Celebrating Great Female Chefs

Friday 9 August is National Women’s Day and while there are MANY reasons to celebrate women, one of them is their contribution to the culinary world and their dedication to overcoming stereotypes in what is often considered a male-dominated industry.

Here are five great woman who have taken the gourmet world by storm.

Probably one of the greatest female chefs, and very much ahead of her time, was Julia Childs. An American, she did for French cooking what Elon Musk has done for electric cars. A cooking legend, she is best known for popularising French cuisine, which up until then (the late 60s) hadn’t formed part of mainstream cooking. She had a wonderfully cavalier attitude to cooking and coupled with her larger-than-life personality and confidence she became a culinary icon admired by millions.

Clare Smyth is a British chef who’s made it big in contemporary cuisine – she was Britain’s first female chef to run a restaurant with three Michelin stars and was elected the World’s Best Female Chef in 2018. Her signature dish is ‘Potato & Roe’ – a Charlotte spud slow-cooked in a marinade of butter and seaweed, then allowed to marinate for another 24 hours before being topped with smoked trout and herring roe.

Next up is another Brit, Nigella Lawson, famous not only for her culinary aptitude but also for bringing sexy back to the kitchen. The daughter of Nigel Lawson, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Vanessa (nee Salmon) heiress to the J. Lyons and Co. food business, Nigella captured audiences by offering real food for real people using simple and accessible ingredients to create every-day, fast and fabulous dishes that everyone loves.

Another great American chef is the young Daniela Soto-Innes who this year was also named the World’s Best Female Chef. At only 28 years old, she is billed as the fun-loving chef who ripped up the rulebook and transformed Mexican cuisine. Not only motivated by accolades, she is also known for keeping a happy team of staff and for offering opportunities to mostly immigrant cooks. She believes in empowering her team and two-thirds of her kitchen is made up of women.

And last, but not least, South Africa’s very own Chantel Dartnall – named the World’s Best Female Chef at The Best Chef Awards in Poland in 2017. Dartnall says she combines her classical French training with her love of nature and travel and for her, it’s ‘vital to serve appealing dishes that tell a story and start stimulating diners’ senses from the moment the food arrives at the table’. She says the most important thing is to be consistent because you are only ever as good as the last plate you send out of the kitchen!

In closing, Happy Women’s Day South Africa, from everyone at N1.