The Food Network is quite possibly the most popular channel on US television for folks to binge out on everything food related. The channel offers a broad range of entertainment from games shows related to food to how-to’s on making a whole Thanksgiving dinner in 4 hours. At the face of these shows, are usually notable food icons such as professional chefs, male and female alike. One show my girlfriend and I have come to enjoy over the last couple years is a game show by the name of Cutthroat Kitchen. The show puts four chefs up against each other in an elimination style fashion with a unique twist. Cutthroat Kitchen is known for it’s outrageous “sabotages” that contestants bid for before each round in order to make other chefs work from a disadvantage. This increases the competitiveness of show tenfold. Each episode always has a split of male and females starting out, so watching the chefs’ behaviors, and even going further, and dissecting the mannerisms of each gender is quite interesting. If one puts the show into a feminist’s lens, a couple questions get raised almost instantly: Are the female chefs represented on television breaking away from the social roles relating to food that have been ascribed to them in eras past? How to do their mannerisms differ or relate to their male counterparts in the kitchen?
If one is attempting to view how these female chefs break away from the stereotypes that have been instilled throughout our culture, one needs to pay attention to the actual meals that these female chefs choose to prepare during the rounds.
“Mothers were expected to educate, if not tame, their adolescent daughter’s propensity for “sweetmeats, bonbons, and summer drinks” as well as for “stimulating foods such as black pepper and vinegar pickle”. This is a quote from Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s, The Appetite as Voice. This quote spoken to me in the context of this show because the chefs have complete autonomy to cook what they please, long as the dish falls into the broad category the host presents for each round. The quote reads in a very suppressing manner. These female chefs break away from this Victorian notion that their mothers should’ve taught, even tame, them to avoid certain foods in order to keep up with others’ (men’s’) judgments and opinions. The chefs are cooking to their own specific tastes and preferences, which they learned on their own free will or maybe were taught from someone else other than their mother. The thought that mothers are the only one’s nowadays to teach their daughter how and what is acceptable to cook would extremely one-dimensional. On the show, we see females cooking exactly what they want, and that doesn’t mean it always has to be health conscious. Which breaks away from the stereotype that females are more health conscious when it comes to food. Women can cook mean bar food too!
The mannerisms of the women on this show generally break away from social stereotypes as well. Both genders are forced into this competitive mindset & area where they’re pitted against each other in the hope of winning up to $25,000. The women are just as competitive as the men. They are not afraid to use that potential winning money in order to sabotage someone else. If you watch the show, they can be anything but passive at times, engaging in big bidding wars over a potentially detrimental sabotages they do not want to come there way. There’s a level of ruthlessness on this show, and men aren’t they only ones participating in the sabotaging aspect of Cutthroat Kitchen.