It is possible to carve out a career as a top female chef as well as start a family, but many struggle to achieve that, says an acclaimed Kiwi chef.

After Kiwi chef Monica Galetti told the Radio Times female chefs struggled to make it to the top if they chose their family over their career, another Kiwi chef, Judith Tabron said it was possible, but hard to do.

Mrs Tabron, owner of Auckland's Soul Bar restaurant at the Viaduct said "more than a dozen" female apprentices completed their chef qualification with her in her two popular restaurants, Soul Bar and Ramses Bar and Grill.

However most had left the industry.


"I've had many female chefs work for me over the years and very few are working in industry jobs," she admitted.

She said although most had moved on from their chef career, some had remained in the hospitality industry.

"Some are working as tutors. Manukau polytechnic is full of them I think. There are a few women there that have worked with me."

Mrs Tabron was lucky enough to have flexibility when she had her first child at the age of 30, as she already owned a restaurant.

"I had a little bit more flexibility than most chefs would have at that point.

"I do think it's the challenge of family life and the hours."

However she strongly believed chefs shouldn't work more than 40 hours a week.

"I'm pretty much against that."


She said she currently had a female chef at her restaurant with two young children and she worked mornings and left in the afternoon.

"I would be flexible if we had women who wanted to work in the workforce.

"I think it is hard for a mother to concentrate after midnight when you've been up since 7 in the morning.

"It's difficult," she said.

However Mrs Tabron said it wasn't just mothers suffering --male chefs also suffered.

"There's quite a few male chefs who have divorced as well," she said.

She said there should be room for flexibility in the industry for women who aspired to become a head chef.

Wellington's Hippopotamus restaurant and bar sous-chef Shweta Ghate is currently 17 weeks pregnant with her first child --however this hadn't halted her career.

"You can balance both your household responsibilities and work."

Mrs Ghate said her workplace was "extremely supportive" about her pregnancy.

"I told my chef when I found out and he understood it in a very nice way," she said.

She described herself as "really ambitious" and she was "no way quitting" her job as a sous-chef.

Mrs Ghate said the head chef organised for her to work morning shifts which would be less stressful for her.

"He wants to lessen my burden. He's giving me enough freedom."

She worked a minimum of 10 hours a day -- sometimes more and admitted her job was no walk in the park.

"We don't get breaks and sometimes we have to skip meals."

However she was lucky she worked with supportive colleagues in a "family-like atmosphere".

"Since I've told them I'm having a baby, they keep feeding me and telling me I need to eat," she said.

Her husband is also a chef, working nearby at the Amora Hotel.

Mrs Ghate said although it was difficult to spend time with him with conflicting work hours, they have devised a plan for when their bundle of joy arrived next year.

"We will both have two days off on different days and our baby will be at a nursury for the other three," she said.

She said she would be working until she was 32 weeks pregnant, which would be next April.

New Zealand chef association chief officer Carmel Clark said a chef career for a man or a woman was no different.

"As with any career, when you are young you make sacrifices to progress and to learn, put in extra hours, move around to gain new experiences, and the career of the chef is no different for young men or young women" she said.

She admitted although the hours were challenging, there were "plenty of successful female chefs" in the New Zealand industry.

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