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First Female Chef at The Dorchester Hotel

3:51 pm

With gender equality in the news thanks to revelations over the male/female pay gap among journalists at the BBC, not to mention the high profile #MeToo movement, we spoke to Hazel Thomas who began her career in the Seventies and became the first female chef at the Dorchester Hotel.

It was a time of change at all levels of the food industry, with the UK’s first ever McDonalds opening in Woolwich London and the arrival of a revolutionary new chef, Anton Mosimann, at one of London’s most exclusive addresses.


In the mid-seventies catering was almost entirely male-dominated, but Hazel told us working on her family’s farm, where as she put it “you grafted”, helped prepare her for life in an industry renowned for its long hours and back-breaking shifts.

She also believes her rural upbringing equipped her with the skills to fit in among “one of the best families ever” – the food community.


It took a little time to adjust to the frantic pace of London life after the tranquillity of west Wales. There were distractions in the form of the city’s real ale pubs, and an exciting live music scene. But as her time at catering college grew to a close, there was the creeping realisation that she’d have to return home. Until the intervention of a lecturer and four years spent working with Anton Mosimann, a chef she calls “the greatest”.


Given the reputation of many kitchens during the decade that followed, you might expect the story of the first female chef at the Dorchester to touch on the chauvinism of working alongside so many ‘blokes’, but it’s refreshing to discover she felt she was treated as an equal. That, of course, meant there were no favours when it came to lifting huge turkeys into the oven, but she’s also adamant when she says, “I was never taken advantage of”.


Things were somewhat different when it came to female chefs’ clothing in the late 1970s. Back then the uniform was white coat, Doctor Martin boots and, er, no chefs trousers. “It’s great,” she told us, “that companies like Nisbets offer us a much more modern selection of staff uniforms.” We couldn’t agree more. Particularly as one of the rituals for departing employees involved being dunked in the pot wash.


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