A chef’s gender shouldn’t be a big deal, but sadly there are still way more men than women heading up kitchens in the UK's restaurants. So to mark International Women’s Day 2019, we salute our 18 favourite female chefs who have made it to the top in the male-dominated restaurant world – and look forward to the day when lists like these are redundant.
Who is she? For nine years the executive chef at Barrafina (and the woman responsible for its Michelin star), Barrágan Mohaco launched her first solo restaurant, Sabor, off Regent Street in 2018. Thanks to her, queues outside the four Barrafinas are still a nightly event – and they now snake out of Sabor, too.
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? 35 Heddon Street, W1B 4BS
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.
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? 19-21 Blandford Street, W1D 3DH
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 in Soho and Fitzrovia and, later this year, in Borough. Her follow-up, the more formal Xu, is just as fascinating.
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, SE1 9AD; Bao Fitzrovia, 31 Windmill Street, W1T 2JN; Bao Soho, 53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS; Xu, 30 Rupert Street, W1D 6DL
Credit: Laurie Fletcher
Who is she? The recipient of the 2015 World’s Best Female Chef award and chef-patron of the two Michelin-starred restaurant in The Connaught hotel, Darroze comes from three generations of chefs. Training with Alain Ducasse cemented her fine-dining credentials, while Pixar picked her as the inspiration for Collette in Ratatouille.
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? The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
Credit: Laurie Fletcher
Who is she? The chef-patron of Mere is best known as the judge on Masterchef: The Professionals, the kind of fame that guarantees full houses for her first solo restaurant. Still, they wouldn’t come unless Galetti was more than a famous face, and the former senior sous chef of Le Gavroche is just as much of a star in the kitchen as she is on the telly.
What should I order? The six-course tasting menu gives a taste of everything this masterchef has to offer.
Where can I find her? 74 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QH
Who is she? Don't overlook Goodwin-Allen becasue she doesn't have a London restaurant. Her Northcote restaurant in Lancashire has held a Michelin star for over 20 years and she has maintained it since she took over in 2017.
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 Road, Langho, Blackburn, Lancashire, BB6 8BE
Who is she? The Aussie chef and food writer made the national news when she resigned from Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries and described winning a star as a ‘curse’. Her current location at Spring at Somerset House may no longer give her a kitchen garden but her disarmingly simple cooking still showcases impeccably sourced British ingredients.
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? Somerset House, Lancaster Place, WC2R 1LA
Who is she? A chef who brings as many globe-trotting ingredients into her dishes as the world-spanning blood in her veins. Born in Canada to Kiwi parents with both Danish and Belgian-Swiss heritages, she was brought up in New Zealand before moving to London in the 1990s. She now heads up The Modern Pantry, where she can express herself in all her fusion queen glory.
What should I order? Her chermoula-infused sea trout with pea and yuzu purée is a riot of flavours.
Where can I find her? 47-48 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ
Credit: Laurie Fletcher
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 a pair of Café Muranos in St James’s and Covent Garden to her name, as well as Shoreditch’s Merchants Tavern. In 2018, Hartnett was the winner of the 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? Café Murano, 36 Tavistock Street, WC2E 7PB and 33 St James’s Street, SW1A 1HD; Merchants Tavern, 36 Charlotte Road, EC2A 3PG; Murano, 20 Queen Street, W1J 5PP
Who is she? Kiwi-born Margot (and wife of Fergus Henderson of St John fame) heads up the Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch and Rochelle Canteen at The ICA in St James's. The restaurants serve stripped-back, unfussy food that pleases all the senses. 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, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES; Rochelle Canteen at The ICA, The Mall, SW1Y 5AH
Credit: Issy Croker
Who is she? 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.
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? 43 Upper Brook Street, W1K 7QR
Who is she? The chef and owner of Darjeeling Express in Soho 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? 2nd Floor, 6-8 Kingly Street, W1B 5PW
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.
What should I order? Kyseri’s veal sweetbreads impressed us, and we’re sure they'll impress you, too
Where can I find her? Oklava, 74 Luke Street, EC2A 4PY; Kyseri, 64 Grafton Way, W1T 5DN
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? Unit 2, Eastern Coal Drop, N1C
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? Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA
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 when she's been awarded two Michelin stars and won every award under the sun, including SquareMeal's Restaurant fo the Year title for 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? 92 Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN
Who is she? The grand dame of French cuisine, Anne-Sophie has an impressive seven Michelin stars across her four restaurants, including the one-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? Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ
Who is she? The Finnish-born chef has put her Nordic mark on no less than two restaurants for D&D London: seafood-centric Aster and Skylon in the Royal Festival Hall. Both showcase delicious-tasting dishes with Nordic flare.
What should I order? The gilthead bream with thick slices of chorizo and garlicky aioli at Skylon
Where can I find her? Aster, 150 Victoria Street, SW1E 5LB; Skylon, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
SquareMeal has partnered with Champagne Ayala for the Best Female Chefs Series, where editor Ben McCormack interviewed four of the UK's best female chefs. Below you can click to read interviews with Angela Hartnett, Hélène Darroze, Monica Galetti and Marianne Lumb.
Can’t get enough of famous chefs? Check out our list of the best chef’s tables in London where you can get up close and personal with the kitchen talent cooking your dinner.