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.


  • Robin

    The best chef last year was a woman too, but Michel changed the rules at the end of the final to ensure a man won it. So I didn’t watch this series! I’m glad the old misogynist has changed his ideas, but the series has lost me for ever.

    • Maura

      I didn’t see last year’s Professional MasterChef so I don’t know the incident to which you are referring. Roux Jr. has never struck me as a misogynist,but it’s hard to comment one way or the other without knowing the event in question.

    • Kelly

      I have got this series of Masterchef. The Professionals, recorded and am making my way through them slowly. I was disgusted to, once again see the same pattern as has occurred in the last three years of all of the Masterchef versions, was happening again. I therefore came on to the website to comment on it, only to find that Claire won this years Masterchef the professionals.

      I’m afraid Robin that I completely disagree with you. It is blatantly obvious that any blonde woman chef who chooses to wear far too much mascara and blink expectantly whilst being judged and then bursts into tears periodically, will be given significant leaway and assistance throughout the competition.

      You are completely correct in that the rules do indeed get bent and manipulated in respect of all competitors depending on whether they are favoured by the judges or not. However, in respect of gaining such an advantage, the tactic of having either natural or died blond hair, blue eyes, wear a lot of make up and cry, seems to be very effective.

      In relation to Claire, specifically, she was referred to by Greg and Michel as ‘being straight out of college’ – implying catering college, when in fact in her into she has just finished ‘Business School’. She was also referred to as being ‘so young’. There were many chefs in the heats who were not only her age or younger but who were head chefs at her age or younger.

      When she cooker for the critic’s, Greg and Michel stood and ‘gently encouraged’ her whilst she was plating up. Whilst they had stood menacing over the other female contestant (Head Chef Seafood restaurant in Devon, dark hari), practically shouting at her to get her plates out – clearly giving Claire an advantage.

      Finally, in relation to the inconsistency of the judging Claire, for example, completely messed up her pink praline tart in the classic recipe test – something, which was classed as disaster for some chefs – however in her case this was overlooked.

      Whilst it is nice to see female chef’s doing well, in this instance it was clearly with a lot of ‘assistance from the judges’, and for completely the wrong reasons.

  • André van Elmpt

    I also see the last series of the Masterchef and I do second Robin, Michel put Marian behind Stevie and so He give’s himself a Black Star. Marian make les foults as Stevie and Her presentations were match better dan his .
    No it was an anticlimax to see te last of the Honest Jury.

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