Men Who Can Cook

So we were having dinner at Black Hoof the other day where there was an open kitchen, and Janice brought up an interesting question. At the restaurant, all the cooks were men. But in a society that seems to have more women than men who are able to cook, why are most professional cooks male? In typical fashion, I had to quickly formulate an inhumanly logical yet politically incorrect response to explain this. Using evolutionary psychology, no less.

Obviously, this conversation took place over dinner so I researched absolutely no hard data to back all of this up. But that doesn’t make it not true. Not that I would do it even if I had the time, because why do any fact-checks when it already makes such perfect sense based on what we intuitively know? That, and I’m lazy. Moving on…

First, let’s define what I was trying to explain, because I don’t think this phenomenon is isolated to culinary. In fact, in almost all competitive arenas, male dominates. Not only do men dominate in physical sports due to their stronger physique (another phenomena explained by evolutionary biology), but also in all other non-physical and very diverse fields. The world’s top chess players, poker players, hedge fund managers, mathematicians, music composers, painters, and yes, cooks, are predominately men.

There will always be exceptions – there may be several women here and there who emerge on top in a particular competitive field. But they are exceptions to the rule and the general trend is clear. Where there is a trend, there usually is an explanation…

Back in the prehistoric days, polygamy, or in particular, polygyny (where one man mates with many women) was common. Similar to the societal structure of gorillas, each of our alpha males has more than their fair share of women in their harem. Due to the roughly equal number of men and women, and alpha males take more than their fair share, there are not enough women for the rest of the males, which means there are the “beta males” who stay bachelor for most of their lives (unless they are able to overthrow one of the alphas).

This winner-takes-all arrangement, mediocrity is severely punished by a lack of mating opportunities. Because it was not enough for a man to be average, or “sort of” good – he had to be outlandishly successful to stand out. And when he does, he wins big (by having multiple women) at the expense of other men (who go home with none).

In the polygynic mating game where the male faces this all-or-nothing pay-off, he is rewarded by having a single-minded focus at being exceptionally competent and competitive, at the neglect of perhaps other more mundane tasks. His extreme dedication is rewarded by creating a huge spike in one area. This explains why we have more men who are dedicated to a single task (e.g. playing competitive Starcraft) so much that they would starve themselves or forget about personal hygiene. We also have *six times* more male savants than female savants in the world.

On the other hand, females can afford to be more all-rounded (no pun) due to this arrangement, because on average each woman will share an alpha male with other women, and the mating success of the female depended less on standing out above others. This allows them to (traditionally) perform less competitive, more nurturing, but nonetheless necessary functions of the society, such as child bearing, nursing, teaching, home-keeping etc.

So, this was our biological legacy. Importantly though, our shift to monogamy (1 man, 1 woman) in the modern society has softened some of the edge. We can now afford some mediocrity in men because women come to expect a one-to-one relationship, which means not every woman can stay hooked up to an alpha male, and this, in time, will cause the competitive gap between male and female to narrow. Our old instincts, for the time being, remain in our genes, which is probably the best and only explanation why most profession cooks, who are so dedicated to their craft, and become so well regarded that they can serve at a top-tier restaurant, are men.

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2 Responses

  1. When i visit a blog, chances are that I see that the construction is poor and the writting bad. On the contrary,I could honestly say that you writting is decent and your website solid.

  2. Still a male – dominant society!

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