April 16, 2019 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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Once Upon A Time
early photo from La Mere Brazier website

Many years ago, a woman in Lyon, France created not one but two stellar restaurants and celebrated the winning of three Michelin stars, not once but twice.  You see Eugenie Brazier pictured here with her team, arms around each other in a familial way. She was respected and lauded, but suffered  no shortage of difficulties. Her trials included a childhood in rural poverty, losing her mother at age 10, having a child out of wedlock at 19, and surviving two world wars. Additionally, one of her “commis” cooks was Paul Bocuse, who admitted how much he learned from her, although in an interview in the 1970s he said that he would rather have a woman in his bed than behind the stove in his restaurant.  Her achievement of being the first chef to earn six Michelin stars was mistakenly bestowed upon Alain Ducasse in 1998 by the press (and then sheepishly rescinded). Eugenie Brazier’s restaurant today has been purchased by a noted Meilleur Ouvrier De France, and retrofitted to be like La Mere Brazier of old, except his team chefs are all men. 



Fast Forward

And now in 2018 comes a film  from Maya Gallus, which discusses cuisine’s unfortunate sexist sentiment Heat film coverand its heritage in a documentary profiling seven  current women chefs.  While there is  no real thematic conclusion, I think you will find this film a rewarding watch.  Ironically, it should be noted that Sophie Pic (one of the featured chefs) is the first woman chef to receive three Michelin stars – more than a half century after Eugenie Brazier’s remarkable feat.   And actually one of the most subtle and charming moments in the film is a glimpse of a tasting that Sophie Pic has with her crew of cooks.  There is serious note-taking, reflections, and discussion, but in the end, she wants her team to understand what her perceptions are and not theirs. And it is her preceptions that drove the three Michelin stars to Restaurant Anne-Sophie Pic


Dinner Theater

The Heat – A Kitchen (R)evolution provides us with a small overview of the workdays and nights of these chefs, their backgrounds, and how they rise above or simply survive The Boys Club.  Take a look at the current list of  The World’s  Fifty Best Restaurants  and you will gain an even greater insight. Top chefs who happen to be women are sidelined or given a “Female Chef” award.  To quote Clare Smyth, the winner in femaleness of chefdom,“For the last 10 years of my career I’ve been asked, ‘What is it like to be a female chef?’ to which I reply, ‘I’m not sure what you mean, because I’ve never been a male chef,’” And in the end, it is films like this documentary that remind us as diners how much we take for granted.  


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