Updated: Mar 31
In the wonderful new world of evolution, equal rights and of course, food, this is the opportune time to celebrate the women who have paved the way in the culinary movement.
International Women’s day runs directly in line with generation equality. However, when it comes to international cuisine, there are women who have set the bar in culinary arts history stand-alone-gender obsolete.
History of Women in the Chef’s Hat
In the era of women in the kitchen, the old-fashioned saying goes, “Women make good cooks, but men make better chefs.” The era of stilettos and perfectly pressed aprons has changed (by all means if you have the strength and arch to do so, we praise your footwear choice) However, the mold had to be broken to expose the genuine love and passion for the gift of cuisine, showcasing the women who dared to believe, just maybe they could ( and would) have a voice and make a mark as equals running the show.
In this time today, anyone in the culinary arts world could not imagine where we would stand without the immensely talented chefs fighting in the trenches to make a name for their vision. We at ChefPassport think that the phrase Chef, is something to simmer on, as Chef is neither Female or Male. The label demands respect, radiates determination and unlimited imagination, but most of all is layered in the upmost love for food. The art of cuisine connects us and motivates us. It is both a love language and a therapy. So, cheers to this wonderful day as we celebrate International Women’s Day and their impact on our lovely world of decadent cuisine.
Here are a few influential women and their stories of how a new level of equality began, and their driven journeys, that made the modern-day kitchen and chef’s world.
Food for thought on the History of these influential Female Chefs
TV chef and author Julia Child became a household name with the launch of her cookbook 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and her popular show 'The French Chef. She was a world-famous chef, culinary educator, and entrepreneur.
When she and her husband were stationed at the American Embassy in Paris, Julia attended the world-famous Cordon Bleu cooking school, where she thrived.
Julia's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was published in 1961. With its clear instructions and explanations and its many useful photographs, it was an immediate success. A few years later, Child began a weekly half-hour cooking program, The French Chef. She was the first woman to have her own cooking show. Through her many cookbooks, readers learned the recipes for Child's signature dishes, including beef bourguignon, French onion soup and coq au vin.
In 1993, she was rewarded for her work when she became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. In November 2000, Julia received France's highest honor, the Legion d'Honneur.
Even in her final days, she had no intention of slowing down "In this line of work you keep right on till you're through," she said. "Retired people are boring."
“A party without cake is just a meeting” ― Julia Child
She inspired millions to take to the kitchen and appreciate the pleasures of making and eating good food. She paved the way for millions of female cooks and chefs to create their own culinary art and entertainment empires.
Clare Smyth, chef patron of Core in west London, was named best female chef at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards gala in Bilbao, Spain, in June, 2018. She also received the 2018 elite Vodka World’s Best Female Chef Award.,
became the first woman to work in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen and rose to be head chef at his Chelsea restaurant, “Restaurant Gordon Ramsay,” picking up three Michelin stars and an MBE along the way. “When the food community votes for you and wants to give you something, it’s nice. It’s about recognition,” It’s definitely not an inferior category. Clare nor her staff do not even think about gender in the kitchen. In an interview she gave in 2008, she said: “People say: “Isn’t she a good chef?” and they mean: “For a woman.” But I want to be a great chef just because I am one, not because I’m a woman. “I stood shoulder to shoulder with men in the toughest kitchens in the world and excelled and loved it.”
“It took me a long time to earn respect. I had to work twice as hard. I could never say I was tired or I was sick or I had cut my finger because the response would have been: ‘It’s because you’re a girl.’
Elena Arzak – best female chef in the world
At number 30 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list, Elena Arzak is the highest ranked woman in the entire list. This technically makes her the best female chef in the world, which she was named back in 2012. But winning the 40th place in the list just proves the imbalance women face in the professional kitchen.
Arzak’s food is modern Basque and described as elegant Spanish cuisine that’s still traditional and simple. Elena Arzak likes to describe the cuisine offered at her restaurant as “singular, Basque, evolving, research-based and avant-garde”.
Singular because a meal at Arzak turns into a unique experience, Basque because they use Basque products and because their recipes tie in with the region’s code of flavors, evolving because they enrich the local ingredients with those from other countries, research-based because they are in contact with the latest culinary technology, and avant-garde because her style has developed within this culinary era.
In 2012, she earned the Veuve Clicquot “Female Chef of the Year” award.
We can’t officially “celebrate” International Women’s Day without Champagne, so it is fitting to add one more innovative woman to this list of talent.
Madame Veuve Clicquot
Madame Clicquot Ponsardin, also known as the “Grande Dame of Champagne”, took over her husband’s wine business when she was widowed at age 27. She was one of the first international businesswomen of her century, bringing her wine business back from destruction. She was responsible for developing ‘early Champagne’ by using a mixing technique she devised. Her company was the first to have blended a champagne and a Rose. Madame Clicquot said: “The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.”
Whether you head out to your favorite restaurant or whip up a new dish experience, take a moment to celebrate and honor all the women in the world who have fought to make a difference and bring their vision to life.
In the words of Julia Child- “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”