The other night I was watching Iron Chef and totally totally digging Alex Guarnaschelli as Geoffrey Zakarain’s sous chef. She wasn’t calling the shots, but she was clearly an instrumental part of the team; directing Zakarian to stop worrying about her Yorkshire puddings, and noticing that their other helper cut his finger even in all the yak induced hubub. “Geoffrey, go check on Paul – he cut his finger.” Zakarian listened.
The Challenger, Eduard Frauneder, also had a female sous chef (Alana? erp, and can’t find it online). She was clearly trusted, and capable, but something about her came off as slightly sullen – the heavy eye makeup? Muttering under her breath? But she did her job, and bounced back after making the wrong meat pickle because of miscommunication, and Frauneder won. And obviously, the eye makeup and the muttering have literally nothing to do with her abilities as a cook, which was the whole point of her being on TV in the first place.
Except, after the battle ended and all the chefs were shaking hands on the floor, Alex Guarnaschelli reached out to shake Alana’s hand, and snarked “Smile – it’s not that bad”. Total mean girl style, with a big smile on her face and everything.
Of course, I have no idea what was going through Guarnaschelli’s head – maybe Alana was actually a huge brat in Kitchen Stadium, and they’ve had lots of run-ins before and ya da da. But it seemed like Guarnaschelli was picking up on the same slightly pouty energy from Alana that I was, and wanted to call her out for it. Why couldn’t Guarnaschelli keep operating on the super cool and in control plane she was during the battle? Why did she get petty?
I think part of it is that aggressive women are so often up against expectations that treat them as outliers from both woman-kind and success-kind (which is assumed to be male). When they do succeed, in part by being aggressive and tenacious, it is hard to see other women who don’t challenge assumptions the same way. There is a serious higher standard that a certain kind of aggressive lady holds themselves to, and when that tactic works, they want to show the way to everyone not quite there. Of course, by conveying it in a bratty way, the wind goes out of the sails. But a genuine smile just doesn’t satisfy the same way, does it?
I’m not at all trying to make this a referendum on Guarnaschelli’s position as a successful lady. But she was so effing boss before the handshake portion, and I guess I just wish she could have been as inspiring after as she was before. Calm, collaborative, commanding – couldn’t she have thrown a joke at eye-lined Alana instead of an equally shitty attitude? Or a mentorship?