a woman masterchef

Claire LaraIt was a tense final last night on Masterchef: The Professionals, but the best woman won: Claire Lara.

I’d been watching Claire from the earliest rounds and believed she had the talent, focus and ability to win the show, as long as she gained enough confidence to believe in herself.

She is the first woman to win Masterchef: The Professionals, and that’s hardly a surprise considering how the field is dominated by men. In the final round the last three chefs had to cook for thirty of the most influential chefs and cooking experts in the UK, and by my reckoning only two of the assembled were women (one of whom was the fabulous Monica Galetti).

Yesterday was also Equal Pay Day. As the F-Word web site explains:

Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970, full time working women on average are still paid less than full time working men by around 16%. This means, figuratively, that if the average man and woman both work a full year, the man gets paid for the full year whilst the woman’s last paycheck comes today.

Actually, that’s a generous assessment. Based on last fact sheet issued by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research the Gender Wage Gap (in the USA anyway) was much higher in 2009:

The ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings, was 77.0 for full-time, year-round workers in 2009, essentially unchanged from 77.1 in 2008. (This means the gender wage gap for full-time year-round workers is now 22.9 percent.) This is below the peak of 77.8 percent in 2007.

An alternative measure of the wage gap, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly earnings for full-time workers – was 80.2 in 2009, which is essentially flat since the historical high of 81.0 in 2005.

So it’s great in the face of statistics about stagnant gains in women’s pay that Claire should win such a prestigious award in an industry dominated by men. From one source I see that unbeknownst to Claire she was pregnant during the finals – she thought she was sick from nerves!

I’ve always been impressed with Michel Roux Jr. and Gregg Wallace’s fairness in how they treat the candidates, which is one of the reasons I enjoy the competition so much: there is a genuine attempt to select the best professional chefs and nurture them to their full potential, irrespective of gender.

Apparently Roux Jr. has offered Claire a job. He said: “I think she’s the most complete chef that I’ve come across. Not just in the MasterChef context, but anywhere, in the last five years.

“We started off the competition looking for a talent and we have uncovered a diamond… She has that exceptional talent that will take her to stardom.”

Best of luck to Claire. I hope she continues to flourish.