Some of the world's top chefs are women. In fact, in the annual list of the world's 50 best restaurants, which was unveiled on June 19 at an awards ceremony in the Spanish city of Bilbao this year, women are at the helm of a few of the best restaurants across the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.
Of course, the food industry, in general, could benefit from more diversity. The list curated from over 1,000 food writers and critics, chefs and restaurateurs from around the world, is mostly dominated by white men. There are no black chefs on the list, and only a select few hail from Asia. While only four women had their restaurants make the list, these female chefs are making gastronomical waves.
Here are five female chefs who earned some spot the list of the world's 50 best restaurants, plus some more you should get to know (and find for some delicious dishes!).
Smyth won the standalone title of "Best Female Chef" on this year's World's 50 Best Restaurants list. In her acceptance speech, she said: "I would love to see very soon that we don’t need gender-specific awards because women will have recognition and there will be a balance in the industry.”
Smyth, who left home at 16 to follow her professional chef dream, was hired by Gordon Ramsay within eight years of pursuing her food industry goal. Ramsay hired her to work at the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, where she worked for 13 years. She eventually worked her way up to the title of head chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at just 28 years old, and became the chef-patron in 2012 before she was appointed MBE for services to the hospitality industry just one year later.
Smyth has also held jobs at other big-name restaurants such as The French Laundry in Napa Valley, Pe Se in New York and Alain Ducasse's Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo. She opened Core in July 2017, and she also catered for the 200 guests at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding reception.
Soto-Innes is one of the youngest winners among the 50 Best Restaurants in the World list. Coming in at no. 25, she said during her acceptance speech: “I know what I’m capable of, not in terms of age but with the experience I’ve been through. The way I manage is, I get them to focus not on how young I am but how much I’ve learned and how much I can give to them.”
Soto-Innes was just 12 years old when her family moved from Mexico City to the United States. Two years later, she started working in restaurants and eventually went on to attend the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Austin, Texas. She relocated to New York City at 23 years old and became the opening chef de cuisine at Cosme, a high-end Mexican restaurant in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.
By 2016, Soto-Innes won the prestigious James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef and, in 2017 Cosme was named one of the world's 50 Best Restaurants while she was spearheading the kitchen. Cosme ranking of no. 25 this year makes it the highest placement for a restaurant run by a female chef.
Arzak won the award for the World's Best Female Chef in 2012 and came 31st in this year's list of the world's best 50 restaurants — and both for good reason.
She's been in the food business most of her life. She got her start helping out at her family's restaurant in the Spanish city of San Sebastián (which originally opened as a wine inn and tavern by her great-grandparents in the late 19th century. Arzak was just 11 years old when she began, and today's she is joint head chef with her father, Juan Mari.
Arzak, who has three Michelin stars, has trained and worked at elBulli in Catalonia, Le Gavroche in London, Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, La Maison Troisgros in the French town of Roane and Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.
Ana Roš, who was born and raised in Slovenia, actually dreamed of being an alphine skier — she trained as one before studying diplomacy in Italy, where she met her partner Valter Kramar. Kramar's parents were about to retire from running their restaurant, Hiša Franko, and her and Roš deicded to take over.
Roš moved up from waitress to head chef, specializing in traditional Slovenian cuisine. Her skills are especially impressive since she taught herself how to cook.
By 2017, she was named the world's best female chef and, this year, the restaurant was ranked as the 48th best restaurant in the world.
Pim Techamuanvivit has said: "Thai cuisine has always been in the hands of Thai women. It never, ever left us.” And she's right, which is why her restaurant, Namh in Bangkok, ranked 49th in this year’s list of the world’s 50 best restaurants.
Beginning her career as a food blogger and jam maker, Techamuanvivit learned to cook from friends and relatives with whom she grew up in Bangkok. Her mother and two older sisters, who all learned from her grandmother, taught her a lot.
And her lessons came in handy. Today, in addition to helming her own restaurant, Techamuanvivit also runs the Michelin-starred restaurant Kin Khao in San Francisco and hopes to open another fine-dining Thai spot in the city, named Nari (the Thai word for woman).
Dominique Crenn, a French chef best known for gaining three Michelin stars for her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco, California, won the award for best female chef in the world in 2016. She opened Atelier Crenn in January 2011 as "a place to express her heritage."
Hélène Darroze, who hails from south west France, was named the world's best female chef in 2015. According to her page, she's rooted in tradition.
"I was brought up learning from three generations of chefs, I have a great deal of respect for my ancestral and regional heritage," she writes. "For me the South West goes from Charentes to the Spanish Basque country, spanning Périgord and Toulouse and reaching the Langeudoc border. It is in this region that the art of eating well was instilled in me, not only that but the importance of hospitality and in a nutshell the art of good living."
After completing her university studies with a degree from l’Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Bordeaux Business School, she joined Alain Ducasse's team at the prestigious Louis XV restaurant in Monaco. And after three years there, she was encouraged to get into the kitchen. In 1995, her father gave her the keys to the kitchen of the family-run Relais & Châteaux in Villeneuve-de-Marsan, and she spent four years in the family business refining her culinary style.
Helena Rizzo, who was named the world's best female chef in 2014, is among the younger chef in Netflix's new culinary competition The Final Table. The Brazilian foodie is the chef and co-woner of Maní in São Paulo, Brazil. In the same year she won best famel chef, Maní was ranked 36th in the list of best restaurants in the world, and second among those in South America.
Nadia Santini was named the world's best female chef in 2013. She's an Italian chef who is best known for her restaurant, Dal Pescatore, in Canneto sull'Oglio, Lombardy. The restaurant has held three Michelin stars since 1996.
Santini, who was born in Vicenza, learned to cook from her mother who often prepared homemade meals for her family. But she had no real interest in working as a professional chef, let alone going on to become among the best, until she married her husband Antonio Santini in 1974. His parents were the original owners of Dal Pescatore.
Anne-Sophie Pic was named the best female chef in the world in 2011. Flash forward to 2019, and she's still collecting awards.
She won the prize for creativity awarded by Luc Dubanchet. This award celebrates her 20 years of creative work through which she "has explored all the nuances of the aromatic palette boldly. The guiding thread of her cooking, the bitterness, allows her to sublimate the aromatic complexity of her creations, and to make tasting an exercise where each note responds to another."
The Michelin Guide was first published in 1900 in France, but it didn't specialize in fine dining reviews until 1928, when it introduced just a single star system, and it didn't introduce the current three-star system until 1931. Among the first women to hold three Michelin stars in that 1933 edition was Eugénie Brazier.
Brazier, also know known as "la mère Brazier," was a French chef born in La Tranclière, where she opened her first restaurant, La Mère Brazier. She opened her restaurant in 1921 and went down in history as one of the best female chefs. She won three stars at both of her La Mère Brazier restaurants in Lyon and at also at Col de la Luère, which she held for 20 years. She held the record for a very long time.
Marie Bourgeois was also among the three women to earn the first three Michelin stars in the 1933 edition. She was also a French chef, and she held onto her three Michelin stars from 1933 to 1937 for her restaurant in Priary, in the Ain region of France.
Angela Hartnett is an English chef and protégé of Gordon Ramsay who has appeared on British television shows like Saturday Kitchen and Kitchen Criminals. She got her start in the kitchens at Aubergine, Zafferano, L’Oranger and Petrus and eventually became the head chef at Petrus within just a few short months, earning the restaurant a Michelin star.
She went on to launch Amaryllis in Scotland, Verre in Dubai, and MENU and The Grill Room at The Connaught with Gordon Ramsay. And, in 2007, she was awarded an MBE for services to the hospitality industry just before opening her own restaurant, Murano in Mayfair, where she is Chef Proprietor, and holds a Michelin star.
In 2012, she also opened Hartnett Holder & Co in partnership with Robin Hutson, and with Chef Luke Holder. And, in 2013, she launched the critically acclaimed Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch, in collaboration with Head Chef Neil Borthwick, and Canteen founders, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone. In the same year, she also opened Cafe Murano, a "brassier little sister to Murano," and, in 2015, a second Cafe Murano.
Anita Lo, a first-generation Chinese-American chef and restaurateur, was named by Food & Wine magazine in 2001 as one of 10 “Best New Chefs in America.” The chef, who appeared on the first season of Iron Chef America, has a wealth of experience.
Lo accepted her first kitchen job as garde-manger at Bouley, and after a year, decided to move to Paris and enroll in Ecole Ritz-Escoffier, a revered culinary institution. Upon receiving her degree while interning under Guy Savoy and Michel Rostang, she moved back to New York to work her way through the stations at David Waltuck’s Chanterelle.
According to her page, she developed her culinary style during her time at Mirezi, where she earned a two-star review from Ruth Reichl at The New York Times. And. in 2000, she opened her very own Annisa (which means ''women'' in Arabic), an upscale restaurant in Greenwich Village serving Contemporary American cuisine.
By 2005, she co-founded Rickshaw, a dumpling bar with several locations across New York City and, in 2008, she opened Bar Q, an Asian barbecue restaurant in Greenwich Village.
In 2015, Lo became the first female guest chef to cook for a State Dinner at the White House, under the Obama administration. She prepared a four-course meal for the visiting Chinese president, Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.
Melissa Perello, an American chef best known for holding a Michelin star at her restaurant Frances (and for previously winning a star at restaurant Fifth Floor) has won a number of awards from both Chronicles and Food & Wine magazines.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
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