30 top UK female chefs – in association with Champagne Ayala

We've gathered the country's best female chefs to celebrate International Women's Day and beyond

Updated on • Written By Ben McCormack

Like a person’s race or religion, a chef’s gender shouldn’t even feature as a descriptor, but sadly there are still far more male than female chefs in kitchens across the UK today and still fewer who are at the helm. Data from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2017 only 17% of chef positions in the UK were held by women and while figures might have changed slightly since then, it’s unlikely the number has risen much due to the challenges associated with this traditionally macho career.

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The most obvious reason for the discrepancy in kitchens is the same as in many other male-dominated industries: the issue of maternity and childcare commitments. Many of the female chefs we interviewed as part of our Ayala SquareMeal Best Female Chefs Series mentioned that more could be done to help women balance a career in hospitality with having children – something that the long and unsociable hours don’t tend to allow for.

That said, with more and more female chefs reaching the top of their game, things are improving slowly. Three Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze told us that for the past couple of years she has, for the first time, received more job applications from women than men, though she tries to maintain a gender balance in her brigade. Top British chef Angela Hartnett echoes that same sentiment about the balance of men and women in her kitchen, saying she cares more about nurturing talent than exercising some sort of female prerogative.

But having an article focused on female chefs or awards specifically for female chefs isn’t about female prerogative or tokenism; it’s about evening out the scales. Darroze summed it up nicely when she said, “female chefs are still a minority and, like all minorities, it’s important to be visible”.

So with that in mind, and to mark International Women’s Day 2022, we’ve profiled 30 of our favourite female chefs who are smashing it in the male-dominated restaurant world, and look forward to the day when lists like these are redundant.


Champagne Ayala: Celebrating over 160 years of history, Champagne Ayala was one of the original twenty-six Grandes Marques Champagne Houses, received a Royal Warrant in 1908, and became a part of the Bollinger family in 2005. With its longstanding commitment to the restaurant industry, Champagne Ayala is known for its fresh and elegant wines, made with precision and delicacy, and crafted in a boutique scale by winemaker Caroline Latrive, who was one of the first female Cellar Masters in the region. Ayala’s well-balanced Chardonnay-focused blends and low dosage make it a terrific epicurean pairing. No wonder the wines have been served in the UK for over 100 years in many of London’s most prestigious establishments.


Sally Abe

Who is she? An acolyte of Phil Howard (Elystan Street) and Brett Graham (The Ledbury), Abe held a Michelin star at the Harwood Arms for many years before moving to fresh pastures, with multiple openings at the Conrad London St. James hotel. Her debut restaurant, The Pem, has been phenomenally well received, as has the more relaxed Blue Boar Pub. With at least two more openings in the pipeline, Abe's star is only getting brighter. Check out our interview with Sally Abe, where she talks about getting started in the industry, her inspirations and favourite dishes.
What should I order? The Black Forest gateau at The Pem - Sally's favourite dessert and soon to be yours too.
Where can I find her? The Pem, 22-28 Broadway, Westminster; The Blue Boar Pub, 46 Tothill Street, Westminster

Nieves Barrágan Mohacho

Who is she? For nine years she was executive chef at Barrafina (and the woman responsible for its Michelin star), but since 2018 Barrágan Mohaco has been at the helm of her first solo restaurant, Sabor, just off Regent Street. Thanks to her, queues outside the four Barrafinas are still a nightly event and they're a regular occurance at Sabor too. Read our full interview with Nieves Barrágan Mohacho for more about what motivated her to open one of London’s best restaurants and stay tuned for news of a second Sabor restaurant rumoured to be coming to Soho soon.
What should I order? Barrafina has always been famous for the best croquetas in London; some reckon that Sabor’s prawn and piquillo versions are even better.
Where can I find her? Sabor: The Counter, 35 Heddon Street, Mayfair

Ravinder Bhogal

Who is she? Charmingly dubbed ‘the new Fanny Craddock’ by Gordon Ramsay on The F Word, Bhogal hasn’t let that backhanded compliment stop her launching award-winning cookbooks, TV shows and supper clubs. Jikoni, her first restaurant, is her crowning glory, a unique combination of cosy kitsch and cracking cooking. Check out our interview with Ravinder Bhogal for more on her journey.
What should I order? One of the three signature Scotch eggs; the prawn toast version with banana ketchup and pickled cucumber gets our vote.
Where can I find her? Jikoni, 19-21 Blandford Street, Marylebone

Erchen Chang

Who is she? Anyone who has ever bit into a pillowy-soft Taiwanese bun has Chang to thank for turning the Taiwanese delicacy mainstream with Bao, the market stall-turned-restaurant empire. Outposts in Fitzrovia, Soho, Borough and King's Cross have joined the original Netil Market stall and a Shoreditch noodle shop. Her restaurants combined with Chang's recognisable artwork and some karaoke thrown into the bargain means Bao has emerged as one of London's most recognisable and reliable restaurant brands.
What should I order? The ‘classic’ bao, an umami explosion of peanut and slow-braised pork belly.
Where can I find her? Bao Borough, 13 Stoney Street; Bao Fitzrovia, 31 Windmill Street; Bao Soho, 53 Lexington Street; Cafe Bao, 4 Pancras Square; Bao Noodle Shop, 65-66 Shoreditch High Street

Hélène Darroze

Who is she? The recipient of the 2015 World’s Best Female Chef award (among numerous other awards and accolades) and chef-patron of the recently-refurbished three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Connaught Hotel. Darroze comes from three generations of chefs, but training with Alain Ducasse cemented her fine-dining credentials. She was also the inspiration for Collette in Pixar’s Ratatouille and now exists in Barbie doll-form. For more on her 30-year career, read SquareMeal’s full interview with Hélène Darroze.
What should I order? Scallop with tandoori, carrot, citrus and coriander is a signature dish – as is a glass of Darroze Armagnac.
Where can I find her? Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair

 

Adejoké Bakare

Who is she? Affectionately known as ‘Joké’ to family and friends, Bakare’s debut restaurant Chishuru is one of a clutch of sites that are shining a much-needed light on West African cuisine. A home cook who originally found success with her dinner parties and supper clubs, Bakare went on to win in the amateur category at 2019’s Brixton Kitchen competition, which allowed her to open Chishuru in August of 2020 (in the midst of a pandemic, no less). Bakare’s excellent, tongue-tingling food is inspired by Nigeria, while her hosting skills are warm and personable - one to watch.
What should I order? The goat ayamase - slow-cooked meat drenched in a fiery peppery green sauce.
Where can I find her? Chishuru, 9 Market Row, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton

Florence Knight

Who is she? The head chef and driving force behind beloved Soho stalwart Polpetto, Florence Knight was hot property when she left the restaurant in 2015. She has since proven to be a woman of many talents, releasing a cookbook and penning a column in the Sunday Times for years before making her long-awaited return to the London restaurant scene at the well-received Sessions Arts Club.
What should I order? Lamb sweetbreads, lettuce and lovage - classic flavours, perfectly executed.
Where can I find her? Sessions Arts Club, 22 Clerkenwell Green, Farringdon

Roberta Hall-McCarron

Who is she? Tom Kitchin alumnus Roberta Hall-McCarron rose quickly through the ranks at The Kitchin in Edinburgh before striking out on her own with phenomenal success. Edinburgh is a very competitive food scene, but Roberta's debut restaurant The Little Chartroom became an instant hit, and she added a second restaurant, Eleanore, to the portfolio in early 2022, all after crushing the competition in the 2021 series of Great British Menu.
What should I order? Go for classic cooking with Scottish flair - rump of beef with haggis scotch pie and ox tongue salad sounds perfect.
Where can I find her? The Little Chartroom, 14 Bonnington Road, Edinburgh; Eleanore, 30-31 Albert Place, Edinburgh

Shauna Froydenlund

Who is she? A long-standing Wareing alumnus who worked her way up the ranks to become chef-patron of his eponymous restaurant, alongside her husband Mark. Originally from Northern Ireland, Froydenlund began her career at Pétrus under Marcus Wareing and was chef-patron of Marcus for five years, helping to keep the restaurant firmly atop London's fine dining pyramid. In January 2022 Shauna and Mark left Marcus, with plans to return home to Northern Ireland and take over a family restaurant.
What should I order? We'll update youu once we've Froydenlund has opened her new restaurant.
Where can I find her? The exact location is still TBC but we can't wait to find out

Monica Galetti

Who is she? The chef-patron of Mere is one of the best known female chefs on TV thanks to her role as a judge on Masterchef: The Professionals. It’s the kind of fame that guarantees full houses for her first solo restaurant, though it’s certainly not just Galetti’s famous face that draws the crowds – the former senior sous chef of Le Gavroche is just as much of a star in the kitchen as she is on the telly. To learn more about Galetti’s success as one of London’s top female chefs, read the full interview she gave as part of our Best Female Chefs Series.
What should I order? The six-course tasting menu gives a taste of everything this masterchef has to offer.  
Where can I find her? Mere, 74 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia

Lisa Goodwin-Allen

Who is she? Goodwin-Allen is a genuine industry trailblazer, holding a Michelin star for over 18 years and counting alongside Nigel Haworth as head chef at Northcote in Lancashire, all despite a severe shellfish allergy that means she can't taste any shellfish dishes. Her fresh, modern menus make full use of Lancashire’s natural larder providing ample opportunity for seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients to shine. As of September 2021, Londoners will be able to try Lisa's food too, as she will simultaneously be working as executive chef at The Game Bird at The Stafford Hotel.
What should I order? The photogenic, technically perfect and frankly delicious sweet scarlet prawns with wild-garlic foam and beurre blanc sauce.
Where can I find her? Northcote, Lancashire; The Game Bird, 16-18 St James’s Place, St James's

Skye Gyngell

Who is she? The chef-patron of Spring and winner of 2019’s AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award, this Aussie chef and food writer made the national news in 2012 when she resigned from Petersham Nurseries and described winning a Michelin Star as a ‘curse’. These days she is better known for her commitment to sustainability and her disarmingly simple cooking that champions impeccably sourced British ingredients. To learn more about the ways in which this lauded female chef is blazing a trail for the industry to become more sustainable, and to learn what she means by “organics with voodoo”, read our full interview with Skye Gyngell.
What should I order? Sea bass carpaccio with blood orange, crème fraiche and rhubarb typifies Gyngell’s mix of seasonal Mediterranean and British flavours.
Where can I find her? Spring, Somerset House, Covent Garden

Alex Hely-Hutchinson

Who is she? Alex Hely-Hutchinson has taken 26 Grains from a modest Old Street pop-up to a Neal’s Yard standout in the space of a few years, and all while still being in her early-to-mid twenties. The team recently added casual Med-inspired eatery Stoney St. to the stable, and Hely-Hutchinson still finds time to pen cookbooks on top. We’re expecting big things.
What should I order? You can’t go wrong with the five grains porridge with blood orange curd.
Where can I find her? 26 Grains, 1 Neal's Yard, Covent Garden; Stoney Street by 26 Grains, 2-3 Stoney Street, London Bridge

Ruth Hansom

Who is she? The first female winner of the Young National Chef of the Year award in 2017 and head chef at The Princess of Shoreditch. Aged just 25, Hansom spent five years at The Ritz progressing from commis to chef de partie, and has also appeared on BBC’s Million Pound Menu. Her passion for locally-sourced British produce is evident in the fresh, vibrant dishes on her menu at The Princess of Shoreditch.
What should I order? The mallard; cooked to utter perfection and paired with caramelised Roscoff onion, and a prize sauce.
Where can I find her? The Princess of Shoreditch, 76-78 Paul Street, Shoreditch

Ifeyinwa Frederick

Who is she? Londoners are used to new restaurants claiming to be the first of their kind, but we challenge you to find another Nigerian tapas bar in the capital. The brains behind this hyper-original concept? That would be Ifeyinwa Frederick, who opened Chuku’s alongside her brother Emeka (pictured above), after the pair tired of not seeing good enough representation of Nigerian food on the capital’s restaurant scene. So far, Chuku’s has received rave reviews from the likes of restaurant critics Grace Dent and Jimi Famurewa.
What should I order? The Chin Chin cheesecake (boasting flavours of orange and stem ginger) is a must order.
Where can I find her? Chuku’s, 274 High Road, Tottenham

Angela Hartnett

Who is she? Trailblazing Angela Hartnett first won fame as the breakout star of Hell’s Kitchen with her then boss Gordon Ramsay. Inspired by the cooking of her Italian grandmother – and now as much of a restaurateur as a chef – she has Michelin-starred Murano and three Café Muranos in St James’s, Covent Garden and Bermondsey to her name, as well as Shoreditch’s Merchants Tavern. In 2018, Hartnett won our first Ayala SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award.  
What should I order? Hartnett’s pasta is sublime; try the pumpkin tortelli with sage and pine nut at Café Murano.
Where can I find her? Murano, 20 Queen Street, Covent Garden; Café Murano Covent Garden, 36 Tavistock Street; Café Murano St James’s,33 St James’s Street; Café Murano Bermondsey, 184 Bermondsey Street; Merchants Tavern, 36 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch

Emily Scott

Who is she? Emily Scott rose to prominence as head chef of the beloved St Tudy Inn in Bodmin, Cornwall, where her stripped-back seasonal cooking earned her a Bib Gourmand and a host of other awards. An appearance on Great British Menu followed, and she has since taken over the restaurant at the Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall, where her coastal cooking is making waves once again.
What should I order? It has to be seafood - try the roasted scallops with truffle butter.
Where can I find her? Emily Scott Food at the Watergate Bay Hotel, Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Anna Haugh

Who is she? The female chef once at the helm of some of London’s most well-known kitchens, including London House and Bob Bob Ricard, Dublin-born Haugh now heads up her own restaurant. Her menus at Myrtle use as much Irish produce as possible, and she's an effortless TV presence too, featuring regularly on shows like Ready, Steady, Cook, as well as guest hosting Saturday Kitchen.
What should I order? Haugh’s roasted beef fillet with boxty is sublime.
Where can I find her? Myrtle, 1A Langton Street, Chelsea

Margot Henderson

Who is she? Kiwi-born Margot (wife of Fergus Henderson of St. John fame) heads up the Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch. The restaurant serves stripped-back, unfussy food that pleases all the senses, and has a reputation, like St John, for nurturing talented chefs. She specialises in catering and cook-book writing, too and has been claimed by many to be a genius of hospitality – we agree.
What should I order? The menus change regularly, but her grilled lamb with green sauce is a must.
Where can I find her? Rochelle Canteen, 16 Playground Gardens, Shoreditch

Lorna McNee

Who is she? Scottish chef Lorna McNee spent more than a decade at the legendary Restaurant Andrew Fairlie (where she had worked her way up the ranks to sous chef), before departing in 2020 to relaunch the kitchen at popular Glasgow brasserie Cail Bruich. The gamble paid off, with Cail Bruich being awarded one Michelin star in the 2021 guide, the first restaurant in the city to do so in 18 years and an accolade McNee has retained since.
What should I order? The food offering changes with the seasons, but opt for the chef’s tasting menu for the full experience
Where can I find her? Cail Bruich, 725 Great Western Road, Glasgow

Rachel Humphrey

Who is she? Humphrey is the first female executive chef at two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, where she has worked since 1996. Championing seasonal ingredients, she is living her childhood dream of cooking with the Roux family. For more on the chef’s career and aspirations, read our full interview with Rachel Humphrey.   
What should I order? The ever-present and ever-gorgeous soufflé suissesse at Le Gavroche (we’re a sucker for the classics).
Where can I find her? Le Gavroche, 43 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair

Chantelle Nicholson

Who is she? One of the first recipients of the Michelin green star, Nicholson has certainly cemented her role as a lead influencer when it comes to sustainability and seasonality. Her passion for plant-based food is well known, particularly since the publication of her book ‘Planted’ and her wine list is notable for being completely organic. Formerly group operations director for Marcus Wareing restaurants, then chef-patron at Tredwells, Nicholson is currently getting ready to throw open the doors at Apricity, her new sustainability-focused restaurant in Mayfair.
What should I order? We'll let you know as soon as Apricity is open and we've had a chance to review it.
Where can I find her? Apricity, 68 Duke Street, Mayfair

Marguerite Keogh

Who is she? Yet another Marcus Wareing alumnus, Irish-born Keogh worked at Pétrus and then Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley before teaming up with chef-patron Taylor Bonnyman to open The Five Fields in Chelsea in 2013.
What should I order? Foie gras with beetroot, rainbow carrots and pickled shimeji mushrooms.
Where can I find her? The Five Fields, 8-9 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea

Asma Khan

Who is she? Khan is the chef and owner of Darjeeling Express in Covent Garden and also the first British chef to feature on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Her relaxed, comforting restaurant provides a showcase for her blend of north Indian and Bengali cooking.
What should I order? Khan's Tangra chilli and garlic prawns are zapped with a tongue-popping five-spice blend and are an absolute must-try.
Where can I find her? Darjeeling Express, 2a Garrick Street, Covent Garden

Selin Kiazim

Who is she? Winning the 2017 series of BBC Two’s Great British Menu is no small feat and thoroughly put this Southgate-born chef – and her modern Turkish cooking – on the map. After opening Turkish Cypriot restaurant Oklava in 2015, she went on to open her second venture, Kyseri, in the middle of 2018. Kyseri has since closed, but Kiazim is still very much a chef in demand - she has released three cookbooks and counting, and recently started a restaurant consultancy business alongside long-time partner Laura Christie. 
What should I order? The lahmacun (Turkish pizza) at Oklava Shoreditch impressed us, and we’re sure they'll impress you, too.
Where can I find her? Oklava, 74 Luke Street, Shoreditch

Pip Lacey

Who is she? Having been groomed for greatness at Murano by Angela Hartnett, Lacey went solo with Hicce in the the Coal Drops Yard development at King's Cross (with backing from Hartnett) in late 2018. A Great British Menu finalist in 2017, Lacey serves great-tasting, healthy, international food.
What should I order? The crème caramel to finish, made with condensed milk for added richness.
Where can I find her? Hicce, 102 Stable Street, King's Cross

Elisabeth Passédat

Who is she? The Paris-born quarter-finalist of 2018’s MasterChef: the Professionals heads up the kitchen at The Cleveland Arms following roles at Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental and Aster. Her style is French cuisine with influences from Asia and South America.
What should I order? A Sunday roast with all the trimmings.
Where can I find her? The Cleveland Arms, 28 Chilworth Street, Paddington

Anne-Sophie Pic

Who is she? The grand dame of French cuisine, Anne-Sophie has an impressive eight Michelin stars across her five restaurants, including the two-star London-based La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square.  
What should I order? Her signature berlingots (pasta parcels of goats’ cheese and mascarpone) and a fantastically constructed millefeuille dessert.
Where can I find her? La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square, Tower Hill

Ruth Rogers

Who is she? Ask most chefs where they like to eat on their time off and many will say The River Café. Of course, it helps that many of them learned to cook at Ruth Rogers’ legendary Hammersmith restaurant, which first opened its doors in 1987. Critics might complain that it is legendary because of its prices, but you’re paying for the best ingredients Rogers can get her hands on.
What should I order? The lemon tart is the sort of simple classic that is impossible to reproduce at home.
Where can I find her? The River Café, Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith

Clare Smyth

Who is she? The only British woman to win three Michelin stars during her 11 years as head chef and then chef-patron of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Smyth opened her first solo restaurant, Core, in summer 2017. Since then, she's been awarded three Michelin stars and won every award under the sun, including SquareMeal's Restaurant of the Year title in 2018. Tasting menus of British ingredients are the focus, with an emphasis on making vegetables as important as meat and fish.
What should I order? Carrot braised in lamb stock confounds expectations of just how good our homegrown veg can taste.
Where can I find her? Core by Clare Smyth, 92 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill

SquareMeal has partnered with Champagne Ayala for the Best Female Chefs Series, interviewing some of the UK's best female chefs. 

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About the AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year Award 

This award was launched in 2018 to celebrate the huge contribution female chefs are making to the UK restaurant industry – something that can be overlooked in a still male-dominated sector.

It shines a spotlight on the women whose achievements are an inspiration to everyone involved in this vibrant sector, and particularly to women who might be just starting out on a career as a chef, as well as to diners choosing where to eat.

With its longstanding commitment to the restaurant industry, Champagne AYALA is a natural sponsor to this award and to the series of interviews that accompanies it, not least because its chef du cave Caroline Latrive is a lady who has broken the glass ceiling in a world where Champagne makers are still almost exclusively men.

AYALA is one of the best kept secrets of Champagne. With a history dating back to 1860, AYALA were pioneers of dry, vibrant styles of Champagne, they were one of the original Grandes Marques Houses, and were awarded a Royal Warrant by Edward VII in 1908. Since 2005, the Bollinger family have helped restore this historic House to its former glory. Champagne AYALA is known for its fresh and elegant wines, made with precision and delicacy and crafted on a boutique scale. The wines have been served in the UK for over 100 years in many of London’s most prestigious establishments.

For more information click here.

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Can’t get enough of famous chefs? Check out our list of the all the best British chefs doing amazing things for the hospitality industry.