Best Female Chefs in the U.S.
Women Changing the Culinary Landscape
It’s ironic that historically women have been told their place is in the kitchen, yet when you take a look at the restaurant industry, it has been long dominated by male chefs. The Culinary Institute of America –– the nation’s foremost culinary school –– was founded in 1946 by two remarkable women, but it was established to train veterans returning from World War II and for a time, did not even allow women to enroll.
There are those who argue that women have shattered many a glass ceiling and the time has come to stop focusing on gender. After all, which male chef has ever been asked how it feels to be a male chef? But the reality is that women are still underrepresented in the culinary realm and here at GAYOT, we want to celebrate these chefs –– who happen to be women –– for the hard culinary work they do.
In this spirit, we have selected 11 top female chefs, presented in alphabetical order, from cities across America. We salute these women who inspire and empower other women to pursue their dreams in the kitchen and more importantly, to persist on their own terms. Such recognition is especially important during these turbulent times.
1. Dominique Crenn
San Francisco, CA
Chef Dominique Crenn utilizes unique presentations and luxurious ingredients (caviar, truffles, etc.) in her creative cuisine at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Even the menu is out of the ordinary — it is written in the form of a poem, with each line evoking one of her adventurous dishes.
Another of her restaurants, Petit Crenn, is an “homage to her mother and grandmother’s cooking,” and features cuisine reminiscent of her native Brittany.
• GAYOT’s exclusive video interview with Chef Dominique Crenn
• Chef Crenn’s restaurant is on GAYOT’s Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S.
• Atelier Crenn on GAYOT’s Most Adventurous Restaurants of 2016
2. Renee Erickson
Chef Renee Erickson, a Pacific Northwest native, has put her stamp on Seattle with her fleet of maritime-inspired Seattle establishments.
Each restaurant deftly fills a culinary niche, from local oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter or Bar Melusine to steak frites at Bateau to fresh doughnuts with handmade fillings at General Porpoise. Meanwhile, The Whale Wins offers comfort food that draws inspiration from England, southern Europe and beyond.
3. Suzanne Goin
West Hollywood, CA
Chef Suzanne Goin parlayed the valuable knowledge she picked up at Campanile and Chez Panisse into Lucques in West Hollywood. Angelenos flocked here for her inspired rustic Mediterranean cuisine with strong California influences.
> Suzanne Goin is GAYOT’s 2019 Best Restaurateur.
4. Stephanie Izard
Stephanie Izard was the first woman to win “Top Chef” back in season four of the reality TV cooking competition. Since then, she has had one success after another in Chicago.
She started off serving oft-surprising, funky fare at Girl & The Goat, then followed up with Little Goat Diner, an all-day spot featuring inventive takes on familiar American fare. Now, she’s taking on Chinese cuisine at her latest concept, Duck Duck Goat.
5. Jennifer Jasinski
Chef Jennifer Jasinski climbed the culinary ladder at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant empire before settling down in Denver, where she and business partner Beth Gruitch have had a string of hits.
At Rioja, she adds her own big, bright flavors to the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean. Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen puts an upscale spin on the American gastropub, while Stoic & Genuine is a sanctuary of pristine seafood. Bistro Vendôme remains a favorite for French comfort food.
6. Barbara Lynch
Barbara Lynch is one of the most respected culinary figures in Boston. Foodies seek out her flagship restaurant, No. 9 Park, for her famously rich prune-stuffed gnocchi with seared foie gras and toasted almonds.
She also has a wide range of eateries to her credit, among them are the casual Italian establishment Sportello, The Butcher Shop wine bar, B&G Oysters, craft cocktail bar Drink and fine dining destination Menton.
7. Barbara Pollastrini
Santa Monica, CA
Unlike her fellow chefs on this list, chef Barbara Pollastrini only operates one restaurant, Heroic Deli & Wine Bar in Santa Monica, California. However, she is one to watch and respect. We have now been following her for a few years, and we can see that she is constantly reinventing her beautiful and tasty culinary creations.
> Pollastrini put Heroic Deli & Wine Bar on GAYOT’s 2019 Best New Restaurants in the U.S.
• Heroic Deli & Wine Bar’s GAYOT’s Awards
8. Anne Quatrano
Chef-owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have been in the upper echelon of Atlanta’s dining scene for more than two decades. Their cuisine is driven by organic, locally sourced ingredients, some of which come from the couple’s Summerland Farm near Cartersville north of Atlanta.
Bacchanalia has moved to a new building about a mile away from its long-tenured home in the Westside Provisions District. Floataway Cafe offers Mediterranean-inspired fare, while W.H. Stiles Fish Camp presents seafood and sides of Southern comfort food.
• Bacchanalia’s long list of GAYOT’s Awards
9. Alex Raij
New York, NY
Nearly a decade ago, chef Alex Raij introduced New Yorkers to the pleasures of traditional Basque cooking with Txikito (pronounced chee-kee-toe), one of GAYOT’s Best Small Plates Restaurants in the New York area.
10. Susan Spicer
New Orleans, LA
One of the pioneers of the slow food movement, she highlights local ingredients like Louisiana blue crab while weaving in flavors from the Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia and the U.S.
• Bayona GAYOT’s Awards
11. Traci Des Jardins
San Francisco, CA
Chef Traci Des Jardins was a strong advocate for responsibility and seasonality in cooking long before local, organic and sustainable became buzzwords. She has since shuttered her fine-dining restaurant Jardinière, but continues to have a strong presence on the San Francisco dining scene with concepts like Public House, The Commissary and Arguello.