Women In The Kitchen 07/22/99
By Catherine Coburn
Thursday, July 22, 1999
Fisher''s book focuses on presenting scientific studies that confirm gender differences, arguing that women will have an advantage in the Y2K economic marketplace. That''s the good news.
The not-so-good news, depending on how you digest the data, is that this spells more "professional servant class" job opportunities.
But, what, you might ask, does all this have to do with the Bastille Day celebration at Stokes Adobe? Executive Chef Brandon Miller packed the house the other night at Stokes Adobe, cooking up a storm with a five-course feast a la Francaise, alongside longtime mentor/colleague, and guest chef for the event, Cindy Pawlcyn. These two go back to 1985 when Miller was getting his start in the business, working pantry at one of the first of Pawlcyn''s landmark restaurants, Fog City Diner in San Francisco.
What is germane is the fact that in the notoriously challenging restaurant business, Pawlcyn has been able to do what very few women have done. In a time when only a minuscule percentage of women make it to executive chef status, Pawlcyn has thrived on the cutting edge for nearly 20 years. One of the original partners in Carmel''s Rio Grill, she moved on from there to form the highly acclaimed Real Restaurants group, being at one time responsible for 13 restaurants. These days her focus is concentrated on Mustard''s Grill in Napa Valley, and the Buckeye and Fog City Diner, both in San Francisco. There''s the Panorama Bakery, too, that provides artisan breads to 200 Bay Area restaurants.
When I looked in on Miller and Pawlcyn amid the flurry of Bastille Day preparations, they were just sitting down to taste one of the many French vintages that would be paired with the evening''s gastronomique. "OK," I volleyed. "Nature or nurture?"
Pawlcyn was thoughtful in musing over the strides she''s made in her career.
"I think what it has taken is a lot of drive. I probably get that from my father. So, yeah, maybe biology has something to do with it," she reflects. "But I think it has more to do with the cards that you''re dealt. I''ve been lucky enough to have great partners that I work well with. And the other thing is that I didn''t have kids; I have step kids, so I''ve gotten to experience that, but the demands of the business are just too much for most women to have children. The restaurant business may look glamorous, but it''s really about a lot of hard work."
Does biology or culture deal the cards where choices, drive, and passion are the crucible that defines success? We didn''t reach a decision. Both Pawlcyn and Stokes had to get back to work.