Jamie Malone of Sea Change on her Esquire piece, kitchen fires, and days off

Categories: Interview

Emily Eveland
Chef Jamie Malone
Don't bother asking chef Jamie Malone of Sea Change what it's like to be a girl in the kitchen. She won't answer. Instead, refer to the piece she recently published on Esquire's new food blog, "The Spill," in which she addresses issues of gender inequality in the kitchen. "I work as hard as I can and rarely have time to contemplate how owning a vagina makes me a minority in the kitchen," she writes.

As Sea Change's chef de cuisine and one of Food & Wine's Ten Best New Chefs of America, Malone has nothing to prove. She works hard, makes damn good food, and doesn't need a penis to compete with the best.

Hot Dish caught up with Malone on Thursday to touch base about her Esquire piece, trace her food industry history, and get a glimpse into her daily life.

See also:
Kate Moore of "Community Cooking with Kate" on reinventing the potluck

Hot Dish: Did Esquire approach you or did you approach them about writing the "Food Industry Gender Inequality" piece?

Chef Jamie Malone:
They approached me. They just started a new section of their blog called "The Spill," so they just have chefs and different people involved in food writing essays and stuff like that. They approached me and said "just write about something controversial."

Was this an issue you'd been mulling over for some time?

Not really mulling, [it was] just kind of in the back of my mind. It's not like I spend a ton of time thinking about it or anything, but it was definitely the first thing that popped into my mind.

Do interviewers often ask you what it's like to be a female chef?


What is your response to that?

Usually I just say there's not an answer to that question because the skill set to running a kitchen is so broad that what do you say? I don't know. It's great. It works for me. It works for all the girls in my kitchen.

Do you think they're expecting there to be some big difference between men and women in the kitchen?

Yeah, like "what struggles have you gone through," and "kitchens are so male dominated." I grew up in a neighborhood where it was all boys. I was a total tomboy. So personally, I've never been aware of the fact that I'm a girl, you know? I mean, I am, obviously, but it's never been a personal issue for me. Not to say it's not for other people. I'm positive that it is.

Do you feel like that question takes away from what you're doing?

Yeah, a little! I mean, that's the smallest part of the challenge of my job, you know what I mean? There's so much more to what we do than the gender topic.

In your ideal world, would gender be a non-issue?

No, because we are different, so I can't say that. Everyone's different -- gender, personality, backgrounds, work ethics, work style. It's just part of it. It's one small part of a lot of stuff that's going on.

What was your writing process for the piece?

I had one day, so I didn't have a lot of time, but usually I just plan a day to sit around and drink coffee and write down all my thoughts. I'm not a writer. I just gather all my thoughts and try to organize them in some way that makes sense.

Did Esquire say anything about why they approached you specifically?

I think because they were expecting me to write about sustainable seafood.

What's the response been like so far?

A lot of my friends have read it and liked it. I didn't know if people would read it topically and mistake what I was saying and be upset by it. I was not worried, but was kind of expecting some backlash. But I didn't get any. Just postive feedback.

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