A Woman's Place is in the Kitchen
Updated: Feb 2, 2021
I haven’t been able to find concrete proof to support the following statement, but I think it can be said with relative certainly that in the majority of societies throughout human history, women have run the kitchen.
But “being a cook” doesn’t mean the same thing that it did 50 years ago. In a world of MasterChef, Michelin Stars, and dinners that can leave a 1,650 euro dent in your wallet, cooking well, something our grandmothers have done our whole lives, can now make you worthy of celebrity status. Unfortunately, the vast majority of superstars in the culinary world belong to the gender whose role in the kitchen for centuries has been eating: men.
My feeble attempt to highlight the role of females in haute cuisine does not seek to scorn the work of men that have made the food world what it is today (like the Rocas and the Adriàs, just to name a few), but when females make up less than 4% of the three Michelin starred chef population, we should be asking ourselves why.
The eight names that follow are women who are truly worthy of all of the recognition that male chefs so often receive. This list is by no means exhaustive, but rather an attempt to give recognition to the females in kitchens all around the world who are revolutionizing the way we think of food in the 21st century, who deserve all of the fame that their male counterparts have long received. It is an attempt to celebrate the rich history of women in the kitchen: may it get better with age.
1. Ana Roš (Slovenia): Thanks to Ana, Slovenia has earned its name as an exclusive culinary destination. Her restaurant Hiša Franko is currently the 38th best restaurant in the world, and she was named the world’s Best Female Chef three years ago. As a child, she was a competitive alpine skier, went on to study diplomacy in Greece, and, finally, ended up in the kitchen. She is a self-taught chef who emphasizes her country’s traditions and local products with an inspiring sense of conviction.
2. Bo Songvisava (Thailand): Bo is unquestionably the boss of the kitchen. She's a spitfire thai chef who went to England to complete her culinary studies, where she met her husband and the other half of their restaurant Bo.lan. The two returned to Bangkok to take a gamble on traditional thai cuisine. Their restaurant, which has 1 Michelin Star, only uses organic and local products and centers on protecting the integrity of the origins of thai food.
3. Dominique Crenn (France/United States): Though she was born in France, Dominique left her motherland in an attempt to escape the sexism that plagued the French culinary scene. She has a long career working in important restaurants, but her most important role has been as the chef of her restaurant Atelier Crenn in California, which earned its 3rd Michelin Star in 2018. She is the only female chef in the United States who boasts this distinction, and in 2016 was awarded the title of the world’s Best Female Chef.
4. Fina Puigdevall (Spain): This Catalan chef has run her 2 Michelin Star restaurant Les Cols for 30 years. An international example of the “zero kilometer” approach to cooking, Fina has achieved haute cuisine using only local products and produce that she grows on her farm or can get from local suppliers. The fish come from nearby rivers and the vegetables from surrounding fields, practically eliminating the whole operation’s carbon footprint.
5. May Chow (Canada/Hong Kong): A canadian superstar with restaurants in Hong Kong and Thailand, May is not only a celebrated chef, but also a champion for social activism. She has used her fame to become a spokesperson for LGBT rights and the place of women in the culinary industry. In 2017 she was named Asia’s Best Female Chef.
6. Nadia Santini (Italy): Another self-taught genius, Nadia was the first women to be awarded 3 Michelin Stars, which she earned for her restaurant Dal Pescatore, which has held onto this distinction for almost 25 years, holding the country’s record. Another winner of the world’s Best Female Chef, Nadia combines french haute cuisine with classic italian cooking. Like any other italian nonna, she’s almost 70 years old, just that she runs one of the best restaurants in Europe and perhaps the world.
7. Pía León (Peru): Named Latin America’s Best Female Chef in 2018, Pía got her start in her husband’s world-renowned restaurant Central. At the age of 31, she decided to go after a new goal, opening her restaurant Kjolle in Lima, number 21 on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants. This young chef has her whole life ahead of her, and this is surely just the start of her success in the culinary industry.
8. Selassie Atadika (Ghana): Born in Ghana, raised in the United States, and now back in her homeland, Selassie is another chef who highlights local and traditional cuisine. She began her career working not in a kitchen but rather at the United Nations (she studied International Affairs at Columbia University), where she was for 10 years. She wanted to explore how food could address social issues, and the culinary concept that she has created at Midunu aims to create a new african cuisine and support women: she works with a 100% female team.