isn’t the "token" metric just as offensive as a blind eye? I happen to be female, and I think so. I hope that when you read my words you think “that Steph March is one crisp cookie” not “that Steph March is one crisp cookie, for a girl.”
We judged them on their food, on their restaurant, not their religion, sexual preference, or gender.
That being said, I will tell you the game is changing. There were restos in the last Best 50 that aren’t in it this year, and so it will go again next year, and the year after that. That's the fun. THAT should be the discussion. Part of me, the part with the ovaries, looks very much forward to the future time when I don’t have to think: And yet.
Look for a very special video here tomorrow, and the full Best Restaurants story on newsstands now and online shortly.