While it feels slightly unnatural to select and celebrate people based on their gender, when we started the Female Chef Awards, we did so to readdress the balance. You see, as with many professions across the UK, women are hugely underrepresented in the world of cheffing.
In 2017 The Office for National Statistics reported that just 17% of chef positions were filled by women, meaning under a fifth of chef roles across the UK are held by females. Fewer women in chef positions means fewer role models for girls to look up to, and similarly there aren’t many female faces on cooking shows and food television series either. In our conversations with female chefs, another common theme often emerges, and that’s the issues surrounding childcare and maternity leave. Many women we’ve spoken to think more needs to be done to allow for flexible working in an industry which has historically demanded gruelling shifts and irregular working patterns from its staff. While not every woman will want or need childcare throughout their working life, a work-life balance has to become part of the conversation if we want to truly make kitchens a rewarding place to work.
With these challenges in mind, we want to shine a light on the exceptional talent we are lucky to have here in the UK. It might seem like an ambitious goal but we're hopeful that this will help to inspire the next generation of cooks, so that in the next cohort of chefs there’ll be equal representation for women and no need for lists such as ours. Each year we champion amazing chefs (who just happen to be women!) doing incredible things for the industry, crowning one person the overall winner at the end of each year
So, while we don’t want to seem tokenistic, we do want to champion women who are doing incredible things in the hospitality sector (and, spoiler alert, there are so, so many). All the chefs we’ve chosen are at the top of their game, flying the flag for incredible cooking and exceptional standards. Below you’ll find more details on the interviews and awards we’ve previously covered, including our list of the top female chefs in the UK.
About the AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year Awards
Each year we scour the country to come up with a list of top female chefs. We look at all sorts of criteria, from creativity and innovation to training and style. The voting for the AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year has now closed, and the 2023 winner has been announced.
AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year 2023 winner: Roberta Hall-McCarron
We’re pleased and proud to announce Roberta Hall-McCarron as the 2023 winner of AYALA and SquareMeal’s Female Chef of The Year Awards. Hall-McCarron's skill as a chef is undeniable, but she has also become one of Scotland's most exciting young restaurateurs, leading two of the UK's most exciting restaurants in The Little Chartroom and Eleanore. Roberta's restaurants balance exceptional cooking with informal service that makes guests feel like VIPs, leading the way for a new wave of Scottish restaurants. If young chefs are looking for talented, hard working female role models in food, they won't find many more inspirational than Roberta.
The top female chefs in the UK
As part of our commitment to representing women in the industry, we've put together a guide on the best female chefs in the UK at the moment. Our run-down includes Michelin-starred legends and fine dining champions as well as emerging talent who are keen to mix up traditional techniques and look at new ways to present food.
Popular chef and author Asma Khan
Previous Female Chef Award winners
Looking to find out more on the women we've heroed as our top-class female chefs? Scroll down to learn more about previous winners like Sally Abe in 2021, Skye Gyngell in 2019, and industry icon Angela Hartnett, who was given our first ever Female Chef title in 2018.
Lisa Goodwin-Allen: 2022 AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year
Northcote chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen talks influences, inspirations and the importance of developing the next generation of chefs. Read the interview.
Sally Abe: 2021 AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year
Our 2021 Best Female Chef winner shares her experiences of Michelin-starred kitchens, and some advice for young chefs. Read the interview.
Skye Gyngell: 2019 AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year
Skye talks biodynamic farming in England, avoiding food wastage and eliminating cling film and reusable bottles. Read the interview.
Angela Hartnett: 2018 AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year
The Murano patron chef tells us about working hideous hours, the importance of nurturing talent and being the only woman in the kitchen at Gordon Ramsay's nineties restaurant Aubergine. Read the interview.
Inspiring female chefs – a series of interviews and profiles
Below you can find a selection of all the Female Chef Features we've covered as part of our Best Female Chefs series.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Roberta Hall-McCarron
Hall-McCarron’s Eleanore and The Little Chartroom are the gold standard of the Scottish capital. We chatted to her about Edinburgh's burgeoning restaurant scene and how to run two restaurants as a new parent. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Sabrina Gidda
We talk to chef and author Sabrina Gidda about her unique path through food and her debut cookbook, Modern South Asian Kitchen. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Pip Lacey
Hicce chef Pip Lacey spills the beans on her busy year opening Hicce Hart, and the reality of opening Diddly Squat Restaurant for Jeremy Clarkson. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Julie Lin
Glasgow-born Julie on her journey from violin teacher to chef-patron of two restaurants and how she's created a culture of kindness in her kitchens. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Chantelle Nicholson
We spoke to Apricity chef patron about her culinary journey, and her drive to make the industry more sustainable. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Ravinder Bhogal
Jikoni founder Ravinder Bhogal explains her 'cooking without borders' philosophy, and the importance of carbon neutrality. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Nieves Barragán Mohacho
Nieves Barragan Mohacho speaks to us about growing up in Spain, the joys of open kitchens and working close to customers, and success at both Barrafina and Sabor. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Rachel Humphrey
The Gavroche head chef opened up about growing up in Dunstable, cooking in the Falkland Islands and rising to the top in a legendary, family-run restaurant. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Marianne Lumb
Marianne tells us about her favourite foodie destinations, lessons from being a private chef and and the joys of cooking a soufflé in a 14-cover restaurant. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Monica Galetti
Monica Galetti opens up about what it's like working with your husband and the need for female chefs to have a better work-life balance. But what's her favourite cooking gadget? Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Hélène Darroze
Hélène Darroze highlights the differences between Paris and London, how Brexit affected things and how the star in the kitchen is the produce. Read the interview.
The AYALA SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series: An interview with Anna Haugh
Anna Haugh tells us about her sense of achievement, improving the working environment for chefs and why Gordon Ramsay is a great boss. Read the interview.