Until the last few decades, women chefs were few and far between. Now women chefs bring their own heart and new energy to claim this space. Their experiences as daughters and mothers can’t help but inform what they cook and how they manage the kitchen. As more education, opportunity, and greater access to capital make more possible, women are doing big things. It’s been quite a journey and we’re all better for their accomplishments.
Early on, women who came into the business often inherited establishments from their husbands and carried on the tradition. Then in the late 19th century, women began running their own venues, which were often tea rooms or cafeterias. After that, according to the BU Boston Hospitality Review, “The home economics movement of the early 20th century produced women trained in food management, cooking and nutrition.” As women got better credentials, they began running restaurants in factories and institutions and then trickled into commercial restaurants.
Chefs Doing It Their Way
Timeout.com says that James Beard award-winning Best Chef of the Southeast, Mashama Bailey, honed her technique all over New York City but “her cooking and instincts were shaped in her home kitchen by her grandmothers, aunt and mom.” These women chefs create multi-generational kitchen staffs, mix their traditional roots with fine dining, and build teams tight enough to make maternity leaves possible for their staff. Some are self-taught. Some classically trained. All have grit. Café Juanita in Kirkland, WA is run by an executive chef owner who’s been a James Beard Award semi-finalist. She was hand cutting pappardelle pasta and making sorbetto with her son in a backpack to keep sole ownership of her restaurant when she started out.
Trailblazers and Milestone Makers
Throughout the decades, women forerunners stepped forward to inspire us all. Here are a few:
- According to HungerRush, “In 1940, the Restaurant Association elected Grace Smith its first female president.”
- In New Orleans, African American pioneer Leah Chase turned a family sandwich shop into Dooky Chase’s, a fine dining favorite of celebrities.
- Alice Waters of the French Laundry invented the fresh culinary approach of the farm-to-table movement using locally grown foods.
- To put her sons through college, Ruth Fertel started Ruth’s Chris Steak House. She then became the first woman to sell a restaurant franchise in the 70s, leaving an impressive legacy.
- Dominique Crenn was the first woman chef to receive two Michelin stars in 2012 and now has a record-breaking three for crafting her distinctive cuisine.
- Cat Cora, named the first female Iron Chef, is the name you now see on airport restaurants across the U.S.
Our expert team is pleased to not only support women with revenue-boosting custom patio enclosure designs, but to also connect everyone with financing through our partner, Leaf Commercial Capital. As a direct lender, they make sure there are no broker fees or hidden charges for a patio enclosure project. That keeps the focus on making standout food and serving it in spaces that create abundance.
We can’t wait to see what this generation of rising women stars will create for us all.