Women are natural survivors and know how to completely focus on their pursuits. These four international female chefs are influencing traditional ways of running restaurants and bringing positive changes to their venues.
Anne-Sophie Pic is the third-generation chef/owner to carry the torch of the famous restaurant in the boutique hotel Maison Pic in Valence, France. Pic first earned three Michelin stars back in 1934. Sadly, after Anne-Sophie’s father’s death in 1992, the restaurant lost its third star. Anne-Sophie took the kitchen reins in 1997 and was determined to return the restaurant back to its glorious status.
Anne-Sophie does not have any formal culinary training, but that hasn’t stopped her. The restaurant regained three-Michelin-star status a decade later and continues to set an example for fine-dining establishments. Anne-Sophie is the only French female chef to have three stars in the past 50 years.
Although she continues the attention to detail and quest for perfection practiced by her father and grandfather, her time spent in America and Japan have given her approach to food a more gentle touch. Anne-Sophie also owns three other restaurants, two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Anne-Sophie in Lausanne, Switzerland, and one-Michelin-starred Le Dame de Pic, which has locations in Paris and in London.
Elena Arzak, Arzak
As the fourth-generation heir of three Michelin-starred restaurant Arzak in San Sebastián, Spain, Elena Arzak began working in Arzak at the age of 11. She runs a tight ship together with her 74-year-old father, Juan Mari. Her training is from top restaurants such as at La Maison Troisgros, Le Louis XV under Alain Ducasse, and Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire and elBulli. Elena now continues to create her father’s style of modern Basque cuisine. She has a refined take on traditional Northern Spanish fare such as meats and fish grilled over coals and hearty lamb stews.
Above the restaurant, she and her kitchen team work on innovative ideas to intensify the flavors in a dish. One popular experiment has been to freeze-dry mussels to create a powder for a deep umami hit. Nearly three-quarters of the chefs under her leadership in the San Sebastián restaurant are women. Likewise, Elena Arzak is the highest ranked woman on the World’s Best Restaurant 2017 list, which technically, makes her the best female chef in the world.
Emma Bengtsson, Aquavit
Emma Bengtsson grew up in a small town on the west coast of Sweden under the influence of her grandmother who was an avid home cook. The baking and cooking of Bengtsson’s youth translated into professional aspirations and she enrolled in Stockholm’s Hotel and Restaurant School. There she trained in every restaurant role, from savory and sweet to waiting tables and hostessing.
In 2010, Bengtsson joined the Aquavit team as Executive Pastry Chef, and quickly became known for her creative interpretations of classic Scandinavian desserts. Likewise, her style demonstrated a devotion for local products, progressive techniques, and continuing traditions. This unique way of presenting the Scandinavian classics was well received, and Aquavit was recognized with one star in the Michelin Guide New York City in 2013 and 2014. Paving a new path in New York, Aquavit is the only world-class modern Nordic restaurant in the country.
It’s no surprise that she was offered the role of Executive Chef in 2014 by Aquavit owner Håkan Swahn, the owner of Aquavit. Since then, she has earned a second Michelin Star for Aquavit, making her only the second female chef in the U.S. to run a two-star kitchen and the first ever Swedish female chef to do so.
Clare Smyth, CORE
At a young age, Clare Smyth knew that she wanted a career in the food industry. The Northern Ireland native took over Gordan Ramsay’s classic restaurant along Chelsea’s Royal Hospital Road in 2007, when she was just 29. She maintained its three Michelin star status until she left in 2015 to pursue her own dream.
In addition to being chosen to run Gordan Ramsay’s restaurant for several years, she has earned his respect. Ramsay referred to Clare Smyth as “the most prominent female chef of our generation” in an interview with Evening Standard. In 2017, Smyth opened her 60-seat restaurant Core in Notting Hill. Smyth is passionate about using natural and sustainable food and champions cooking with seasonal food that comes from UK farmers.
So, tell us, have you ever eaten a meal prepared by these top international female chefs? If you like reading about top chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants, then you’ll enjoy Four Michelin-Starred Fusion Restaurants.