The Current

'I don't see myself as a bitch': Jen Agg challenges 'bro culture' in restaurant business

Jen Agg has restaurants in Toronto and Montreal but her success in a tough business often still comes with a side of judgment — served cold.
Restaurateur Jen Agg challenges 'bro culture' and double standards for male contemporaries that still dominate in the restaurant world. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Writer and restaurateur Jen Agg isn't afraid to take risks.

Barely into her 20s, she opened a bar in Toronto which she operated for eight years. When it closed, Agg was forced to declare bankruptcy because of unpaid taxes she didn't know about.

"I learned a lot about how not to be a boss in a lot of ways," she tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

It didn't take long before she dreamed up the idea for a restaurant — and The Black Hoof was born. She imagined a space with dark lighting and loud music, and a menu filled with charcuterie and dishes made from animal parts not commonly seen on menus in Toronto. It started slow, but a glowing review soon meant the restaurant was packed, sometimes with long waits for a table.
Jen Agg shares her journey in the restaurant world in her debut book, I Hear She's a Real Bitch.

"It was really taxing. I got really sick. I wasn't eating, I wasn't sleeping. Everything was the restaurant. I was completely focused on it," Agg explains.

"I was there for 16 hours most days. It was an intense time."

But that didn't scare Agg off from opening more restaurants and bars.

Despite her success, she still sees herself as an outsider in the restaurant world. She shares her story in a new book called, I Hear She's a Real Bitch.

 "I don't see myself as a bitch," she tells Tremonti. 

"It's about the idea that someone who is direct, talks the way that I do, doesn't pull punches is perceived as a bitch when they're a woman."

The "'bro culture" is something Agg has spoken out about for years. She says that women who are confident are not respected for their leadership qualities in the same way that men are.

"Ultimately, it feels to me like I'm judged by a different set of standards than my male contemporaries are," Agg explains.

"I'm tired of it. It's not fair."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.