We We are so excited to hear that many of Paris’ top-notch chefs are women. To celebrate, here are some of our top picks of powerhouse women chefs all over the world. Prepare to be hungry—and, if you can, stop by their restaurants for what’s sure to be a delicious meal.
1. Michelle Bernstein. Restaurant: Michy’s. Location: Miami, Florida
This former ballerina put on quite the show when she stole the Iron Chef title from Bobby Flay with the sweet onion challenge. She has served as a guest judge on Top Chef and was a co-host of Melting Pot, a Food Network series dedicated to the ethnic cuisines that have impacted American food today.
Her restaurant Michy’s has gained fame of its own: Food & Wine Magazine gave it the 2006 “Best New Restaurant” title, while Gourmet Magazine declared it to be one of the top 50 restaurants in the country. Michy’s menus serve up tantalizing dishes such as the seared oxtail foie gras, the goat cheese gnocchi, and the curried butternut tagliatelle. Plus, if you’re in Miami and feeling a little spendy, you can sample the family style tasting menu.
2. Helena Rizzo. Restaurant: Mani. Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Born in Porto Alegre, Rizzo dropped out of school at 18 to follow her dream of becoming a chef. After completing apprentice work and co-opening a restaurant in Sao Paolo, she spent 5 months in Italy and then 3 years in Spain working in restaurants. Her upscale restaurant Mani includes a “fast kitchen” menu, catch of the day entrees, and a kind of marrow salad with spinach and mustard vinaigrette. For dessert, the “Da lama a caos” looks to be an interesting burst of flavor—its main ingredient is eggplant. Casual reviewers say that it is “worth every penny.”
3. Elena Arzak. Restaurant: Arzak. Location: San Sebastian, Spain
Born into generations of Spanish chefs, Elena Arzak started to work at the family restaurant, Arzak, at age 11, when her grandmother was head chef. She attended hotel school in Switzerland and worked in restaurants in London before returning to Spain. Oh, and by the way, she speaks 4 languages. Now, alongside her father, she serves as joint head chef at Arzak, which has earned 3 Michelin stars for over two decades.
4. Margot Janse. Restaurant: The Tasting Room. Location: Franschhoek, South Africa
Born and educated in the Netherlands, Janse is executive chef at The Tasting Room, where she works alongside 28 members of the kitchen staff – 18 of which who are women. On her work, she says that “there aren’t many women at the top in this profession, but that’s not because they can’t do it, it’s because at some point they might become a mother. I have a son, and it’s hectic. But I can do it because of where I live and who surrounds me.” Janse joined the culinary team at Le Quartier Français at just 25 years old, and is widely regarded as the top female chef in South Africa.
5. Clare Smyth. Restaurant: Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. Location: London, England
Smyth is another powerhouse chef heading a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. The Ireland-born chef learned much of what she knows in England, and sharpened her blades under some influential names.
We especially appreciate this statement by her: “Yes, it has been a challenge... And yes, I’ve encountered chauvinistic behaviour—I think there’s a bit wherever you go... I think, generally, women are better at this job—there is less nonsense, they have more stamina, and higher pain thresholds... One of the most annoying things I’ve ever been told is ‘you’ve done well for a woman’. I find that insulting. I’m good at what I do regardless of my gender.” At Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, you can enjoy an a la carte menu worthy of royalty, or a creative vegetarian menu featuring a smoked potato and poached egg ravioli. They even have a Valentine’s Day Menu rolled out for 2015 – the price is $225 per person, but hey, it does comes with a rose.
Wherever you are and however you’re looking to treat yourself, it’s exciting to know that kickass women chefs in Paris and all over the world are serving up their own style in an industry that has odds stacked against them.