Think Men Barbecue Better Than Women? Think Again

Any man who thinks women can't barbecue like men isn't worth his sauce.

Any man who thinks women can't barbecue like men isn't worth his sauce.

Plenty of women enjoy cooking—and in the home, stereotype dictates that they'll be the ones donning an apron. So why are only 19% of professional chefs female? For that matter, why are they making $19,000 less than their male counterparts?

A lot of it has to do with perception: It's assumed that men are more equipped to handle the chaotic and tense world of the kitchen, and that they're better suited to a position of power.

This is why Oakland-based female chef and business owner Karen Kilkenny has our respect. Not only does she run her own catering business, The Prickly Pig, but that business serves barbecue, a style of cooking particularly steeped in sexism and testosterone. And indeed, Kilkenny says, she's faced her fair share of heat for being female.

When a Woman is Behind the Flames

Kilkenny remembers a time when a guy straight-up announced to her, "Men barbecue better than women." When people hear about her business, they're also quick to say, "oh that's so cute!" where male peers often hear "oh that's so cool!"

To cut it in the kitchen, Kilkenny has relied on grit and toughness. While we chatted with her, for instance, she noticed a vicious burn on her arm—but couldn't recall how she got it. That attitude has been key: roll with the punches . . . even when the punches are scalding burns and broken glass.

Kilkenny also plans her packed schedule down to the minute weeks in advance. And when she runs errands, she literally runs errands, donning a jogging ensemble to dart between tasks. 

None of this is easy, and Kilkenny openly admits that she'd be suffering if it weren't for the help and encouragement of her friends—especially important since there's less social acceptance for what she's doing.

While Kilkenny is just one woman in one city, her success proves a salient point: perceptions are just that. And any man who thinks women can't barbecue like men isn't worth his sauce.


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