15 Chefs On The Women In Food Whose Cooking Inspires Them

There's no denying that we still have a ways to go when it comes to gender equality in the restaurant industry. But, when we hear about the female chefs who continue to set the food world aflame (pun intended), it makes us think about how far the pioneers have come, and all the talented cooks out there whose food we have yet to try.

In the spirit of International Women's Day, we asked 15 chefs to recommend their favorite female-helmed restaurants. The women we spoke with include industry leaders, award winners, restaurant owners, head cooks, TV hosts, and fierce competitors. They shouted out mentors, idols, friends, and innovators; many of them, had difficulty picking just one person to recommend.

Read on to hear the inspiring thoughts they shared about fellow chefs and prepare to add a bunch of restaurants to your must-eat list.

In honor of International Women’s Day, Refinery29 is asking women to pay-it-forward by endorsing a female colleague or expert in their field. Head here to discover inspiring women across all of the categories R29 covers.

Photographed by Jake Ahles.
THE CHEF: Nyesha Arrington, chef/co-owner of Native in Los Angeles, California

THE SHOUT OUT: Kuniko Yagi, executive chef of Tokyo Strike in Los Angeles, California

"She is such a phenomenal chef and in my opinion very under recognized. Her restaurant is called Tokyo Strike in DTLA, and her flavors and precision cooking are amazing!"
THE CHEF: Claire Welle, head chef of Otway in Brooklyn, New York

THE SHOUT OUT: Ayaka Guido, sous chef of Public Kitchen in New York.

"Ayaka Guido, sous chef of Public Kitchen is one of my favs in the industry. She is my best friend and we have been by each others side working together at a few restaurants in NYC. She's a fearless, committed leader, and is a source of not only inspiration for me, but motivation. she's one of those cooks who you just want to do right by. Never one to boast or brag, just leading tirelessly everyday, a team that would do anything for her. Creative, responsible and hilarious, watch out for this one, she's about to make real waves in the next few years."
THE CHEF: Stephanie Izard, executive chef/owner of Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner, and Duck Duck Goat in Chicago, Illinois

THE SHOUT OUT: Missy Robbins, executive chef of Lilia in Brooklyn, New York

"One of my favorite restaurants in NYC is Lilia — it’s nice to be able to get out of Manhattan and into Brooklyn when I visit. Missy Robbins makes incredible and unique pasta, and the rest of her menu is delicious with great flavors. It has a really lovely casual and laid back atmosphere.”
THE CHEF: Sunny Anderson, celebrity chef, cookbook author, host of Food Network's The Kitchen.

THE SHOUT OUT: Rawia Bishara of Tanoreen in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

"This is the best Middle Eastern food in all of the 5 boroughs of New York. I heard about it for years from friends living in other areas of NYC and NJ, then as a Brooklyn resident, I finally went. Based in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, this is a family run restaurant is real in every sense. Rawia, the mom, is there every day and her home cooked flavors translate on each plate, making even the beginner of Middle Eastern dining, very happy. She even has a cookbook! Eat everything savory you see on the menu, but save room for dessert; her knafeh, is a must!"
THE CHEF: Payal Sharma, owner of Baar Baar in New York

THE SHOUT OUT: Maneet Chauhan, celebrity chef and restauranteur

"Television personality and chef Maneet Chauhan. She is creative and innovative. Her goal is to put Indian food on the map is very inspiring to me since only 4% of Americans have eaten Indian food. Her personality and passion shows in her food and her restaurants. Her food is super fun and appeals to every age group and that's the key to a successful place. She is very lively and has a very positive aura. A passionate chef is a key to a successful restaurant."
THE CHEF: Mimi Weissenborn, executive chef of Vinateria in Harlem, New York

THE SHOUT OUT: chef/owner of The Beatrice Inn in New York

"Besides her all around badassery, there’s a motto I try to live my life by: speak your truth, be your truth, live your truth. Angie without a doubt is living her truth and her food is reflective of that. I admire that she has always been unapologetic about meat being her ‘thing’ especially in a time right now where eating veggies can be a trend. I feel soul when I step foot in her restaurant and without a doubt in every dish. Most recently when I visited, I had the pleasure of eating the awesome Venison Pot Pie — it perfectly embodied the spirit of Angie and her restaurant."
THE CHEF: Angie Mar, chef/owner of The Beatrice Inn in New York

THE SHOUT OUT: Ruth Rogers, executive chef of River Café in London

"One of the chef's whose food I can't get enough of is Ruth Rogers of River Cafe in London. I generally spend the entire month of August in London, and during that time spend my afternoons on the patio of River Cafe, indulging in pasta, cigarettes, bellinis and game birds. I find Chef Rogers food to be traditional, inspired, and soul warming."
THE CHEF: Carrie Baird, chef/partner of Bar Dough in Denver, Colorado

THE SHOUT OUT: Jennifer Jasinski, chef/proprietor of Ultreia, Stoic & Genuine, Rioja, Euclid Hall, and Bistro Vendome in Colorado

"First off, obviously, Jennifer Jasinski, the chef and proprietor of Ultreia, Stoic & Genuine, Rioja, Euclid Hall, and Bistro Vendome. She's my mentor and friend and her food and restaurants have been shaping the Denver dining scene for years. She's creative and never stops pushing the envelope — both with her cuisine and her restaurant concepts. All in all, she's a total bad ass. Second, Stephanie Izard. I've never met Stephanie, but she inspires me often. She's the first of her class, not only the first female Top Chef, but her successful restaurant empire and awesome attitude are just amazing! I can relate to her food, so I love reading her blog and books. Keep kicking ass, Stephanie!"
THE CHEF: Leah Cohen, chef/owner of Pig & Khao restaurant

THE SHOUT OUT: Alex Guarnaschelli, TV personality, executive chef of Butter in New York City

"One of my favorite restaurants is Butter from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. From the first bite of the meal, the perfect parker house rolls, to the last bite as I lick my fingers after finishing off a plate of her signature raspberry beignets….I don’t get to midtown often these days but when I do it is worth every bite."
Photo: Courtesy of ABC/Craig Sjodin.
THE CHEF: Carla Hall, celebrity chef, co-host of The Chew

THE SHOUT OUT: Mashama Bailey, chef of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia; Nina Compton, chef of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, Louisiana

"Mashama Bailey from The Grey in Savannah and Nina Compton from Compère Lapin in New Orleans. Mashama elegantly shows Soul Food in a new fresh light with surprising twists while incorporating African ingredients. Nina's love for the culture and flavors of NOLA are beautifully expressed in her approachable dishes and restaurant atmosphere."
THE CHEF: Mary Dumont, chef/owner of Cultivar in Boston, Massachusetts

THE SHOUT OUT: Melissa Kelly, chef/owner of Primo in Rockland, Maine

"Melissa owns the idyllic Primo in Rockland, Maine. She's incredibly talented and thoughtful. She raises her own pigs and farms many of her own vegetables. It's a beautiful place and the perfect place for a getaway. Melissa is the antithesis of the loud, arrogant chefs so often in the spotlight today. She is creative, passionate, hard-working, and an all around class act. I love her food and the authenticity with which she lives her life. She works hard, but makes it all look so easy.....all while sporting her signature black overalls. Adorable!!"
Photo Courtesy of: Tommy Garcia/Bravo Media.
THE CHEF: Adrienne Cheatham, Finalist current season Top Chef, former executive chef of Red Rooster in Harlem, New York

THE SHOUT OUT: Tanya Holland executive chef/owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen; Emma Bengsston executive chef of Aquavit; Angela Dimayuga executive chef of Mission Chinese

"First, Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen. She cooks amazing food, focusing on Southern cuisine, but is also classically trained in French cuisine. She’s talented, accomplished (successful restaurant, cookbooks), and paved the way for a lot of female chefs. Second, Emma Bengsston of Aquavit. Emma is a pastry chef who stepped in to the head role when her restaurant was down an exec chef, and took it from one to two Michelin stars. She’s creative, hard-working, and unbelievably talented. Third, Angela Dimayuga of Mission Chinese. Angela is not only the exec chef at Mission Chinese but has also become a partner in the growth of their brand. She is super cool and continues to innovate and create amazing menu items and guest experience."
THE CHEF: Cassidee Dabney, executive chef of The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN.

THE SHOUT OUT: Mashama Bailey, chef of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia

"Mashama Bailey of The Gray in Savannah, GA. Mashama's approach to food is so heartfelt and sincere. It's awesome to experience a chef's cooking and really taste the care and passion that they put into it."
THE CHEF: Kristen Kish, chef/partner, Arlo Grey in Austin, Texas

THE SHOUTOUT: Karen Akunowicz, partner/chef of Myers + Chang in Boston, Massachusetts

It’s hard to choose where to begin with this incredible woman. I fell in love with her cooking at Myers and Chang many many years ago. The kitchen is open so when you go in, whether or not you say hello or just watch from afar, it is immediately apparent at what a bad ass, soul nurturing, talented Chef she is. Over the past few years, I have gotten to know more about Karen and what makes her a great Chef from her personal story standpoint. She is real, raw, honest, and fiercely herself which is what makes her the Chef she is and why so many admire her talents. If you ever get a chance to eat her food, shake her hand, listen to her speak, please do…its something special.
Photo Courtesy of The Food Network
THE CHEF: Alex Guarnaschelli, TV personality, executive chef of Butter in New York City

THE SHOUTOUT: Missy Robbins, executive chef of Lilia in Brooklyn, New

"I love many. My favorite? Missy Robbins and her Restaurant “Lilia." The food is so simple and yet so loaded with technique.

"The menu always has 1,000,000 dishes I want to order. She also has great signature items, like her artichoke appetizer. I dream about it on the regular."
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