The co-founder of Athru, the movement to empower women in the culinary arts in Ireland, has described the Restaurant Association of Ireland's (RAI) decision to install an all-male judging panel for its annual Irish Restaurant Awards as "stone-age".
Chef Hilary O'Hagan-Brennan has criticised the decision calling it "unacceptable" and that it marks a failure on the RAI's behalf to promote gender equality in the food industry.
The criticism comes after the RAI earlier this week announced that a team of six male chefs will cook dinner for the 900 guests attending the awards on Monday (8 May).
"The RAI's response is a completely unacceptable rhetoric. They are responsible for choosing the regional winners and they are responsible for not choosing women and failing to give them a chance," O'Hagan Brennan told Independent.ie.
"The RAI are accountable for promoting gender balance and equality and this panel is not a fair reflection of the talent in this industry, in fact it is only reflective of 50pc of it," she added.
Responding to the criticism, the RAI said the selection process for the awards has been the same since 2008.
"The Irish Restaurant Awards 2017 Chef team is selected based on those who were regional Best Chef category winners in 2016 for Ulster, Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Dublin," said the RAI in a statement.
"This has been the selection process for the past nine years of the Irish Restaurant Awards. If a regional winner is unable to partake in the Chef team, a county winner in the Best Chef category of that region is asked to be part of the Chef team.
"There were no female winners in some regions and in the region where there was a female winner, unfortunately she had to pull out of the team in the past four weeks."