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HOUSE OF SCANDINAVIA

Time for a change in (and out of) the kitchen

In Scandinavia in particular, major steps have been taken in many sectors on gender equality. That’s not to say however, that there isn’t still room for improvement, especially in the hospitality industry. Top chef Kamilla Seidler for one, thinks a change is not before time.

Scan quickly through the lists of top chefs around the world and although the vast majority are still men, more female professionals are breaking through. Renowned Danish chef Kamilla Seidler has already, to an extent, broken the mold by reaching the top of her profession – her next step is helping others follow in her footsteps, by leading and participating in a series of empowerment initiatives, aimed at redressing the gender balance.

“I think in the industry we’re moving forward all the time but it’s more than just a question of the industry, it’s about a mind change in society in general,” says Seidler. “We’ve been in many situations where we’ve been talking to parents and students who have been told they shouldn’t be chefs, because it’s not a “woman’s profession.” Then I ask them who cooks at home and the reply is ‘no but that’s different.’ So although we’ve made progress, we still need to work a lot on that mindset.”

Seidler’s career has seen her work extensively throughout Latin America (she was awarded the honor of “Latin America’s Best Female Chef” in 2016, while Gustu, the restaurant she opened in Bolivia,was crowned number 14 on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants). It proved to be an eye opener in many respects.

“It’s interesting that on the list of the 50 Best restaurants in Latin America, women are very well represented, but it’s a funny set up, because it’s a society where you have a lot of respect for the mother figure and the grandmother, but at the same time the system is built around the woman staying at home having to pick up the kids from school, bringing them home, serving them lunch and so on, which means one of the parents has to stay at home if they can’t afford a nanny. In practice, this most often means the woman stays at home, so as long as the structures in countries are built in the way that someone has to do that there will always be an issue.

Seidler was invited to Austin to work alongside top Swedish and Norwegian chefs Paul Svensson and Atli Mar Yngvarsonin the pop-up restaurant “Lokal” at the House of Scandinavia. The concept is to present the most sustainable food experience possible for guests. 

“We’re working with a bunch of ingredients that would either be thrown away or discarded as they are unfit to be sold in supermarkets. The idea is to prove that in general in the Nordics we can cook with any local produce that is in season, wherever we happen to be. In this case it’s Texas so this morning, we’ve been out in fields picking edible flowers and herbs, getting hold of pretty much anything and everything that’s local and seasonal.

Meanwhile, never one to sit back and admire her achievements, Seidler has plenty of plans for the near future, not least the opening of a new socially-inclusive restaurant in Copenhagen. 

“We’ll continue to work in our restaurant with social inclusion to give a chance to people who, one way or another, have been left behind by society and bring them into a work routine. So that’s the new baby – a socially-inclusive restaurant that will embrace everybody. It won’t be pretentious or fancy, but hopefully a fun place where everyone is well received.” 

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