Bobby Riggs infamously uttered, "women belong in the bedroom and the kitchen, in that order". Strangely enough, for all the belonging we do in the kitchen, professional kitchens in the past had not been particularly welcoming for women, due to long hours, physical demands of being a chef and the social expectations of what women can (or cannot) do.
Despite women being seen as less suited for the environs of the restaurant kitchen, there exist a special lane of trailblazing females chefs who have tossed stereotypes out of the window by helming not only professional kitchens, but Michelin-starred ones. In Asia, there are more than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants with a female chef at their helm, while many more sit among the other categories of the Guide.
Turns out, women can make fancier food than just sandwiches. Here is just a sample of them, with a number on the list nominated for World Gourmet Summit's Chef of the Year (Female).
Chef Bee Satongun
Bee Satongun is a Thai chef and the co-owner of Michelin-starred Paste Bangkok Thai Restaurant. In 2018, she was awarded the accolade of Asia's 50 Best Female Chef 2018. Specialising in the techniques of heirloom Thai cuisine, she is known for her emotive layering of flavours, textures and modern presentation. Her restaurant's regularly updated menu focuses on re-interpreting common Thai dishes.
Chef Rinrin Marinka
Rinrin Marinka is an Indonesian chef and restaurateur. An alumni of Le Cordon Bleu Sydney graduating in French Cuisine & Patisserie, Rinrin has worked as a chef, food instructor and embarked on a personality career after finding fame as a judge of Masterchef Indonesia and Junior Masterchef Indonesia. She has also appeared in several food advertisement and also hosted food-related shows in Indonesia.
Chef Johanne Siy
Johanne Siy is the head chef of Lolla. A look through her Instagram page shows a plethora of beautifully plated food, as well as a small insight into her offerings. This Fillipina has earned her laurels, having graduated through storied establishments such as Café Boulud in NYC, Restaurant Andre, Fäviken in Sweden, Relae and Noma in Copenhagen, and most recently Starter Lab in Singapore. Learn more about her here.
Chef Sujatha Asokan
She may be young, but Sujatha has already been named Rising Chef of the Year by World Gourmet Summit, and is the head chef of Botanica at The Garage. She often works with other popup kitchens, which is a great way to widen the repertoire of food she brings to the table. Check out her full interview with Yahoo here.
Chef Archan Chan
Archan is the executive chef at LeVeL33, and is the aforementioned chef in Sujatha's Instagram post. This HongKong native studied in Australia and brought the skillsets learnt over the years to LeVeL33. She's influenced by how some cuisines use every element of an ingredient so that there's zero waste. She is also a nominee of World Gourmet Summit 2021's Chef of the Year (Female).
Chef Petrina Loh
Petrina founded and runs a 40-seater award-winning restaurant named Morsels since 2013, serving up wildly creative fusion dishes which are ingredient-driven and paired with a specially curated list of wines, sake, craft beers and house-infused cocktails. Previously a banker, she stepped into the culinary world from 2013 and have never looked back since. She's the current nominee for Chef of the Year (Female) for the World Gourmet Awards.
Chef Samia Ahad
Samia Ahad is a well-respected chef, food and entertainment entrepreneur in Singapore. This Pakistani native is credited as a pioneer of Pan Asian cuisine on our shores. She is a dedicated ambassador for showcasing the depth and diversity of Asian fare, and a master at modernising dishes whilst retaining the essence of traditional Asian cooking. Her food is available at raved-about restaurant Coriander Leaf.
Chef Lisa Revilla
Born and raised in the Philippines, Lisa Revilla put her Economics degree on the back burner and headed to the Big Apple to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a Chef. After cutting her teeth at several New York and local restaurants, she now helms the kitchen of acclaimed The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar as the Executive Chef.
Heny Sison (Phillippines)
Heny Sison is one of the most recognised names in the Philippine culinary scene, known for being a pastry chef, cake decorator, television host, and she even runs a bakeshop as well as a culinary school in the Philippines.
These female chefs are good examples of how women can find success in the culinary world. So tell us, do we not belong in (commercially-driven) kitchens?
For a more extensive listing of female chefs, a passion project by Sara Konkoly, a young aspiring chef, has created a platform to highlight female chefs all around the world. Kudos to the next generation of female chefs!