10 Trailblazing Female Chefs From Across The Industry

To celebrate International Women's Day we've collated ten inspirational, trailblazing women chefs from across the industry. Shortlisting just ten was no easy task with so many amazing women to celebrate but in no particular order, here are ten to watch:

Pichaya 'Pam' Soontornyanakij (Potong, Bangkok) - In 2011, Thai-Chinese-Australian Chef 'Pam' became the youngest chef to win the "Asia Young Hope Cooking" contest at the age of 21 before going on to win several other accolades in the years to come. Chef Pam went on to spend time in New York at three Michelin-star restaurant Jean-Georges where she continued to refine her culinary skills and develop her exceptionally high standards. More recently, she won 2023 Michelin Thailand Opening of the Year Award and the Michelin Star Revelation 2023 Thailand award for her restaurant Potong.

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Adejoké Bakare (Chishuru, London) - Nigerian-born Adejoké Bakare is the founder an head chef of Chishuru, a Michelin-starred West African restaurant concept inspired by the food she grew up eating. Having made the transition from home cook to restaurant owner in 2019, she fast built a reputation as one of London's most exciting chefs thanks to her style of cooking. In 2019, Bakare entered the Brixton Kitchen competition having previously only cooked for friends and family, but her food blew away the judges seeing her go on to win the amateur category. Since then, alongside her Michelin star, she's received a glowing review from Jay Rayner and a coveted place in the top 100 restaurants in the UK at the National Restaurant Awards too.

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Olia Hercules (Chef, UK) - London-based Ukrainian chef, food writer and food stylist, Olia Hercules started her pursuit of a career in cooking back in 2008 following the financial crisis where she quit her job as a journalist to change industries. She trained at the renowned Leiths School of Food and Wine and then worked as a chef de partie in restaurants, including Ottolenghi, and as a recipe developer before landing a book deal of her own. This firs book, Mamushka, won the prestigious Fortnum and Mason Award for best debut cookbook 2016 and has since sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. Since then she's released a number of other successful cookbooks each celebrating food from Eastern Europe. The day after the Russians attacked Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, Olia co-founded a movement with her friend Alissa Timoshkina, called #CookForUkraine and to date they have raised over £2 million pounds for UNICEF, Legacy Of War Foundation and Choose Love.

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Elena Reygadas (Rosetta, CDMX) - Voted the world's best female chef in the World's 50 Best classification in 2023, Elena Reygadas is the chef-owner of Rosetta in Mexico City, an eatery that reflects her own life story. She'd already propelled herself into the spotlight through her talent in 2014 when she was named Latin America's Best Female Chef. Rosetta, ranked 60th on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022, is not Reygadas' only venture as she also runs a bakery adjacent to the restaurant, as well as a more casual Mexican restaurant Lardo, plus Café Nin Bistro which is also located in Mexico City.

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Eunji Lee (Lysée, NYC) - Chef / Owner of New York City's pastry boutique Lysée, Eunji Lee is an acclaimed Korean pastry chef who was named named one of La Liste's Pastry Talents of the Year 2023 as well as Food and Wine's Best New Chefs of 2023. Her creations have often been described as too beautiful to eat and this trailblazer continues to impress. Having cut her teeth in France in 2006 at the Institute National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie in Rouen and at the Ecole Ferrandi in Paris, Lee went on to train under Alain Ducasse and Cedric Grolet at three Michelin-starred Le Meurice alongside other French institutions. In 2016 she moved over to the US to become the Executive Pastry Chef of two Michelin star modern Korean restaurant Jungsik before then opening Lysée in 2022.

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Pia Leon (Central, Lima) - Another winner of the World's Best Female Chef award, back in 2021, Pia Leon spent three years topping Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list thanks to Central before branching out and opening her own restaurant, Kjolle. Named after a flowering Peruvian tree that grows at extreme altitude, the restaurant placed 28th on the World's 50 Best list in 2023 behind chat topping Lima in first.

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Chantelle Nicholson (Apricity, London) - Chantelle is a familiar face to thefoodpeople having featured at our 2021/22 Online Trend Summit, as well as us being big fans of her sustainability-focused London Restaurant, Apricity. Former chef-owner of the popular Tredwell's restaurant, she opened Apricity in 2022 and since has gone on to win a Michelin Green Star at the venue, for it's responsibility towards sustainability. An innovative, forward-thinking low waste restaurant, Apricity and Chantelle continue to impress and she's very worthy of her place on our list.

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Cynthia Shanmugalingam (Rambutan, London) - British-Sri Lankan cook Cynthia Shanmugalingam is the founder of the popular Rambutan restaurant in London's foodie hotspot, Borough Market. Having spend time between Coventry and Sri Lanka on regular holidays as a child, Cynthia was brought up in a Sri Lankan Tamil family and raised on authentic island cooking. Her culinary career started after a different path in economics, which saw her graduate from Cambridge before stepping into a social enterprise in Bethnal Green where she realised that creating her own path was what she wanted. She set about sponging up as much information from influential and high profile restaurant owners around the world, setting up a street food charity - Kitchenette Karts - and then eventually signing off on her first restaurant location in 2020, in Shoreditch only for the global pandemic to put a stop on that. She eventually opened Rambutan in March 2023, following the successful launch of the cookbook Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka, in 2022.

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Ruth Hansom (Hansom, Yorkshire) - Renowned young chef Ruth Hansom, Young National Chef of the Year in 2017, has got a very exciting year ahead in 2024 with the opening of her new restaurant Hansom Restaurant, together with her husband Mark Hansom-Rigby. Ruth initially started to learn her trade at Westminster College before taking on a three-year apprenticeship at the Ritz. She took on her first head chef position at the Luton Hoo Hotel before then assuming the role at Notting Hill's Pomona's. When this closed in 2020, Ruth stepped across London to East London gastropub The Princess of Shoreditch where she revamped the entire menu, winning three AA rosettes in the process before stepping away in 2022 to start the process of building out her own concept.

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Abby Lee (Mambow, London) - Malaysian chef and founder of the open-kitchen concept Mambow in Peckham, London, Abby Lee has become a figurehead of Malaysian cooking in the capital. Her culinary journey started as a young age, helping at her family's bakery in Singapore. But it was the pandemic and a move back home to Malaysia which saw Lee finally rediscover her love for Malaysian cuisine. Today, she's introducing Londoners to her own unique, modern take on Malaysian food - one that's proving very popular. She turned what was initially a market stall pop-up into a permanent venue in late 2023, teeing up an exciting 2024.

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