Every time the James Beard Foundation Award nominees are announced, the conversation usually turns to the dearth of top female chefs. Still outnumbered in the kitchen by their male counterparts, more and more, women are taking back the burner at some of the country”s best restaurants. We’ve rounded up a few from several major cities and salute them and female chefs everywhere for their creativity and commitment to culinary excellence.
Atlanta: Anne Quatrano Along with husband and partner Chef Clifford Harrison, Chef Quatrano is owner of Abattoir, Bacchanalia, and Floataway Cafe, among others. At the forefront of the seed-to-stomach movement, her farm and philosophies have helped shape Atlanta’s dining dynamics for nearly two delicious decades.
Boston: Barbara Lynch Her hard-scrabble childhood is almost as legendary as her series of uber-successful restaurants, which include B&G Oysters, Menton, No. 9 Park, and Sportello. A James Beard Award winner, Chef Lynch is the only female in the United States to hold the title of Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux.
Chicago: Stephanie Izard Chef Izard has been on a roll since winning Top Chef. Her restaurant Girl & the Goat was named America’s Best New Restaurant by Saveur magazine in 2011, recently released a popular cookbook, and she is set to open Little Goat later this year.
Dallas: Tiffany Derry She didn’t win Top Chef, but she won kudos not just for her cooking but also for her cool confidence in the chaotic world of reality television. Chef Derry’s new restaurant, Private Social, has successfully married casual and upscale dining and was recently named one of the Top 100 Hot Spots in the U.S.
Denver: Kelly Liken Another Top Chef competitor, her eponymous restaurant in Vail, Colorado, has become as popular as the area’s posh ski resorts. Committed to serving the best of Colorado’s local bounty, Liken, a James Beard Award nominee, says, “ ”If I can’t find an ingredient or product from Colorado, I won’t buy it from someplace else.”
Los Angeles: Nancy Silverton. Founder of the famed La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant, Chef Silverton has bounced back from personal hardship to become one of the nation’s most buzzed-about chefs. Putting the simple pleasures of artisanal cheese and pizzas at the forefront of her menus at the Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza, Silverton is proof that there are, indeed, second acts in America.
Minneapolis: Tanya Siebenaler Sapor Cafe and Bar is in its 12th year of business and has proven a boon to Twin Cities foodies seeking an arm-chair destination dining experience. Marrying flavors from around the world with local, seasonal ingredients, Chef Siebenaler has reinvented the art of global street food.
New York: Anita Lo Her resume is chock full of stints at some of the world’s most storied restaurants, but the story that has come to define this oft-heralded chef is the fire that tragically gutted her decade-old, award-winning restaurant Annisa. Chef Lo rebuilt the restaurant — and its menu, to acclaim from the nation’s top critics.
Philadelphia: Marcie Turney This chef’s influence in the city of Philadelphia is felt far beyond any of her restaurants, including Barbuzzo. Chef Turney, along with partner Valerie Safran, have helped turn the Midtown Village neighborhood into a cultural and shopping destination.
San Francisco: Traci Des Jardins Earning her stripes under the tutelage of some of the world’s most-revered — and most unforgiving — chefs, she quickly got used to being the only woman in a restaurant kitchen. Her passion and pursuit of excellence have lead to numerous accolades for Chef Des Jardin and her restaurant; the San Francisco Chronicle has listed Jardiniere as one of the ‘Top 100 Restaurants’ in the Bay Area each year since opening in 1997.
Seattle: Holly Smith She’s competed on The Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef America and won praise from publications, local and national for her cooking, but this celebrity chef hasn’t been spoiled by success, nor has the food at Cafe Juanita. Chef Smith is a constant presence at her Kirkland restaurant and is highly respected in the food community for her commitment to sustainable agriculture.
Washington, D.C.: Nora Pouillon Since opening Restaurant Nora in 1979, Chef Pouillon has been a pioneer of the organic, local food movement. She helped create the organic certification standards for restaurants that guarantee at least 95% of all food served originates from certified organic sources and her restaurant and continued contributions to the slow food movement have contributed to D.C.’s forward-thinking food culture.