Given that it is International Women’s Day and we love food, we’re celebrating 20 incredible female chefs at the top of their game.
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
In 2015, Hélène Darroze was awarded the accolade of The World’s Best Female Chef, and London is lucky to have her. Her French gastronomy showcased at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught earned two Michelin stars in 2010, just two years after opening, which she puts down to her roots in South West France, learning first hand from three generations of chefs. An early role with Alain Ducasse in Monaco paved her way and the rest, as they say, is history.
Said to have been influenced by the multitude of flavours in her mothers cooking, Ravinder Bhogal (or the modern day Fanny Cradock as she’s more commonly referred to after the labelling by Gordon Ramsey), is a female chef who has gone from strength to strength. Recent collaborations include a vegan menu at W London centring around her niece Avneet who adopted a vegan lifestyle. However perhaps her biggest achievement lies with the opening of her restaurant Jikoni in Marylebone, a cosy venture that really highlights the insatiable talent of Ravinder Bhogal.
A waitressing job alongside Wolverhampton-born Sabrina Gidda’s Fashion PR and Marketing degree led to the kitchens of The Dorchester and The Draft House but it was the Roux Scholarship that really kicked off her culinary career. The only female in the competition in 2015, Sabrina got the job as Head Chef of Bernadi’s when it opened in 2015 by chance, after a meeting with Cafe Murano’s old manager led to an introduction with the Bernadi brothers. Swing by for seasonal, authentic Italian cooking in elegant surroundings.
Selina Kiazim looked to her Turkish-Cypriot roots for her first restaurant, Oklava, albeit with a modern spin on things. Previous roles in the kitchen at Peter Gordon’s Providores & Tapa Room and its sister restaurant, Kopapa, saw Selina learning the ropes and confident cooking has led to rave reviews, helping to revolutionaries the way we think about Turkish food in London.
The River Cafe
The River Cafe is one of London’s most iconic Michelin-starred restaurants and Ruth Rogers, aka Lady Rogers MBE, is the much-loved woman behind it. After spending time in Paris and northern Italy, Ruth decided on Italy as the focus for The River Cafe when it opened in Hammersmith in 1987. It earned a Michelin star in 1998 and has retained it ever since, during which time chefs like Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have passed through the doors, learning their skills along the way. 2017 saw a second restaurant from Ruth so watch this space…
Nieves launched her first solo venture, Sabor, after nine years of being the executive chef at Barrafina. Transforming her talent into a restaurant known intently for creating the best croquetas we’ve certainly ever had the pleasure of tasting, the Regent Street venture strives to transform Londoners’ attitude to Spanish food.
Rosa’s Thai Cafe
Any lover of Asian food will know about Rosa’s Thai Cafe. With eight restaurants under her belt, the latest in Brixton, founder Saiphin Moore along with husband Alex never expected such big things of humble Thai cooking. Raised in rural north-eastern Thailand, Rosa’s began life as a market stall in Brick Lane before becoming permanent and her other project, Lao Café, is London’s first Laotian restaurant and epitomises her entrepreneurial mindset.
Rochelle Canteen is London’s worst but also best-kept secret. Hidden away in a converted bike shed, behind a big green door in Shoreditch it’s frequently visited at lunch by those in the know. Margot Henderson is the magic behind it, accompanied by a colourful CV which features some of the top London restaurants of the 90s and her catering business, Arnold & Henderson, with partner Melanie Arnold on the side.
Another Nordic chef taking London by storm, Helena Puolakka merges her Finnish roots with her French culinary training. Helena celebrates uncomplicated food and has worked for D&D London previously, at Skylon. Helen was Head Chef at Pierre Koffmann’s three-Michelin starred restaurant La Tante Claire and worked in Paris at the three-Michelin starred Hotel Balzac so she knows what she’s doing.
Hotel Café Royal
You may be surprised to hear that Sarah Barber was the first female executive pastry chef ever to work at Hotel Café Royal – even more shocking when you realise the hotel has been around 150 years. Thankfully things have changed, and Sarah launched London’s first dessert restaurant which showcases her beautifully crafted cakes, chocolates and patisseries after years of working at London’s top restaurants including Corinthia, Yauatcha, The Ritz and The Connaught but her biggest inspiration? Her grandfather, a former Café Royal Head Chef. More recently, Sarah moved to The Dorchester to take up the same role as at Hotel Café Royal and she now heads up the team at the five-red-AA-star hotel.
The Modern Pantry
Anna Hansen started off her kitchen career in London back in 1992 dishwashing at the French House Dining Room. Moving up the ropes, she then progressed to chef and later worked with Peter Gordon at Green Street and The Sugar Club. Having opened The Providores & Tapa Room with Peter in 2001, she then went on to open her own restaurant, The Modern Pantry in 2008. She serves up dishes which fuse together unusual ingredients with classic cooking. Expect to find the likes of roast haunch of venison, beetroot and horseradish soft polenta, sautéed wild leeks, sour cherry, liquorice and moromi miso relish; as well as white chocolate pannacotta with black sesame ice cream, lemon curd and sesame tuile.
Australian chef Skye Gyngell first learnt to cook in Sydney and Paris before getting a stint at The French House. From here she became Head Chef at Petersham Nurseries and here developed the seasonal, elegant cooking that she is now known for. These days you’ll find her at Spring, her restaurant at Somerset House, where she cooks up the likes of guinea fowl with carrots, farro and parsley sauce and halibut with spinach, chilli and preserved lemon dressing. As well as cooking, Skye was also the Independent on Sunday’s food writer for five years and has three books to her name.
Anne–Sophie Pic comes from a cooking family, both her grandfather and father had three Michelin stars; something she continued, by being the only woman in France in the last 50 years to hold three Michelin stars, which she does for her restaurant, Anne-Sophie Pic, in the hotel Maison Pic in Valence. As well as this, she holds two further stars for her restaurant at Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne; is a chevalier de l’ordre des Art et des Lettres (it recognises those who have made significant contributions to the arts, literature and fields such as cooking) and opened her first UK restaurant La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, which was awarded a Michelin Star in the 2018 guide. All of this for a chef with no formal training…
Arguably the most recognisable female chef, due to her judging on MasterChef: The Professionals, Monica Galetti started off her London cooking career at Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche – she only ever planned to stay a year, but ended up staying fifteen, working her way up to senior sous chef. This week is also the two year anniversary of her first restaurant, Mere.
Marianne Lumb proved that good things do come in small packages with her 14-cover Notting Hill restaurant. Marianne, as it was formerly named, offered up a cosy atmosphere in which to enjoy her talents alongside thoughtful wine pairings. Despite closing in September of this year, we’re expecting great things from the chef as she pursues other projects in Asia and the Caribbean.
The day after Clare Smyth finished school she moved from County Antrim to Portsmouth to go to catering college. In 2002 she joined Restaurant Gordon Ramsay becoming Head Chef in 2007, following time in Monaco and California. She’s the first British woman to hold three Michelin stars and last year she opened Core in Notting Hill, a restaurant dedicated to natural sustainable food.
Murano, Cafe Murano
Angela Hartnett has an MBE, a Michelin-starred restaurant, Murano and has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing to secure them Michelin-stars at Aubergine and Petrus respectively. In 2001 she launched Amaryllis in Scotland as well as opening Gordon Ramsay’s Verre in Dubai and MENU and The Grill at The Connaught. In 2004 she appeared with Gordon Ramsay in Hell’s Kitchen and won her first Michelin star, before opening Murano in 2008 and then Café Murano in 2013 and that’s just a brief description of her career…
Rachel Humphrey first joined La Gavroche as an apprentice in 1996, she worked her way up the ranks to become the first female Head Chef in the restaurant’s 40 year history – during that time she took three years out to work in the RAF Catering Corp.
Aurelie’s globe trotting career began in her home city of Paris where she worked in the family restaurant. She started work at her first Michelin Star established in 2000 at the Sofitel Arc De Triumph. From France she moved to USA and worked in both Georgia and La where she continued to climb the ranks. It was in 2007 that Aurelie brought her talent to our British shores. Her journey continued at the 1 Michelin Star L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon where she stayed for a nearly a decade, and promoted to Head Chef. Aurelie is now the Head Chef of Bōkan and oversees 32 chefs.
Martha Ortiz made her name in Mexico City with her award winning restaurant Dulce Patria. But while Dulce Patria may mean ‘sweet homeland’, it was her arrival in the UK that launched her onto most British radars. And in just a few months Ortiz has made a roaring success of Ella Canta, the fine dining Mexican restaurant at Park Lane’s Intercontinental Hotel. Despite opening in September, Ella Canta already competes with (and many say outdoes) Theo Randall’s eponymous and legendary restaurant in the same hotel.
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