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Oct 18, 2009 11:05 AM

Why aren't there any women making the pizzas in pizzerias?

As we watched the pizzaiolo tossing dough in the open kitchen at a local pizzeria last night, it occurred to me that even with eating hundreds if not thousands of pizzas over the years, from pizzerias and other restaurants in many US cities and in a number of other countries, I have never seen a woman making the pizzas in a restaurant. I wondered why there are so few women who have this job (I'm sure there must be some somewhere, and surely some chowhounds have seen them or may even be them, but I have never seen even a single one myself).

I've seen women on tv cooking shows make pizza, so I know it isn't from lack of some pizza-making gene. (Just joking!!)

Is it that women simply aren't interested in the job?
Or that the number of men who ARE interested is so much greater that the women applicants don't stand a chance at being hired or trained for the job?
Or is it simply bias on the part of the restaurant owners/managers?

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  1. Growing up in New Haven, CT (1950s-60s) home of the best Apizza-Sally's, Pepe's, Modern, etc.
    We used to eat at Luigi's on Whalley Avenue in Westville.
    Always on duty making pies and working the oven was 'Fat Annie'
    She owned the place, and named it for her father.

    I worked in several Greek owned Pizza places in the 1970s while in college, and it was common to see the wife making Pizza while the husband was out making deliveries.

    But in general, baking has been a male trade. Most women could not or were not expected to lift the heavy dough out of the mixers, 100 lbs bags of Flour, 50 lb cases of cheese, etc.

    It's not that a woman couldn't be an oven person, but a pizza maker does everything from start to finish, and the heavy lifting involved precluded most women from doing the job.

    7 Replies
    1. My first job was in a pizzeria and I moved from waitress to baker when someone quit on short notice. It may be demanding work but I loved it. I had help available if I needed to lift a bowl from the Hobart. but I could easily move the 50lb bags of flour.

      1. re: Kelli2006

        Ditto: I've worked as a baker, and that involved carrying 50lb bags of flour, moving heavy large doughs from one mixer to table, and was pretty adept at getting things from high spots (although some of my methods are inadvisable). As Soupkitten says below, the 'weaker sex' argument is weak.
        As for why I was the only girl in back... I do wonder. I was about to say something about who's ok leaving work crusted in sweat and flour, but yeah, I don't know...

        1. re: Lizard

          I, apparently mistakenly, never really considered baking per se being a male-dominated field because the baking usually goes on out of sight in a back room or off-site and the front room staff in bakeries are almost invariably women.

          And nowadays, with the extinction of mom-and-pop independent bake shops, there are bakeries in many supermarkets, and the staff working the dough are often women.

      2. re: bagelman01

        i think everywhere uses 50 lb bags of flour-- 100 lbs is too much for people to mess with. commercial nsf rolling flour bins are sized for a 50 lb bag of flour, and with 50 lb bags you can put one on each shoulder and go, but 100lbs is too hard to get up to shoulder height, and 200 lbs of flour is too much to carry at once. that's how people get hurt, male or female alike.

        vegetables and meat also come in 50 lb cases, and female chefs schlep those around. the "weaker sex" argument is. . .weak. if a person of either sex can't lift a 50 lb case of cheese, s/he has no business doing anything in a pro kitchen except maybe mopping. now, if we were talking about the saute station. . . that's some insane upper body strength and stamina we're talking about in some cases-- i simply can't work this station (being female) the way dh can. throwing a pound of dough in the air is easy-peasy by comparison, and yet the op is correct that most females tend to avoid the job.

        pizzas have been a bit of a dude's world because of tradition and the macho thing, a little like bbq is also a dude's world-- & it's starting to change slowly, although a lot/majority of females aren't that into either pizzas or bbq. i make some pizzas at work, toss the dough up in the air and the whole bit, but i'm not as into it as some of the guys, i generally pass the task off to someone else as soon as i can (honestly), and it drives me absolutely freaking nuts to toss pizzas for more than an hour or so-- maybe being a stoner-ultimate-frisbee-dork is a prerequisite for being one of the trick pizzaiolos like on the credit card commercial ;-P --and i just don't think most females are that into doing that either.

        i think it's a good question. i did work for about a year at a pizzeria (i was foh though not a cook), and there was a mix of male and female pizza cooks, maybe 60/40. the dudes were the ones who got into doing the dough tricks, even though the owner offered cash incentives for doing tricks (open kitchen/entertainment for the clientele). the women mainly just worked, or they had one or two simple tricks they'd do at most.

        1. re: soupkitten

          50 lb bags are not standard, but common. It's many years since I worked in a pizza place or bakery and then it was all 100 lb bags.
          I had Apizza for supper last night and as I am good friends with the owner, I asked what he uses, he told me that he still gets flour in 100 lb bags, and saves about 8% over 50 lb size.
          Since the OP was asking about observations, I expounded about the historical view. 50 lb bags may have opened the kitchen to more females

          1. re: bagelman01

            there's a way we can both be right, of course :) --- you're probably talking about straight bakeries, and really big, busy pizzerias w/o an extensive non-pizza menu-- places that put out enough bread and dough to order flour by the pallet--- while i'm talking about restaurants that do some in-house baking, but nowhere near that type of commercial bakery volume. restaurants that make some baked goods and/or have a pizza or two on the menu will just order the 50# flour sacks through a distributor along w their produce and dairy. 50# flour sacks *are* standard for most restaurants, but not bakeries. they are the same standard weight as other case food/produce.

            1. re: soupkitten

              soupkitten, you are absolutely right about the pizzeria serving only pizza. I am a New Haven Native, and great Apizza is served in places that make and serve nothing else, no subs, no pasta, just Apizza, beer, and Foxon Park soda

      3. Maybe because Italian women are under 5 feet tall? Seriously, all the great bakers in my family stood under 5'2" and had arms like polish wrestlers...but they were in the back kitchen making pots of sauce and ravioli the size of my hand.

        1. The guys can go ahead and make the pizza...I'll hang out with the women winemakers. :)

          1. Pizza making may be one of those male dominated types of cooking. Like bar be que. Not to say that there arent women bar be que and pizza chefs out there. I would love to go in a place and see a woman tossing a pizza or manning (no pun intended), a smoker.

            1 Reply
            1. re: horseshoe

              True, barbecue is another one of those food items. I hadn't thought about it because at many of the best bbq restaurants I have frequented the actual cooking goes on out of sight, and because I have seen so many women friends and family over the years "manning" the grill.

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