Loma Brewing Company's Executive Chef Aubree Arndt Inspires Young Women
Aubree disrupts the status-quo by showing women that a culinary career is achievable.
Gender disparity is a longstanding issue deeply rooted in systems worldwide. Unfortunately, women of the culinary industry are all too familiar with the discriminations set to put out their flames of professional drive and passion to calm the thunderous stomachs of arriving customers. Just like mothers for generations have been singing their children to a satiated bliss, female chefs share an innate drive to carry on these culinary dances and explore the possibilities of choreographing new ones. Women cannot be silenced. Their overwhelming culinary talents continue to burn a fierce, ever-lasting flame that screams for others to join.
From Art School to Culinary School
Aubree Arndt, Executive Chef at Loma Brewing Company, tells the story of her culinary career and artistic beginnings. At a young age, Aubree began working at restaurants. From being a dishwasher, server, and busser to front-of-the-house manager and cook; Aubree exposed herself to the restaurant environment early on. However, Aubree did not always see herself paving a path in the culinary field. Her path was everything but traditional, and it began at an art school in Michigan. Even with scholarship, Aubree could not bring herself to finish art school. Instead, she transferred her artistic talents to Le Cordon Bleu in Arizona, where she fell in love with cooking and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelors in Culinary Management.
A Disproportionate Share of Power Between Men and Women
Aubree explains that although she has a degree, her current role at Loma resulted from the experiences that she had acquired over the years. Relocating to California in 2013, Aubree wanted to work at high end restaurants where she could further refine and master her plating techniques, which were part of her training in school. With sous chef experience under her belt, Aubree still felt like her voice vanished in the pool of male chefs that dominated the scene at the time. In the article “The Chefs We Don’t See,” author Meghan McCarron beautifully summarizes the disproportionate power shared between men and women in the industry:
“Men have a disproportionate share of power in the restaurant world for a whole host of reasons — male-dominated networks, male-centric kitchens, men’s preference for investing in other men — but underpinning and reinforcing all these is the core story that important cooking is done by men. Our culture’s desire for compelling male chefs, and discomfort with women cooking professionally, helped give rise to the ugly system we can no longer unsee.”
Although high end restaurants have since gained momentum in breaking down these barriers faced by women, the claustrophobic environment drove Aubree to more casual eateries where she received the very much deserved respect and support from her colleagues. Having worked at various casual dining spots as a consultant, Aubree appreciated the inclusive culture that came with the quality food.
Giving Young Women a Voice
Aubree’s journey at Loma began in August of 2016 after she was referred by the owner of Maverick, a popular restaurant in the Mission that had closed due to a fire accident. Having had first-hand experiences with sexism in the industry, Aubree hopes to inspire more women to pursue their culinary dreams. Author Lisa Elbert states in her article “I’m with Her: Women and Leadership,” that over 50% of culinary graduates are women, but only 19% of chefs and head cooks and less than 7% of executive chefs in leading institutions are women. Aubree explains that having more women in leadership roles can bring great benefits:
“Having female chefs creates a different environment because they listen to you when you talk. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but in my experience, it is very hard for a young female cook to be heard without being conceived as rude. You have to learn assertive communication in this industry.”
Women As Chefs Beyond Stereotypical Roles
In addition to giving young women a voice, Aubree wants to help demolish the traditional walls that barricade women from culinary opportunities beyond managing pastries and salads. Currently, Aubree works with three other women in her kitchen, and she hopes more people would associate women as brilliant chefs and not limit them to stereotypical roles:
“Women can choose to be better in pastries or salads, but they are also fantastic multitaskers. Cooking takes a lot of multitasking, and women can be doing seven things at once while managing all of them. It’s good to have a balance of both men and women and find their strong suits and work with them on their weaknesses.”
How to Start a Culinary Career
Determined to empower others, Aubree explains that in order to enter the industry, she recommends either enrolling in an affordable culinary school, or starting as a dishwasher and moving up the ladder from there. Clear communication with the chef about your passion and concerns is key, and finding a chef that cares and is supportive is critical.
Aubree explains, “As a leader, whether you’re a male or female chef, it is very important when people are hired to say, ‘Hey, this is my kitchen and this is what we expect. We respect one another, and if there is anything that makes you uncomfortable, you come to me and we’ll sort it out. They need an avenue or an open voice for when [or if] they feel uncomfortable.’”
Learning to Accept Help
While Aubree wants to encourage women to believe in themselves and explore the possibilities of a culinary career, she also wants to remind women that it is okay to ask for help:
“Women are [generally] more petite than the average line cook. Things here are heavy, and it’s an intense physical atmosphere. As soon as women realize that they don’t have to do everything and can accept help from others, they will excel because they’re minimizing their pride and ego.”
Aubree continues to inspire young people at Loma. She works with interns from local culinary training schools and hopes to see more women aspire to enter the industry.
Elbert, Lisa. “I'm with Her: Women and Leadership.” I'm with Her: Women and Leadership | StarChefs.com, www.starchefs.com/cook/business/women-culinary-leadership-good-business.
McCarron, Meghan. “The Chefs We Don't See.” Eater, Eater, 30 May 2018, www.eater.com/2018/5/30/17397060/women-chefs-food-media.