Where have all the women Japanese hibachi chefs gone?

Last week, I was contacted by Oxfam America to write a post (with a humorous slant) about the inequalities women face in honor of International Women's Day, which is today, March 8th.  There is much I want to pass on to you about that, but, first, let me tell you about a little research study I conducted yesterday afternoon to answer the question:

Where have all the women *Japanese hibachi chefs gone??

Hahaha!!  Women?!  Sayonara to that!  No women here!

Enjoying the culinary talents of hibachi chefs at Japanese restaurants (ahem, Benihana's) is something my family loves to do.  We love to see them chopchopchopchopping the heck outta some scrambled eggs.  We love opening our mouths in an effort to catch a clump of rice launched from a couple of feet in front of us.  We love to watch them aim the clump of rice at my 3-year-old's son's mouth but miss and land rice in his hair eight times in a row.  We love laughing at them when they say, "Meow" as they begin to slice into some raw chicken.  Nothing makes us gasp more than a wall of fire that is then extinguished by a plastic man peeing on the flames (I've only seen that once and never at Benihana's).  And we never cease to be amazed at how they can flip a raw egg all over the place with their spatula and then crack it on the its edge while never actually touching it with bare hands!


But, as impressive as all of that is, I become distracted at those hot Japanese tables.  As I glance around the room full of other people clapping and laughing and chowing down on the delicious fried rice and guzzling ginger dressing off of the iceberg lettuce salad, I notice there are no women hibachi chefs.  This doesn't upset me or anything. I mean, maybe women just don't want to be hibachi chefs.  I asked our hibachi man and he said he had never known a woman to don the red chef's hat and entertain the masses with her quick stir-frying skills.  Not feeling satisfied with his isolated experience, though, I picked up the phone yesterday to call about ten other Benihana's to ask them.

"Konnichiwa.  Thanks for calling Benihana's.  How may I help you?"

"Hi.  I have a question for you.  Could you tell me if you have any women hibachi chefs at your restaurant?"

"Yes, we do have lemon hibachi shrimp.  We would just add some lemon to the shrimp, but we can do that.  No problem."

"No, I didn't say lemon hibachi shrimp.  I said women hibachi chefs."

"Ohhh!!  Hahaha!!  Okay.  Ummm.  Well, there is a woman that helps hand the food to the chef.  She helps him get ready."

"But, are there any actual women chefs there?"

"No.  No, not since I've worked here."

"Do you know why?  Have there been any women applicants?  Are they just not suited for the job?  What's the deal?"

"I really don't know.  I have no clue."

That was the response I received from the majority of the Benihana's I called (except only one of the places thought I said "lemon hibachi shrimp".)  Only two said that they had a woman chef at one point long, long ago.  One gentleman said she had to leave due to "issues she had to take care of" and the other one didn't know why she had left.  One guy I called actually told me why he thought women didn't really cut it as hibachi chefs:

"Well, there just so many things to do.  They have clean up, scrape table, sweep up.  Too much for them.  They have stay late, work hard.  After that, no time for family.  That why women no hibachi chefs."

Aha!!! So , according to him, women may not want to be hibachi chefs because they wouldn't have time for their families! That must be the bottom line in what this man was saying, because, if there is one thing most women know how to do, it's clean, scrape and sweep! Can I get an Amen??

Thanks to the good ol' Internet, I did eventually find ONE woman hibachi chef:

If there is one thing I know women to be, though, it is HARD WORKING.  Here are some facts quoted from Oxfam regarding women:
-66% of the world's work falls on women's shoulders, yet they earn only 10% of the world's income.
-Worldwide in 2008, nearly 800 million people over the age of 15 could neither read nor write- two-thirds of them were women
-Women make up 43% of the agricultural workforce in developing countries, yet they account for only 10-20% of landowners
-If women were given the same level of access to resources that men have, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%.
-Hunger and poverty are about power and inequality, and women and girls face the biggest inequalities of all.
You may have grown up with (or have) a working mother, or one who has, either temporarily or permanently, chosen to forego a career in order to focus on raising family.  You may be either of those mothers now.  But whichever choice your mother made or you are making now, chances are you remember her going to any lengths to keep you safe, clothed and fed, so that you could grow into a healthy and happy human being and, if you are a mother now, you are doing the same.

An example of one of the e-cards from Oxfam.  Source
But some moms, who also want to feed and provide for their kids just like your mom did and you are doing now, are facing hardships that make it nearly impossible. They’re among the one in seven people who go to bed hungry every night. That’s right, one in seven. And, according to Oxfam, this isn’t because there isn’t enough food to go around. It’s because there are deep imbalances in access to resources like fertile land and water.  In fact, more than 40 percent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – live in poverty, and many of them are women.
Women who work hard, but can't earn enough to feed their families; women whose hearts break when they see their children go hungry; women- half the people on earth- who need equal access to the resources that can help them overcome poverty.

Checking out Oxfam's website for information, videos and donation opportunities is one way to help. Another way Oxfam wants us to help is by spreading the wordBy sending an "International Women's Day" e-card to important women in your life, you are getting the message out about the billions that live in poverty, including many women and children. 

Here are some important links: Click here to donate or fundraise, here to send an e-card, here to go to Oxfam America's website, here to like Oxfam on Facebook and here to follow Oxfam on Twitter. (Please refer to #InternationalWomensDay or #IWD, if you talk about it on Twitter.)


Before you go...in the spirit of honoring women, I want to give one of you a gift.  In my sons' library, they have the book "A is for Abigail" by Lynne Cheney.  It is a beautiful, fun "almanac of amazing American women."  I want my sons to grow up knowing the names of women in history who have made a difference in our lives today.  The artwork is beautiful and the content is impressive.  There are no hoops to jump through here.  Just leave a comment and I will randomly select one of you to receive this book via random.org at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 12th.  You will love it!