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Feb 26, 2007 12:18 PM

Why is there a scarcity of female sushi chefs?

In Manhattan, there is a female-owned restaurant where the owner is also the sushi chef. The name is Taka Restaurant in the West Village on Grove Street. This got me thinking about why there's such a shortage of female sushi chefs.

I've heard that in Japan it's believed that women's hands are warmer than a man's and the salt content would affect the taste of the fish. This sounds like an old wive's tale to me because, logically, it seems to me that most men's hands sweat more than women's.

Here is a quote I read (link below) from Masa Takayama of Masa in the Time-Warner Building:

"Asked about the virtual nonexistence of women sushi chefs, Masa said, "Everything having to do with fish is man's work: catching, cutting, cooking, making sushi. It is very hard work, and women do not have the stamina to stand behind the sushi counter." All the sushi chefs I spoke with, and even Kazuko, one of the most self-reliant women I know, agreed. It reminded me of the old canard that women couldn't be chefs because they are incapable of lifting 15-gallon stockpots."

Do sushi chefs in the U.S. all 'catch' their own fish? It just seems a bit farfetched. So does anyone else have any ideas why there's a shortage of female sushi chefs. Personally, I wouldn't mind sitting at a sushi counter and talking/flirting with a female chef!

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  1. obviously hardly any sushi chefs these days catch their own fish.

    it wasn't too long ago that it was rare to see female chefs in any restaurant kitchens, and they still remain a minority. the japanese are much more hidebound to tradition, with gender roles more strictly adhered to than in most western nations. change will come, but very slowly.

    1. Triditionally it was thought that women's hands were too "hot" to make sushi properly. (According to my Japanese FIL.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Scrapironchef

        I heard something similar on Todd English's show.

        1. re: marthadumptruck

          I always thought that was very strange, considering most women I know complain about cold hands and feet and men don't seem to have that problem as much. It's also more common for women (Asian, at least) to be anemic and/or have poor blood circulation and low blood pressure, which should all indicate very cool hands. I don't know. I'm neither chef nor doctor.

          1. re: Pei

            Hey, I'm not saying it has any basis in reality, just that was the excuse that was used.

      2. The real answer is because Japanese society is a boys club.

        1. We Japanese have no sense of humor or sensitivity in these kinds of things.

          1. The original comment has been removed