When it comes to Brazilian barbecue, gender roles most often dictate men grill the meat while women prepare the side dishes.
“Like in the U.S.,” Leonice Ludwig says, “it’s no fair at all.”
Ludwig and her husband, Edson Ludwig, own Espirito do Sul in Overland Park. In the past, Brazilian steakhouses like theirs stuck to familiar gender roles, hiring an army of gauchos (men) to serve the grilled meats, which are carved tableside.
Leonice (pronounced Lee-ooh-NEE-say) Ludwig says she was once denied the job of meat carver, who are more highly paid than servers. When she opened her own restaurant, she saw an opportunity to buck tradition and hire a female meat carver, known as a prenda passadora.
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Since the restaurant opened in December, May Grace Benitez has been tying on an orange apron with a few feminine flounces and training, learning to identify the cuts of meat and how to judge temperatures of doneness while sharpening her knife and presentation skills.
“I think it’s a great addition,” Edson Ludwig says of the new position, “because customers would look around the dining room and ask, ‘Why do you only hire guys?’ ”
Benitez, who is a native of the Philippines, spent several years working in the kitchen of P.F. Chang’s under Leonice Ludwig. Now she is eager to move into her more public role, not only because meat carvers make more money, but also because it gives her an opportunity to interact with diners.
“In here, you will see their face and know if they are happy or not,” Benitez says.
▪ Espirito do Sul, 11900 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, espiritodosul.com