No matter how prominent male chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Marcus Samuelsson, Anthony Bourdain, and Bobby Flay are on TV food shows, toy companies have long sent a different message: Cooking is for girls. That's about to change, because a teenage girl turned up the heat on a playroom icon. The toy giant Hasbro says it will introduce a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven next year, after an online petition on Change.org launched by 13-year-old McKenna Pope of Garfield, N.J., surpassed 40,000 signatures. Pope wanted to give an Easy-Bake to her 4-year-old brother as a Christmas gift but could find it only in pink and purple, with only girls in the ads.
Hasbro will now make one that is black, silver, and blue and promote it with ads that include boys. Pope received the public support of several celebrity chefs, including Flay, who begged for an Easy-Bake as a child over a G.I. Joe action figure. Recently, Hasbro invited Pope to see the gender-neutral version of the Easy-Bake. "They really met most or even all of what I wanted them to do," she said, "and they really amazed me." More amazing still will be the cakes and cookies pulled out of Easy-Bakes by boys, who may one day bring about more equality in the kitchen.