Features, Love Thy Neighborhood

Love Thy Neighborhood: Mpls. St. Paul Magazine’s Slight of Female Chefs

The much anticipated March Issue of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine – The Best Restaurants 2015 issue landed on store shelves with shock and awe. On the cover were 15 chefs from the 12 best restaurants Mpls. St. Paul Magazine named. All of the chefs featured were white males. Mpls. St. Paul Magazine did not include a single woman on the cover.

News of this spread quickly amongst varying media outlets, criticizing Mpls. St. Paul Magazine’s choice to feature all men and completely overlook the many excellent women in the restaurant industry here.

Normally, most media outlets would respond to outrage like this by apologizing and attempting to rectify their decision. But for some reason, Stephanie March, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine’s Food and Dining Editor, felt compelled to write a response detailing exactly why no women were featured.

Her rationale was that these men were representative of the top 12 restaurants of the 50 restaurants they awarded best restaurant in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Of the 50 restaurants, several are owned and run by women. Why then weren’t more people featured in the photo?

Well, March’s reasoning is that not everyone could fit into the kitchen in which the photo was taken so they just picked the top 12. Nevermind the fact that they could have found a larger space, invited women to join or maybe just rearranged the placement of the men in the photo to create more space for more people – perhaps just one woman…

March continues on arguing that the individuals selected were chosen “on their food, on their restaurant, not their religion, sexual preference, or gender.” Again though, why didn’t she try to accommodate more people in the photo?

Her botched response was met with a blistering op-ed in the Star Tribune by 22 women in the restaurant industry.

“As a group of female chefs and restaurateurs, we’re moved to respond collectively.

We’re outraged at the viewpoint taken by the cover and subsequent editorial comments on the March issue of Mpls St. Paul Magazine depicting the best chefs of the Twin Cities as all male. It’s a false and embarrassing representation of our diverse food community.

Did anybody notice that your mothers, wives and sisters weren’t in the room?”

I wholeheartedly agree with them. It’s not only sad that no one stood up during the photo session to ask why not a single woman was there, but also that March felt it was appropriate to defend the decision.

As someone who enjoys going out to eat frequently, I’m offended by Mpls. St. Paul magazine’s work. The community here in Minneapolis-St. Paul is far more diverse and Mpls. St. Paul Magazine’s decision to overlook the countless contributions women have made to the food scene is outraging.

This year alone, Lucia Watson, of Lucia’s, sold her restaurant after 30 years in the industry. Not only did she bring farm-to-table and chef-driven meals to the industry here, but she also built the first wine bar in the city. Yet she wasn’t featured in the photo.

Another woman who has made an excellent contribution to the food scene here is Brenda Langton, owner of Spoonriver. Before Spoonriver, she owned Café Brenda and Cafe Kardamena, which was located near Macalester. She has spent a lifetime working on bringing wholesome nutritious food to the cities, leading the farm-to-table movement and launching the Mill City Farmer’s Market. Yet she wasn’t featured in the photo.

I could continue naming countless women who have made immeasurable contributions to the food scene, but I won’t. Women shouldn’t have to keep defending everything they’ve accomplished. Everyone should already be acknowledging and celebrating their accomplishments by now. But it’s difficult to do that when the media chooses to not acknowledge them in the first place.

March 13, 2015

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