Kultur im Wirtshaus
Asked: Conversation between female restaurateurs
The restaurant, a “white boys club”? Sexism, deficient communication, tableaus full of beer: What current challenges do women working in the catering industry see?
Magdalena Mayer & Martha Miklin II friendship.is

The restaurant, a “white boys club”? Sexism, deficient communication, tableaus full of beer: What current challenges do women working in the catering industry see? And what needs to change? We asked questions.

Elfi Oskan: “I strive for an equal encounter”

In my professional career, which is heavily influenced by my socialization in catering and cooking, I have consciously decided to only take with me what corresponds to my inner drive. In doing so, I have freed myself from what does not contribute to my personal development. My nature is naturally in need of harmony, and I like to see the positive in everything. In my professional environment, which is often dominated by men, I see the challenge of staying with myself, regardless of what is expected of me. It's about being authentically the woman I am and want to become, rather than playing a role that is being forced upon me by others.

However, the male-dominated industry in which I work sometimes requires me to make compromises and subordinate my values through old habits. My wish would be that in collaborations or meetings with men, the focus would be on my competence and not on my gender. I strive for an encounter on equal terms in which humanity plays a central role. Even though it is sometimes difficult to understand the different languages of men and women, I firmly believe that assempathy can provide a common denominator and dialogue.

In addition to humanity, transparency, honesty and acceptance are of crucial importance to me. The ability to address unexplained things is just as important to me as the desire to understand others and be understood at the same time. Only through open communication and mutual understanding can we create a real connection.

Elif Oskan is a top chef and owner of the “Gül” restaurant in Zurich.

Zineb Hattab: “I'm hoping for more diversity”

We are in such an automatic mode that we only ever invite and introduce people with the same profile to a gastronomic forum. We women need representation: We should be present and see each other so that others are inspired and can believe that they can do it. And we must not only talk about women, but also about gender, different gender identities. For example, if someone comes to my restaurant to repair the stove and sees me and my sous chef, who is a white cis-mannist: Who does he think is the cook? Him, of course. We must therefore change this social construct that a profession belongs to a specific gender.

I hope that there will be more women leading teams in the future, and I hope for greater diversity in general, including in terms of ethnicity, for example. I don't just want to focus on women, I hope that the gastronomic landscape will be more diverse, because without diversity, it is very homogeneous and boring. Diversity is important for creativity, a good working environment or more sustainable workplaces. I don't want a place where people want to work for a year, burn out emotionally and physically, and then change their jobs. In the restaurant, there are nice jobs that you can do for many years if the conditions are right. That can be sustainable. But we need to make a lot of changes.

Zineb Hattab is a top chef and operator of the plant-based restaurants “KLE” and “DAR” in Zurich.

Hannah Neunteufel: “Extroverted women are looked at wrongly”

When I review what has happened over the last 20 years, a different perception comes to mind in the rearview mirror. In the meantime, I am certain that women must fight much more for everything, including financing projects right at the forefront. I wasn't aware of many things about women in business before. Extroverted women are often looked at wrongly.

On the one hand, the big discussions about how the inequality between men and women can be abolished (no matter what) pass me by. I couldn't and can't fully understand them, because I've always done my thing and will continue to do so. Yes, I'm probably always fighting more, because we women must certainly deliver more and succeed than men.

On the other hand, I am observing the omnipresent quota issue: The fact that they are now convulsively putting women at the forefront doesn't make things any better; because I love quality, and it has always counted for me — gender-neutral. After all, this is how you now get to the reality of the men's world. Because even in men's world, personnel decisions are not necessarily based on quality and skill.

The differences between city and countryside are also very large when it comes to this topic. In the city, quality is perhaps more likely to be rated. In rural areas, things are different, even more difficult.

I assume that something will always remain blurred or imbalanced, because we humans are simply not the same. Women are also not as strong as our dear men. In addition, every person, woman or man, has different demands, different feelings. Everything will never be the same — and that's a good thing. But I like to be at the forefront of the path to becoming equal in terms of intersubjective justice.

Hannah Neunteufel is managing director of the event agency “Hannahs Plan”, “ViennaBold” and “ViennaBallHaus” and operator of the restaurant “Der gute Fang” in Ybbs/Danube.

Isabella Druckenthaner: “I've learned to stand above it”

What I've come across time and time again: That I'm called “Miss” and that I also have to listen to a few “nice” sayings about women. With GeZeit, I've learned to be quick-witted and to stand above it. To counter stupid sayings in a nice and polite way, if that's possible. To think to me: That may be your attitude, thank goodness mine is different.

Once I helped out in a gourmet restaurant, I was wearing a dirndl. And then someone from the band that played said to me: “You can bring me anything with your cleavage.” I was so perplexed at that moment that I didn't say anything and just left. Then I told my boss that I no longer wanted to serve the Lord and she respected that. Such situations scare away young women because many think: I won't do that to myself. Also because it's a tough job. During my first internship, I was the little 15-year-old Isabella, but I also made a bar and had to bring tableaus full of beer mugs into the dining room. A 15-year-old boy can certainly handle this more easily than a 15-year-old girl. I think that's also the problem with training, because a lot of girls say: No thanks, I don't want that.

What would I wish for? More understanding, more openness and more friendliness, on equal footing. Just be nicer to each other. Even though I'm working right now and you're spending your free time, I deserve respect.

Isabella Druckenthaner is a student from Altmünster at the 4hLA of the Bad Ischl Tourism School, a participant in the pleasure laboratory.

Nina Mohimi: “We must make things easier for future generations”

My ideal would be that at some point it simply doesn't matter that you're a woman. That it no longer has to be addressed, but that the focus is on performance, personality and individual story. But that is currently not possible because it is simply still more difficult to get visibility as a woman — even if the rest (more than) fits. The industry media have a big responsibility here. It is a complete disaster when, for example, the editor of an introductory industry publication says that there aren't many interesting women in the catering industry, otherwise he would report on them. These are the settings that we have to deal with and that actively prevent visibility.

But I have hope that this will change, albeit more slowly than I would like. I increasingly have the feeling that many women in leading positions have recognized that women do not have to be lone wolves. Networking is increasing. For my online list, which features more than 200 international and national women in gastronomy and hospitality, culinary media and in communication and production, many have come forward and said: This and that woman is still missing from the list. I was very pleased with this mutual support. We must make it easier for future generations. It would also be desirable for more men to speak out loud about this and not just show their support in private messages.

And what we can all do: When you are asked, for example, about a favorite chef, a sommelier and so on, even without thinking twice, being able to name several.

Nina Mohimi is a communications consultant with a focus on culinary and consumer trends as well as co-editor-in-chief of “Pop-chop”, the Future Food Culture magazine.

Sandra Jedliczka: “Borders are often crossed”

In general: Being a woman — and then a working mother — in the catering industry is often not that easy. In general, the position of women in society is far from what it should be — that is still a long way off.

In my early days, I was the classic student who earned a living in the catering industry. As a young woman in service, human interaction with men often reaches limits, and limits are crossed very often. Even when it comes to equal distribution of work, leadership skills, the appearance of female uniforms and much more, progress has not yet fully arrived.

As a mother, you are challenged once again in a completely different way. I myself have been a mother for seven years. Mochi is a family business and I work together with my partner, so we try to divide our work and private lives halfway well. But because we're not working in a 9-to-5 job, we face major challenges every day. For other families or single parents who do not have the privilege of being able to allocate tasks as freely as we do, things are different in this profession.

I hope that we women become much more present in our society and lead the heavily male-dominated systems into a progressive future.

Sandra Jedliczka is co-founder of Mochi in Vienna and a pioneer in fine dining.