5 Female Chefs Who Are Changing American Taste Buds
In 2013, Time magazine ran a cover article, entitled “The Gods of Food,” lauding “today’s tastemakers.” Unfortunately, only one of those tastemakers was a woman. And even worse, that’s not uncommon in the largely male-dominated world of food. But women are crushing it in terms of culinary prowess. While there are dozens to choose from, we’ve selected five incredible female chefs who are changing the landscape of taste in America.
The Los Angeles culinary scene would be lost without Suzanne Goin. The L.A. native began her groundbreaking career at the legendary Ma Maison before attending Brown University. Goin graduated from Brown with a position at Chez Panisse, working under her mentor, Alice Waters. Before moving back to Los Angeles, Goin fulfilled her dream of working in France, at L’Arpège and Patisserie Christian Pottier. In 1998, Goin partnered with Caroline Styne to open Lucques, a beacon of seasonal flavor and one of America’s best restaurants according to Gourmet magazine. Goin has since opened many other renowned culinary hot spots, including A.O.C., The Hungry Cat, The Larder, and Tavern. Oh yeah, and she was honored as best chef by the James Beard Foundation.
Dominique Crenn was the first female chef in North America to earn two Michelin stars. We could stop there. But we won’t. French-born Crenn worked her way up San Francisco’s prestigious culinary scene throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. She was also the first female executive chef in Indonesia. You can find this globe-trotting master of flavor in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco at her restaurant, Atelier Crenn. We recommend splurging on the Grand Tasting menu for a seasonal multicourse dinner. Crenn and her team transform locally sourced, organic food into pure heaven.
Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Julieta Ballesteros is a curator of taste. She is renowned for the French flair she gives to Mexican dishes, such as her foie gras tacos. You can try Ballesteros’s signature rich and powerfully flavored dishes at Michelin-rated restaurants Crema and La Loteria in New York. We’ve been told that Ballesteros’s pièce de résistance is her Tostadas de Avestruz, a pan-seared ostrich in a crispy corn tortilla topped with a guava chipotle paste and goat cheese spread. But even if we had her recipe, we couldn’t buy her main ingredient. “The main ingredient that you need to put into every dish is your soul,” says Ballesteros. “After that, salt and fresh herbs!”
Karen Hatfield and her husband, Quinn, opened The Sycamore Kitchen in 2012, and the rustic open-air spot quickly became an L.A. favorite that locals and savvy tourists flock to on a daily basis. The Hatfields’ love story began when both chefs were working at Spago. Next, the gourmet couple moved to New York, where Karen further perfected her pastry skills at taste sanctuaries Cafe Boulud and Gramercy Tavern. Karen began her culinary training with The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, a well-annotated volume she calls her bible. We’re dying for her and Quinn to write their own cooking bible with all of our Sycamore Kitchen favorites.
Melissa Kelly grew up in Long Island, New York, and first learned how to cook from her grandma. After earning a scholarship to attend culinary school, Kelly traveled the world wooing restaurant-goers everywhere from Japan to France to Barbados. While her worldly taste and technique are definitely part of her signature farm-to-table dishes, Kelly credits her Italian grandmother as the strongest culinary influence in her life. Like an Alice Waters protégé, Kelly sources most ingredients for her Rockland, Maine–based Primo restaurant from the four-acre farm on which the restaurant sits. Due to her diligence, creativity, and commitment to simple yet exciting food, Kelly has won two James Beard Awards. In case you didn’t know, that’s the Oscars of food.
Melissa Kelly Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too: Eating to Be Sexy, Fit, and Fabulous! ($11)
Is there a female chef you admire? Share with us in the comments below.