Justice

Las Vegas Chef Christina Wilson Cooks Up Success Despite the Odds

April 20th 2017

By:
Las Vegas .

LVCVA

Las Vegas chef and executive Christina Wilson is one of the few women in a top management role in the restaurant business, a notoriously male-dominated industry.

The hardest part about being a female chef is "actually being heard," said Wilson, who was named the top executive of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's worldwide restaurant empire, the Gordon Ramsay Group, in 2015. "I think people do think women are sensitive or not able to physically keep up in the kitchen," she said. "It hasn't slowed me down."

Ramsay's company operates four properties in Las Vegas, two of which are run by female head chefs, Wilson said. But there's still a lot more progress to be made.

Nearly half of the people working in the restaurant industry are women, but women hold fewer than 10 percent of the top positions.

That's what Ann Cooper reported in her 1998 book, "A Woman's Place Is in the Kitchen: The Evolution of Women Chefs."

Even women who make it to the top earn an estimated $20,000 less annually than their male counterparts.

"Most industries need more women at the top," said Wilson, who has defied the odds and excelled as a boss in Las Vegas, one of ValuePenguin's top five U.S. cities for aspiring chefs.

Christina Wilson

The lack of women at the top of the restaurant industry is just one example of the glass ceiling that affects all businesses.

Consider:

  • Only 8 percent of U.S. CEOs are women, according to CNBC.
  • Women account for only 16 percent of the partners at the biggest U.S. law firms, Lincoln Center President Debora L. Spar wrote in her 2013 book, "Wonder Women."
  • Fewer than 20 percent of U.S. surgeons are women, Spar added.
  • Women in all professions earn on average 23 cents less than a man for every dollar of income.

"What makes this accounting even more dismal is that it is no longer credible to blame the proverbial pipeline," Spar said in "Wonder Women":

"For decades, after all, the dearth of women at the top of organizations could easily be explained by the dearth of women anywhere in the organization. No female surgeons? Well, of course not, if there are no women in medical school. No female law partners? Wholly predictable if there are no female associates. But the pipeline to the top has been full now, or at least plentiful, for over 20 years."

The gender pay gap has been narrowing, but women will still have to wait 135 years before reaching parity with men if the gap continues to shrink at its current rate. That's the conclusion of "The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap," published by the American Association of University Women.

Breaking the restaurant business glass ceiling.

Wilson, a native of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and worked in restaurants to pay her way through school. She quickly discovered that cooking was her true passion.

Wilson took an unpaid internship in 2005 at the Gypsy Saloon in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and quickly moved up the ranks, according to her website.

In a year she was kitchen manager there and at the restaurant's sister establishment, Stella Blu.

But it wasn't until 2012 that Wilson caught her big break: She was the winner in season 10 of Ramsay's Fox reality show, "Hell's Kitchen." Her prize: The chance to run the Gordon Ramsay Steak restaurant at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, which is praised by Eater and Thrillist.

Christina subsequently took over Gordon Ramsay BurGR in the Planet Hollywood Casino. She was named head of the restaurant group in 2015, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

"She really deserves it," Ramsay told the Sun. "She has proved herself really hard working and expertly efficient while here in Las Vegas the past five years."

Wilson has succeeded despite stereotypes that men are better leaders than women.

That's a topic that Elizabeth Strassner, a writer for Bustle, has explored:

"A 2010 Harvard study asked participants to evaluate fictional profiles for politicians. Participants thought 'power-seeking' men were tougher and more competent than other men. Conversely, participants reacted to 'power-seeking' women with 'feelings of moral outrage': contempt, anger, and disgust. Except for gender, the actual profiles were identical.

"A Leadership Psychology Institute study also described two fictional people identically, except for gender. Participants rated 'Heidi' as more selfish, less likable, and less worthy of being hired than 'Howard,' even though they were otherwise described identically. Many other studies using similar setups have found similar results.

Wilson said that it's important for women in the restaurant business to maintain their resolve to succeed, despite the obstacles, especially in Las Vegas, where the culinary industry is thriving.

"My advice for women trying to break into this industry is you really need to stay your course," Wilson said. "The amount of opportunity in this career that lies in this two-mile street here that we call The Boulevard is unparalleled. It's never really a question of who does it better. It's a question of who wants it more, and who's willing to work for it."

To learn more about how Las Vegas provides Women with equal opportunities, click here.