Interview with Chef Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia - Atlanta, GA

November 2007

Antoinette Bruno: First off, why does this matter? Is this an important issue for you?
Anne Quatrano: This is an important issue to me as I would like to see more women excelling in this industry. I would also like to have more women in my kitchens.

AB: Marco Pierre White recently said that he thought it was the physical nature and macho culture of the modern restaurant responsible for women being less likely to reach the top. He said “Restaurant kitchens are a man’s world. The work is physical and demanding. It is the men who rise to the top. Do you agree with him?
AQ: Bullshit. Woman are just as capable physically and emotionally.

AB: Another general stereotype circulating is that women chefs have “more soul” so to speak, and cook from the heart. It’s true that I can’t think of very many experimental female chefs, apart from Elena Arzak, but I’m not sure that it’s a fair generalization. How do you feel about it? Is the experimental kitchen more

AQ: I believe that all really good chefs cook from the heart – both sexes. I think woman may have an inherant desire to nurture but I also believe that some men have that as well. I am not sure about women and experiemental kitchens – I know if we can get a better flavor, texture or preserve on a product using a form of molecular manipulation, then I am all for it – but flavor and product remain the stars of our show.

AB: The stereotypical chef is a divorcee. The lifestyle challenges relationships like no other. What are your thoughts on this? How does it affect women differently from men?
AQ: I can understand how much of a strain this can be – I still have not found a way to do my job well without working 14 hours a day. I think that women are just as willing to work the hours, but their partners may not be very understanding of this work ethic.

AB: OK, kids. Everyone seems to ignore the issue, but women have kids. How does your family life and the choices you made, have to do with your success?
AQ: This issue is ignored because it is too obvious. We chose not to start a family because we needed to get our business running and it took all of both of our time for many years. Some women are not willing to make this choice. Financially, I am sure we could not have swung the added expense of childcare or an extra employee in the beginning years of our businesses. Now – we may be able to consider this but alas, child rearing for me is no longer an option.

AB: Who have your biggest mentors been? Men vs women?
AQ: Judy Rogers, Alice Waters, My Grandmother, My Father....

AB: How is a kitchen run by a woman different from a kitchen run by a man – or is it all nonsense?
AQ: They are definitely different but both have their positive and negative points. I think woman's food is often softer on the palate, more gentler on the plate, and their kitchens are often more serene, which can mean a lot to the staff. I think kitchens run by men seem to have more frenetic energy, that men's food is slightly more forward, with a pinch more ego, and that the staff are more fearful. That being said, I think I have very high expectations and standards that I expect from all our cooks/chefs and I believe that they may fear my wrath as much as any man. But I do try to share the creative experience with all our chefs and learn from them as well – both the boys and the girls.