The Chocolate Life

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Women and Chocolate: A Natural Combination

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate on a panel of local women chocolate experts at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club. The subject - Women and Chocolate: A Natural Combination

How did that happen? Melena, owner of The Xocolate Bar in Berkeley asked me how I felt about public speaking. I suspiciously answered that I was better at demonstrating something like truffle making rather than being perched behind a podium. When she explained the panel-style of the discussion and that I'd be one of four, I eagerly agreed.

A couple of weeks before the discussion, us panelists, the moderator and the organizer met to get to know each other and develop some pointed questions. What do you love about the chocolate business, what could you do without? Any advice for people trying to get into the chocolate business? What are some of the latest trends in chocolate? But one of the more provocative questions was, Most of the nationally renowned chocolatiers are men. Why is that? I found this most intriguing because I didn't know how to answer it. I and my other women chocolate-centric friends could only name a couple of "renowned" woman chocolatiers, Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat and Fran Bigelow of Fran's Chocolates and of course Alice Medrich. Who else? Try putting the phase, "women chocolatiers" into Google and the results are very thin indeed.

After pondering the issue for a few days I decided to pose the question to the members of The Chocolate Life, an online forum of "chocophiles". Although the thread went a bit astray from the topic, I still got some insight. Perhaps it's true that women have not had the same opportunity as men. There seems to be an increasing number of women in the culinary field and I hope that number will soon be reflected in the chocolate field as well.

What do you think? I invite you to answer the question.

Women and Chocolate are A Natural Combination and have historically had a close relationship. You'd think that women would dominate the industry. Maybe we four will be the next nationally renowned chocolatiers... despite our sex.

An opportunity to speak at the Commonwealth Club
and be associated with such amazing women.
Kathy Wiley - Poco Dolce
Christine Doerr - Neo Cocoa
Malena Lopez-Maggi - The Xocolate Bar
Mindy Fong -Jade Chocolates

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Comment by SU on August 4, 2009 at 6:50pm
Seems like a fairly simple proposition. Historically, women weren't trained chefs -- male dominated industry -- and chocolatiers came from the ranks of chefs (seems commonly from pastry chefs). As far as I know female chefs are relatively new globally, despite females dominating home cooking from time immemorial. I was just reading about Julia Child's negative experiences as an up and comer and that's fairly recent history. Nowadays people seem to go directly to chocolatier, do not pass go, and female chefs are not unusual (though numerically, may still be a minority). Its all about educational access and financial support, why would chocolate be different from any other industry?
Also, I'm unclear why its "obvious" that women have some special relationship to chocolate. Stereotypically, women are associated with chocolate, but do they really eat quantitatively more than men? I realize its perception, but is it reality? (I don't actually know, but it'd be interesting to see.) Hard to see the people of Belgium thinking chocolate is more female-centric given that EVERYONE eats it. In America its a fairly common perception (sittin' on the couch, eatin' yer bon-bons!), but my European friends think of chocolate as "theirs" regardless of gender.

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