There’s this old saying that goes, “Women make good cooks, but men make better chefs.” Other than noting how blatantly false this statement is, it clearly depicts how society has traditionally viewed the roles of men and women in the kitchen.
Even though women constitute a majority of the U.S. food service industry, they are majorly overshadowed in certain leadership positions, such as head chefs, by men. However, women are achieving success in a “new industry” at a rate faster than ever before. These are the ten women who have helped to pave the way for women in the food industry.
1. Ingrid Newkirk
Surely you’ve heard of PETA, right? Newkirk co-founded and is the current president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal activist group with a strong following. PETA strives to prove that animals are not ours to control in terms of food, clothing, experimentation, or entertainment.
But what does this mean in the realm of food? Newkirk and PETA have taken massive steps in promoting veganism and sustainable living, all while cracking down on animal abuse, especially within the food industry. Issues pertaining to factory farming are widely criticized by Newkirk, and her claims are rapidly changing the role of meat and big businesses in our daily lives. It’s about time.
2. Julia Child
Need I say more? Julia, commonly dubbed “The French Chef” (although she’s not technically French or a chef) has become is a household name and a cooking legend. Her show The French Chef shows Julia doing what she loved most: interacting with her audience through a love of food. As the Chicago Tribune put it, “Julia Child turned her passion into ours, making it okay to love cooking, eating, and French food.”
Her legacy includes a decades-long successful TV career, known for such pre-viral moments like flipping a potato cake outside the pan, watching it pummel into pieces, and casually piecing it back together while she reassured her audience, “Who’s going to see?” For many, Julia was an inspiration to get into the kitchen and experiment for the love of food. She’ll always be famous for bringing the phrase bon appétit into the American mainstream.
3. Pashon Murray
Pashon Murray is a 30-something co-founder of Detroit Dirt, an urban farming startup movement seeking to rebuild Detroit through sustainability and quality produce. She is currently working to figure out an effective way to introduce the urban dwellers of Detroit to an accessible and sustainable means of composting. She even starred in a Ford commercial, which garnered massive popularity online. Props to her for seeing the light and restoring the faith of many in the city of Detroit.
4. Dominique Crenn
Executive Chef Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn has made history being the first female chef to earn two Michelin Stars. Her creativity is definitely worth the praise; she even has course meals in her restaurant resembling 13-line poems. Crenn has been the Executive Chef at countless fancy restaurants including Manhattan Country Club, Campton Place, and the Park Hyatt Grill.
She was also named a “Chef to Watch” in 2007 and Best Chef of the Year in 2008 by John Mariani in Esquire Magazine. In addition, this talented chef is a major supporter of using organic, sustainable local produce in all of her food. She was a driving force behind “A Moveable Feast,” a project with proceeds benefiting CUESA. Creative, talented, and humble? Crenn’s acheivements just take the cake.
5. Paula Deen
Three words: Add. More. Butter. This TV icon of southern hospitality is not only charming, sassy, and a great cook, she’s a pretty successful business owner as well. Along with her two sons Jamie and Bobby, she runs The Lady & Sons in Savannah, Georgia. She has had a long relationship with Food Network, dating back to 1999.
Deen has introduced some of the most popular, albeit unhealthy, recipes the people of America have come to love. Some of these recipes include a bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, cheese on the cob, and peanut butter cup brownie s’mores (when the recipe starts off with “1 stick of butter plus more for baking dish,” we can already feel our arteries clogging). Nonetheless, Paula shows us how to be happy with good food, family, and friends. That’s the most important thing, right?
6. Cat Cora
You might know Cat from Iron Chef, as she was the first and only female chef to compete in the show’s early days. Recently in 2012, Cat became the first female inducted in the Culinary Hall of Fame. She may have received this award for her work as the Executive Chef for Bon Appétit Magazine, or becoming a spokesperson for UNICEF. But this is just the tip of the iceberg to what she can do, and we can’t wait to support Cat in her next endeavor.
7. Rachel Ray
30-Minute Meals, anyone? A winner of 3 Daytime Emmy Awards, Ray has expanded from her TV shows (which range from Everyday with Rachel Ray to Kids’ Cook-Off with Guy Fieri) to publishing a magazine, a whole line of cookware, and becoming the founder of Yum-O!, a non-profit organization aiming to expose children to healthy foods.
But Rachel will be forever remembered not just for her contributions, but also her interesting catchphrases that have taken the early 2000s by storm, like EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), GB (Garbage Bowl) or entréetizer. No matter what Rachel does next, we will still love her, and her new catchphrases, all the same.
8. Giada de Laurentiis
This Italian-born American chef has become one of the prime faces of Food Network, and for good reason: her petite figure, approachable smile, and undeniable chattiness immediately skyrocketed the views of her first television show, Everyday Italian.
She isn’t only a Food Network Chef and host, though. Giada launched her own line of cookware through Target, has published a plethora of cookbooks, and is the spokesperson for Clairol’s Natural Instincts Campaign. We can only hope Everyday Italian, and all these other Food Network shows, come back and continue to inspire us with mouthwatering plates of beautiful food.
9. Alice Waters
Alice Waters is kind of a big deal, being a chef, author, and the esteemed owner of Chez Panisse. Over the course of nearly 40 years, Chez Panisse has helped create a community of local farmers dedicated to sustainable agriculture, assuring her restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients. But is this organic and sustainable restaurant really worth all the hype? Looks like we have to go there to find out.
10. Padma Lakshmi
If you thought you had a busy schedule, think again. Lakshmi is an author, actress, model, TV host, and executive producer. Her cookbook Easy Exotic received the “Best First Book” Award in 1999. She has been the host of Top Chef since 2006, and even wrote a memoir titled Love, Loss and What We Ate in 2016.
She is also one of the first Indian-American women to be recognized in the mainstream food scene. What’s more, she even has her own line of Indian-inspired jewelry, spices, teas and bakeware. It’s safe to say that Padma is truly is a source of inspiration for all young women out there. I mean, what more can she possibly do?
Mario Batali once declared, “I know it doesn’t make sense, and I don’t understand it. But it is consistently the case: Women are better cooks. They approach food differently.”