A chef’s gender shouldn’t be a big deal, but sadly there are still way more men than women heading up kitchens in London restaurants. So to mark International Women’s Day 2018, we salute our 10 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.

Nieves Barrágan Mohacho chef in chef coat

Nieves Barrágan Mohacho

Who is she? For nine years the executive chef at Barrafina (and the woman responsible for its Michelin star), Barrágan Mohaco has just launched her first solo restaurant, Sabor, off Regent Street. Thanks to her, queues outside the three Barrafinas are still a nightly event – and they’re already snaking out of Sabor. 

What should I order? Barrafina has always been famous for the best croquetas in London; we reckon Sabor’s prawn and piquillo versions could be even better.

Where can I find her? 35 Heddon Street, W1B 4BS

Ravinder Bhogal chef

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.

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

Erchen Chang chefs coat

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 in Soho and Fitzrovia. 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 Fitzrovia, 31 Windmill Street, W1T 2JN; Bao Soho, 53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS; Xu, 30 Rupert Street, W1D 6DL

Helene Darroze chef in kitchen cooking

Hélène Darroze

Who is she? The only two Michelin-starred female chef-patron in the UK and the recipient of the 2015 World’s Best Female Chef award, 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

Monica Galetti chef

Monica Galetti

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

Skye Gyngell chef seated

Skye Gyngell

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

Angela Hartnett chef seated

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 a pair of Café Muranos in St James’s and Covent Garden to her name, as well as Shoreditch’s Merchants Tavern, where her partner Neil Borthwick is head chef. 

What should I order? Hartnett’s pasta is sublime; try the pumpkin tortelli with sage and pine nut at Café Murano.

Where can I finder 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

Marianne Lumb chef at table

Marianne Lumb

Who is she? With room for only 14 diners in her tiny Notting Hill restaurant, Marianne,  Lumb is as much of a host as she is a chef. But while the atmosphere may be like a jolly dinner party, the cooking is ambitious and skilful, and backed up by thoughtful wine pairings.

What should I order? There’s a no-choice seasonal tasting menu: £95 for five courses at lunch, £110 for six courses at dinner.

Where can I find her? 104 Chepstow Road, W2 5QS

Ruth Rogers The River Café chef in chef whiites

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? Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA

Clare Smyth chefs coat

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. 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

About Ayala

About Ayala and the Ayala Female Chef of the Year Award

SqareMeal is proud to have partnered with Champagne AYALA to launch a SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award. Throughout 2018, SquareMeal met with some of the UK’s leading female chefs to talk about their passions and inspirations. And following an online poll of SquareMeal readers and consideration by SquareMeal’s panel of critics, Angela Hartnett was awarded the Ayala SquareMeal Female Chef of 2018 for her consistency in the kitchen, sound business sense and for being an icon and inspiration across her 24-year career. 

About Ayala

Now restored to its former glory by its new owners the Bollinger family, Champagne AYALA is known for its fresh and elegant wines, made with precision and delicacy, and crafted on a boutique scale by winemaker Caroline Latrive. The wines have been served in the UK for over 100 years in many of London’s most prestigious establishments, and AYALA has been the house Champagne for many a British institution, from The Ritz to The Goring. AYALA’s well-balanced Chardonnay-focused blends and low dosage make it a terrific epicurean pairing. 

Click here to read our interview with Hélène Darroze  

Click here to read our interview with Monica Galetti  

Click here to read our interview with Angela Hartnett  

Click here to read out interview with Marianne Lumb 

Ayala wine bottle with logo


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.