Guirong Wei is a female in male-dominated Chinese food industry.
When she trained in the culinary arts in X'ian in Shaanxi province, China she was one of only four women in the entire cooking school. She went on to become the only female head chef in X’ian and has since come to London where her passion for sharing the food of her home has won her great acclaim.
Her restaurant Master Wei, won Best Newcomer at the Observer Food Monthly Awards, where chef Wei's cooking has built a loyal customer base.
Kitchens all over the world have experienced a sea change when it comes to diversity and gender equality. For decades women were not considered the equals of men in the kitchen, but thankfully times have changed and more and more women are rising to the very top of the industry, despite at times having the system skewed against them.
China is another world and cultural change happens at a different rate there. While massive progress is made in the West when it comes to women in the kitchen, it is still very unusual to see a female head chef. London, however, with its thriving cosmopolitan food scene is the perfect place for Wei to showcase her cooking.
The video by The Guardian is presented by food writer Fuschia Dunlop. “Chef Wei is so unusual because she’s a female Chinese head chef and I can’t tell you how rare is to meet someone like that in China” says Dunlop.
“I hugely admire her, she came here speaking no English, knowing nobody, a woman in a really male-dominated profession and she’s doing really well, opened her own place, customers seem to love it.”
In the reader-voted categories, best food personality was won by TV chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver, while best new cookbook was given to 2017 Masterchef winner Saliha Mahmood Ahmed for her Indo-Persian cookbook Khazana. Best restaurant was presented to The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen in London and best place to drink was scooped by 1000 Trades in Birmingham.
Refugee Community Kitchen was presented with the outstanding achievement award. Since 2015, the charitable organization has worked to serve nourishing meals to displaced people in the UK and abroad.
A posthumous prize was also given to Andrew Fairlie, the first recipient of the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 1984, who was honoured with the editors' award.
The winners in each category are as follows:
Best restaurant – The Oystermen Seafood Bar & KitchenBest cheap eats – 288 Bar & WokBest Sunday lunch – The Bank TavernBest new cookbook – Khazana, Saliha Mahmood AhmedBest ethical food project (supported by M&S Food) – The Clean KiloBest independent retailer – field&flowerOFM local hero – Tommy BanksBest place to drink – 1000 TradesBest Instagram – One Pound MealsBest food personality – Jamie Oliver
Best producer (supported by M&S Food) – Jess’s Ladies Organic FarmBest newcomer in food and drink – Master WeiOutstanding achievement – Refugee Community KitchenYoung chef of the year – Danny WallaceLifetime achievement – Claudia RodenBest reader’s recipe – Kimchi Jigae
Editors award – Andrew Fairlie