Transgender chef

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]Hi Chefs,

My name is Josie and I am a preoperative transwoman who is just getting into her baptism by fire..starting the long journey towards becoming first a professional cook and then eventual Chef. I would like to know your experiences, good and bad, with exposure to the LGBT community within the kitchen.

The kitchen has saved my life. I have recently been released from a 6 year incarceration in the Federal BOP and I have self studied culinary science, technique, and theory for three of those years. Do you guys think that there will be any significant hurdles in my way when it's time to move up to a supervisory role such as chef? When I start to present as a woman again..I fear that it could have some backlash because of the macho, bro culture that permeates the fine dining kitchens. Don't get me wrong, I am tough as nails and back down from nothing or no one. I'd just like to know what to expect. So far I have had no issues.

Understand where I'm coming from or am I rambling? Anyways...stay tuned.
 
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I have little intentional interaction with your community but I've seen how difficult a "lifestyle" it can be. Sorry, that isn't the best choice of words but it's the best I can do. Good luck to you and best wishes on accomplishing all that you desire.
 
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I have little intentional interaction with your community but I've seen how difficult a "lifestyle" it can be. Sorry, that isn't the best choice of words but it's the best I can do. Good luck to you and best wishes on accomplishing all that you desire.

No need to apoligize Chef. Your opinions are your own and it is what I asked for. Thank you.
 
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My first exposure to the LGBT community came through a restaurant job 40 years ago. We became friends. We became roommates. We moved to a new city and helped to open a second restaurant for the owners.

My experience since then has been that (at least in the restaurant biz) "it ain't no thing". In many ways, it seems the biz is more accepting and open than a lot of the rest of society. Restaurant work has always attracted free thinkers and had an underlying current of outlaw (pirate, sex drugs rock & roll, out of the box, whatever) philosophy and outlook on life running through it. I have worked with crews where we joked that we fit together because we didn't fit in (the "real world").

The problems that I have seen could be layed in the laps individuals, not people in general. Be yourself with confidence, do your job, expect no less from others. Let the chips fall where they may. Things should work fine then, to hell with the rest of them that aren't fine.

FWIW, I still touch bases once or twice a year with those former co-workers that helped to enlighten me 40 years ago. Can't say the same thing about too many former co-workers.
 
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I'lll suggest you should continue to have no issues. I can't say I am familiar with the macho "bro" culture you speak of. I think that much of the general belief in a macho "bro" culture in professional kitchens is a misunderstanding of kitchen culture generally. 

Specifically, working in a commercial kitchen, restaurants in particular, is a hot, stressful, physically and mentally demanding job.

     You are on your feet all day, working with open flames, many hot surface, sharp knives, boiling liquids, hot ovens, trying to do many menial tasks in a hurry just to get ready to perform an intricate ballet of cooking and plating while under great pressure in close proximity to others who are attempting the same tasks in the same physical environment and all without anyone losing their cool.   In addition to this, you must learn to work neat and clean all the time, despite the fact that every task you must perform has tremendous mess making potential. 

As a supervisor of this insanity, you must not only have your act together at all times but remain very aware of everyone else's work habits and progress. Should you notice any member of the team beginning to lose their grip on things, you must step in, adjust the situation accordingly and not lose the pace of your own work. 

     So all of that is to say that most everyone will be far too busy to be worrying about your gender or anything else about you for quite awhile. What they will focus on is whether or not you can keep up without complaint. Your feet, back and legs will hurt, your'e sweaty and greasy and probably cut and or burned yourself multiple times and after chopping fifty pounds of onions, and picking over an entire case of fresh herbs, and shelling 25 pounds of shrimp and frenching twenty lamb racks and making three sauces, you think you might lose your mind. Welcome to the kitchen. 

    As Cheflayne pointed out, the LGBT community has a long history in the restaurant business so you'll be right at home  in that respect. 

I've never worked in a restaurant where the LGBT community didn't make up a fair percentage of the employees. Not to mention the ex-cons, deadbeats, pirates and assorted other malcontents. But given the nature of kitchen work, that should be the least of your problems. 

     At the first restaurant I worked in after culinary school, one of the waiters approached me about a month after I started and invited me to go have a drink with some of the dining room staff. When I expressed hesitation, he asked if I was concerned that they were gay and I was straight. When I said yes, he replied "We just think you'd be a fun guy to have a beer with but let me tell you a couple of things. First, if someone hits on you, be grateful someone on the planet finds you attractive. Second, just tell them you're straight and they'll back off." 

     While i"ve had some issues with various coworkers over the years, their particular orientation never had any thing to do with it. 

If you don't make gender an issue, there's no reason for anyone else to. 
 
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For the most part the kitchen is a meritocracy, one of the few left out there where anyone can work their way from the lowest ranks to the highest.  Work hard and you'll be good.
 
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I agree--if you can do the work, you can do the work. Doesn't matter what gender you are or identify as, or what your sexual orientation is. This isn't the 1970-80s. Discrimination, in any form, or bullying, in any form, no longer has a place in a professional environment. I don't think you'll face as many issues as you might think. I certainly hope not. 

One issue is not confusing "normal" hardships or negative interactions with co-workers as discrimination or whatnot. If someone gets mad at you, or you get in an argument, or you feel that you are passed over for promotion, (or any number of things that can happen in a normal day in the life of a cook/chef) your default setting might be to assume that it is because you are trans and not for other reasons. Be humble. 

Don't lose opportunities for betterment and self-reflection because you assume that it is simple discrimination. 

That being said, don't put up with it either. If someone is discriminating against you, go through channels to stop it. 
 
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Big deal. So what. You are who you are ... Be all the best that you can be.


Skills trump everything else.

We work in kitchens ... It ain'te rocket surgery."
 
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Well, of course there will be hurdles in the climb up to a supervisory position.  But they shouldn't have anything to do with your private life.  You will get a-hole co workers from time to time, but most people want to extract as much knowledge and technique from you and don't really care about what you do off the clock.

Gawd knows that if I had a dollar for every gay co-worker that I've worked with, I'd be rich. Can't really say if I've ever worked with transgendered though. I've worked under quite a few female Chefs and owners too.   If everyone behaves professionally at work, we get along great, if I genuinely like anyone and they feel the same way, we get along great socially.   
 
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I think it's important for you to be the best you can be. But, then again, I tell everyone that. This isn't all on you, you deserve to be able to work without any harassment. If I were the Chef in that kitchen I would tell all the employees that everyone gets treated with respect and everyone is equal. If I as a Chef hired you it's up to me to make sure your given every chance to succeed. Learn this business and be the best. That way if anyone gives you any shit you can just smile and say " talk to me when your in my league". The best of luck in your adventure.........Chef Bill
 

pete

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In my years of experience I have found that restaurant kitchens are some of the most accepting places for people living on the fringes of society or for those living alternative lifestyles.  In the kitchen its more important that you perform well.  Show the cooks around you that you have the chops to hang it won't matter what lifestyle you lead.  That being said, cooks are often a "rough and tumble" type of crowd with a sophomoric sense of humor.  You will probably need a relatively thick skin because you will not be immune from the normal trash talk, hazing, and picking on that occurs in many kitchens.  In fact, I would probably feel like an outsider if the other cooks didn't pick on me as this is kind of standard operating procedures in a kitchen. If you aren't being picked on to some extent it means that the other cooks either don't like you or aren't comfortable with you.  In other words, many cooks I know are "equal opportunity offenders" and will pick on anyone about anything, fully expecting to get the same treatment right back.
 
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Your gonna struggle.  I'll be real. Unless your a superstar.  Probally sue happy too!

Lol you have no clue how good I struggle and of course I'll be a superstar but that's not what it's all about for me..I have a giving nature not a taking one..sue happy? Lol who does that? I'm not a parasite and I can give shit when I get it. You don't make it in this world being who I am and not be able to take struggle and adversity. JOSIE...remember the name baby
 
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Well i don´t think personal life should affect anyone in a kitchen. 

It´s just important to be a hard worker and do your job correctly. 

I do think this industry though as stated by cheflayne and others does attract a lot of people with open minds and a lot of free thinkers, it helps with the whole making friends and forming bonds thing. 

I just think you should work hard, and just show what your made of. 

In the kitchen i don´t care wether the person is black, white, blue, gay, straight female or male, i care wether they can cook, after the shift i have a cold beer with everyone. After all the kitchen is actually a great place to find some unity and make some friends and find some cool people. 
 
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Being gay myself, I've never had any discrimination in this industry. And I've risen to the very top of very close minded companies. I was the GM of a military club long before don't ask don't tell.
My advice would be to not make it an issue. Don't go around telling everyone you are trans, or letting everyone know about your hormone routine, how shaving your ears is annoying or outlining all the discrimination you face every day.
Just be Josie. And be fantastic.

You will gain the respect you seek by your actions, not your gender.
 
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No need to apoligize Chef. Your opinions are your own and it is what I asked for. Thank you.

Thank you for being so understanding. My use of the word "lifestyle" was not intended to be offensive and I make no judgement on your community. I couldn't come up with a better word and I know "choice" isn't right either. A PM was sent to me by someone I nsisting that I remove my post because that overly sensitive individual felt it was bigoted... But that certainly isn't the case. If anything, I'm completely ambivalent about "lifestyles" that may differ from the one I live.
 
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Thank you for being so understanding. My use of the word "lifestyle" was not intended to be offensive and I make no judgement on your community. I couldn't come up with a better word and I know "choice" isn't right either. A PM was sent to me by someone I nsisting that I remove my post because that overly sensitive individual felt it was bigoted... But that certainly isn't the case. If anything, I'm completely ambivalent about "lifestyles" that may differ from the one I live.

No doubt. Well, I don't believe in censorship and I definately didn't take offense to the word usage..now if someone else did then that's on them. And your right..choice isn't the right word in relation to who I am..but it IS my choice whether or not I am open about it. But, I refuse to live a lie and be unauthentic. I accept all that comes with my conscious decision to be an open book..the good and the not so good. Thanks for the post,Chef.
 
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