Female chefs to celebrate on International Women’s Day
For the longest time, women who cook had to contend not just with sexism and harassment in the restaurant world, but a blatant lack of recognition. Things are starting to change with the #MeToo movement and on International Women’s Day, we choose to honor it by dedicating it to the women in the business who have toiled, mostly out of the spotlight, and celebrating their achievements.
To get to this list, we spoke to some of the most important names in the food and beverage world across the globe. They were mostly hard-pressed to provide just one name but for the purpose of this story, their answers have been edited and condensed.
Alisara ‘Paper’ Chongphanotkul from Saawaan (Bangkok)
Chef “Paper” is the Pastry Chef of Restaurant Sawaan in Bangkok. She may be young and modest but the talented chef is already championing Thai dessert techniques and ingredients in a real intelligent way. Case in point is her dessert of Thong Ampai pumpkin pudding with Chonburi coconut and pandan.
Executive Chef, Gaa
Gisela Alesbrook of Hotal Colombo (Hong Kong)
Sri Lankan chef Gisela Alesbrook is making some of the most exciting food to be found in Hong Kong. At the newly opened Hotal Colombo, she’s cooking dishes that are fragrant, vividly flavored and tongue-tingly delicious. Try Sri Lankan classics such as string hoppers and chicken kothu (chicken and vegetables stir-fried with flatbread), but save room for the bone marrow varuval – aromatic and complexly spiced, it’s simply the best bone marrow dish we’ve tasted.
Senior Food Editor, South China Morning Post
I truly admire Cheryl Koh, the pastry chef of Les Amis, as her pastry skills are top-notch and she has mastered all classic French pastries with aplomb. I particularly enjoy Koh’s Clementine dessert and her chocolate tart is also to die for. I have a lot of respect for her.
Chef and Co-owner, Odette
Hee-Suk Cho of Hansikgonggan (Seoul, South Korea)
Young Korean chefs looking for inspiration on where to take their cuisine look to one person in South Korea: Hee-Suk Cho. Her dishes, which incorporate traditional Korean elements, but also creativity, serve as a compass for many. Chef Cho has dedicated her life to sharing her in-depth knowledge of heritage Korean cuisine; she is a lighthouse to young chefs and paves the way for the future of Korean cuisine.
Head Chef, Sempio Korean Culinary Research Centre
Katy Cole from Locale (Tokyo)
It’s hard enough for any chef to open an independent restaurant in Tokyo — and the hurdles are far higher for those from abroad — but Katy Cole has made it look easy at Locale, her mellow, welcoming, 12-seat operation on the edge of the hip Meguro district. Drawing on a network of sustainable producers around Japan, her cooking expresses her Californian roots through dishes that are simple yet vibrant and unfailingly delicious.
Food writer, Japan Times
De Aille Dee of Bo Shanghai (Shanghai, China)
As a former engineer, De Aille Tam is the first female Michelin-starred chef in Mainland China. After spending time and experiencing cultures around the world, De Aille returned to Hong Kong to work at Bo Innovation and later became one of two executive chefs at Bo Shanghai. Young, talented and hardworking, De Aille has brought something unique to the Bo Innovation’s Shanghai offshoot. Her dish of Duck A L’Orange — hollowed tangerine stuffed with shredded duck leg and aromatics — showcases her unique oriental take on a classically French dish.
Managing Director, Tasty Trip
Trisha Greentree of 10 William Street (Sydney, Australia)
She may not be a known name but Trisha Greentree, who worked for several years at Brae, has cooked for some time in both Australia and internationally and has recently started her first head chef role at 10 William St in Sydney. She’s a natural cook with a great understanding of flavor, seasoning and restraint. I’veget yet to see what she does at 10 William but if the dumplings she makes occasionally for my daughter are anything to go by, whatever she does will surely gain attention.
Danielle Alvarez of Fred’s (Sydney, Australia)
Danielle Alvarez is a chef who walks the walk when it comes to farm to table. Sourcing really flavorsome, super-fresh produce from specialty farmers, this Cuban-American turned Aussie works her Chez Panisse training to special effect. She has even set up a little produce delivery service in the restaurant’s front bar on Saturday mornings, along with excellent coffee and her legendary morning buns and tarts. From the best seasonal heirloom leaves salad (her vinaigrette is divine) to her buttermilk ravioli or (when it’s on), a glorious roast chicken, lunch or dinner in Fred’s is a treat.
Food Journalist and Events Director
Martha Palacios of Panchita (Lima)
Martha Palacio is the head chef of Panchita, Gastón Acurio’s traditional Peruvian restaurant in Miraflores. She hasn’t been in the spotlight in the same way that other cooks working at more high-end places have but Panchita is no doubt one of the best spots in Lima and Martha is finally entering the conversation. She just won the Luces Awards for Best Chef, an award voted for by El Comercio newspaper readers.
Manu Buffara of Manu (Curitiba, Brazil)
Manu Buffara serves modern Brazilian cuisine (her standout dish is lamb with polenta and parsley) and she stands out as much for her respect of the produce as for the producers, farmers and fishermen. She is amazingly committed to her communities in Curitiba, transforming abandoned spots in the city into urban gardens where she teaches communities how to take care of the gardens and feed themselves from these green spaces.
Chef and co-owner of Central and Kjolle
Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia and other restaurants (Atlanta, Georgia)
When I think of modern southern cooking I think of Anne Quatrano, whose European training informs the way she approaches the local produce she grows on her farm. Her culinary range — from buttermilk biscuits to foie gras — is vast and the food is always soul-satisfying. What’s more, as a chef/owner and entrepreneur, she has mentored generations of women cooks. And in restaurants, her shop, her books, products and all her work, she celebrates local farm-to-table cooking with a quiet but strong voice that has helped put Atlanta on the culinary map.
Chief Strategy Officer, James Beard
Jess Shadbolt of King (NYC, New York)
Jess Shadbolt comes to New York from London where she honed her skills at Ruth Rodgers’ acclaimed River Cafe. At King, where she is one of three co-owners, her daily changing menus read simply, belying the deft hand behind this soul/satisfying cooking. Try her rabbit and sage saltimbocca.
Chief Executive Officer of Union Square Hospitality Group
Rosio Sanchez runs one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Few people realize the importance of what she contributes to Copenhagen’s dining scene: It’s much more than her restaurant and her taquerias – although they are already deservedly famous (I love her open-faced cinnamon churro sandwich with mescal and vanilla frozen parfait, butter area and orange zest). Her philosophy and her understanding of the city she lives and works in reflect her growth in the industry; it’s something we can all learn from.
Chef and co-owner, 108
Jo Barrett of Oakridge Winery (Yarra Valley, Australia)
Jo Barrett is one of the finest young chefs around full stop; she is deeply invested in the future of cooking where sustainability and ethics will be as important as deliciousness. In my mind she represents the best combination of pure talent I’ve seen in many years. Jo is hardworking with a humble nature and a willingness to take the harder route in her cooking that always leads to the bigger result. Did I say that she recently made me the most delicious soft-creamy washed rind cheeses that I’ve ever eaten? Jo is someone who is really going to leave a mark on the Australian culinary landscape.
Viviana Varese of Alice Restaurant (Milan, Italy)
Italian native, originally from Naples, who lives and works in Milan for the past 25 years, Viviana is the chef and owner of Alice Restaurant inside the Eataly, Milano. Her culinary talents are well known and recognized; however it is her humanitarian actions and devotion to ethical projects that makes her a very special person indeed. She has cooked on several occasions at the Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan as well as in the Food for Soul outposts in Paris and London, and is one of the chefs featured in the book “Bread is Gold.”
President, Food for Soul
Born to Turkish-Cypriot parents, Selin Liazim grew up in London’s Southgate but never lost track of her roots and has emerged as a champion for the rarely celebrated traditions and flavors of Northern Cyprus. Mentored by Peter “Godfather of fusion” Gordon, who appointed her as head chef at his London restaurants The Providores and Tapa Room, and later Kopapa, she spread her wings with the opening of Oklava in Shoreditch (in November 2015). The follow-up, Kyseri in Fitzrovia (opened May 2018), takes a more intimate and refined approach to educating Londoners about her culinary heritage and her dish of lamb sweetbreads with braised garlic, hazelnut yoghurt and brown butter is case in point.
Creative Director, The World Restaurant Awards
Alma Kernjus from Konoba Astarea (Croatia)
Alma Kernjus an incredible woman that works attentively in the shadow of her husband in Astarea, a simple trattoria specialising in “under the lid” cooking that is one of the last ones that works closely with the fishermen community of Istria. She starts the fire at 10 a.m. in the morning and cooks with the incredible heat of the fireplace until 1 a.m. the next morning, all the time without stopping or sitting down. She’s close to 70 and always joyous.
Chef-Owner, Hisa Franko
Saori Ichihara of ICHI (Stockholm, Sweden)
Japanese chef Saori Ichihara has completely embraced Swedish ingredients but tweaks them in a very personal way, she has a genuine interest in terroir and culinary traditions, yet she excels in pushing boundaries. At ICHI, a perpetually packed, sleek and innovative Japanese-ish eatery around the corner from Barobao, standout dishes include turbot from southern Norway, cured in kombu, served with smoked belly, crunchy, whole heirloom wheat grains and salted lemon, and the retired milk cow from Galicia, aged 35 days, barbecued on one side only, accompanied by lovage, cured lemon, as well as potatoes three ways; mashed, poached and slivered into chips. Last year, she won Chef of the Year at the Stella gala, a Swedish event that highlights women in the restaurant industry.
Executive Editor, 12forward
Paz Levinson of Anne Sophie Pic Restaurant Group (France)
Paz Levinson is not a chef, she is a chef sommelier and one of the best sommeliers in the world! Her curiosity fuels her love for wines and she has climbed her way up to become one of the best sommeliers in the world. Coming from Argentina, straight to the top of the best restaurant wine cellars!