It’s been a long (long) time coming, but it seems like we’ve finally gotten to a place where women are respected—if not always paid—as equals in the workplace. But that doesn’t mean certain fields aren’t still overwhelmingly male. One such industry is the restaurant business, which, thanks to books like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, is known as being less than lady-friendly.
In her new memoir, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, famed Canadian restaurateur Jen Agg is bracingly honest about her experiences getting started in and rising to the top of this bro-heavy industry.
Agg, who owns The Black Hoof, Rhum Corner, Agrikol and other super-popular spots, is partially credited with reinvigorating Toronto’s culinary scene. But that doesn’t mean hers was an easy path. From picking herself up after failed business ventures to dealing with the casual, everyday sexism many women will relate to (like being called a “bitch” while acting the same way a man would), Agg is up front and open about the struggles women continue to face in kitchens everywhere. Which is why she and a group of friends organized Kitchen Bitches, a conference she describes in the book as trying to “[smash] the patriarchy one plate at a time.”
It’s not all serious, though. Agg’s writing is often fun and highly captivating, like when she describes busy dinner service in a way that’s almost lyrical, or lists her ten commandments of restaurant service (no perfume and no saying “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome”).
Women may still have a ways to go in the restaurant industry, but to quote Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, bitches get stuff done.