The Blog

Food for Thought: Who Are The Top Women Chefs? Who Are The Best New Women Chefs?

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The chances of a woman making the annual Food & Wine Magazine 10 "Best New Chefs" list are slimmer than the models on the runways at New York Fashion Week. Hence, I am making it my mission to showcase women chefs, to raise their profiles and public awareness and industry awards recognition.

Let's Dish. Nominate Best Women Chefs.

Most importantly, I am sharing my research to encourage readers and professionals to join my campaign and challenge to champion up-and-coming and established women chefs on the vanguard of America's contemporary cuisine scene. Women have carved their own paths in America's professional kitchens as food and beverage professionals from coast to coast.

As an advocate for women, I have been approached by a leading restaurant organization to suggest women chefs. Additionally, a major women's non-profit has asked me to recommend women chefs to participate in their annual benefit dinner parties. Consequently, I invite your award-worthy women chef nominations here.

Every year I take issue with the annual Food & Wine "Best New Chefs" feature. Here is my latest (unpublished) Letter to Editor:

Letter to Food & Wine: July 2009 "Best New Chefs"

Congratulations to Naomi Pomeroy, the female Lone Ranger among your 10 "Best New Chefs 2009."

Why do so few women chefs meet your criteria since inception of the list? Allowing a decade for passage throught the pipeline, for the record, in the past 11 years you have selected one woman chef in 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 1999, two in 2008, 2002, 2001 and 1997; three in 2000 (one was co-chef with her husband) and 1998; and zero in 2003.

Here's the beef: One may expect the number of young women cutting-edge Best New Chefs in charge of professional kitchens for less than five years to increase. Or, will this rightfully become the annual Male Call for the Food & Whine "Best New Chefs" issue?

Foof for Thought: When will women earn their just desserts on your list?

Thank you for consideration.

Beverly Wettenstein

The Culinary Institute of America

Where are today's and tomorrow's top toques? Alumnae of the premiere culinary college in the U.S. frequent culinary awards lists. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) was founded in 1946 by Frances Roth and Katherine Angell to train male veterans returning home from World War II. Both were formidable women in their own right. Frances Roth enrolled at NYU Law School at 17 in 1913. She became the first woman in the Connecticut State Bar Association and the first woman prosecutor in the New Haven City Court. Roth served as director of the precursor institution to the CIA. Katherine Angell, the wife of a former president of Yale University, became a benefactor and fundraiser.

In 1970, the first full-time woman student was enrolled in the culinary curriculum. In the 1980's and 90's, female enrollment was around 21 percent. This year, women comprise more than 44 percent of the almost 3,000 students at the CIA.

In 1993, Julia Child was the first woman inducted into the CIA Hall of Fame, founded in 1985. The co-founders were inducted in 1996 and the Brennan family was so honored in 2008.

Julia Child was the first, and only woman to date, inducted into the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame, founded in 1988. A pioneer and mentor, Julia Child was instrumental in founding the James Beard Foundation and the American Institute of Wine and Food. Both showcase rising chefs.

James Beard Awards

The James Beard Awards, the food "Oscars," were established in 1990. The James Beard Foundation has presented Award medallions to more than 350 accomplished women chefs, sommeliers, journalists, cookbook authors and designers. In 1991, Nancy Silverton, Campanile, was the first woman to win an award, for Outstanding Pastry Chef. The following year, Alice Waters became the first woman winner of the Outstanding Chef Award and her restaurant, Chez Panisse, earned Best Restaurant. That year, Debra Ponzek became the first woman executive chef to earn three stars from the New York Times, at Montrachet, and was named JB Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Following Waters, Lidia Bastianich, Felidia, was named Outstanding Chef in 2002, and Judy Rodgers, Zune Cafe, in 2004. In addition to Ponzek, Rising Star Chef honorees were Sarah Stegner, The Dining Room, 1994; Traci Des Jardins, Jardiniere, 1995; and Allison Vines-Rushing, 2004.

This year, Gina Depalma, Babbo, became the eleventh woman to win Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Women explain that position allows them to balance work with a family life and children. Jennifer McLagan, "Fat" author, won Cookbook of the Year. Betty Fussell, author and culinary historian, and Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder, The French Culinary Institute, were inducted into the "Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America." Ella Brennan, Commander's Palace and 11 restaurants in the South and beyond, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lidia Bastianich won the TV Food Show Award.

Susan Ungaro is president of the James Beard Foundation. This year the Awards ceremony at Lincoln Center celebrated Women in Food. The women chefs served their signature dishes at the Gala Reception.

Alice Waters was named Nation's Restaurant News 2009 Fine Dining Legend. She joined Legends including Ella Brennan. Waters is the pioneer of local, sustainable and organic food and champion of healthy school meals. She encouraged the White House to create a vegetable garden.

First Woman White House Commander in Chef: Cristeta Comerford

Cristeta Comerford was named the first woman White House Executive Chef in 2005. She had worked as Assistant Chef for a decade and shares the Obama's healthy family eating perspective. Continuing Alice Waters' legacy two decades later, First Lady Michelle Obama created a sustainable White House vegetable garden.

An episode of "Iron Chef America" on the Food Network, will feature Comerford and Bobby Flay competing against Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. Their challenge will be to produce five dishes using ingredients from the White House garden. The episode will air January 3.

TV's first celebrity chef was Dione Lucas in 1947. Julia Child burst onto PBS with "The French Chef" in 1962. The Food Network was born three decades after Child's debut, creating a constellation of culinary stars.

Cat Cora, executive chef at Bon Appetit, graduated from the CIA in 1995. She made TV history in 2005 on Food Network's "Iron Chef America," as the first and only woman winner. In 1991, Cora went to meet Julia Child at a book signing. Child said she should go to the CIA. Cora was one of six women in the class of 35 students in 1993. She opened a restaurant in Napa and sent a tape of her local TV cooking demonstration to the Food Network.

Heather West, CIA '03, won the second season on "Hell's Kitchen." Stephanie Izard was the first woman winner in the fourth season of Bravo's "Top Chef" in 2008.

Flour Power: Just Desserts in 2009

Naomi Pomeroy, 35, head chef at beast in Portland, Oregon, was the only woman among the 2009 Food & Wine "Best New Chefs." She credits Alice Waters as her major influence and focuses on seasonality and sustainability in her custom culinary creations.

Jenifer Fournier, Alex & Stratta, and Deborah Racicot, Gotham Bar & Grill, were both named to Dessert Professional Magazine's 16th annual "America's Ten Best Pastry Chefs 2009" for the second consecutive year.

Jin Caldwell, pastry chef for Ethel's Chocolates, was the only woman on the 2009 "Top Ten Chocolatiers" at the New York Chocolate Show.

Star Chefs 2009 New York Rising Stars included Amanda Cohen, Dirty Candy, Sustainability Award and Sommelier Claire Paparazzo, Blue Hill. Antoinette Bruno is the CEO and editor of, the first online food magaizne. Its JobFinder provides online employment classifieds for the hospitality industry. Bruno created the Rising Star Awards to recognize up-and-coming professional talent.

Nation's Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame named Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, the 2009 Fine Dining Legend, joining Ella Brennan.

Yum-O. Rachel Ray heads Forbes Magazine's list of the ten top-earning chefs. The host of four Food Network shows, a daily ABC show and a magazine, cooked up more than $18 million a year. Paula Deen ranked sixth, with $4.5 million.

One of my favorite annual events is sponsored by SHARE (Self-Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer), which features a tasting buffet with the signature dishes of New York's top women chefs. This year's culinary stars, who co-hosted with celebirites, were: Jennifer Appel, Lynn Bound, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, Rebecca Charles, Ariana Daguin, Gina DePalma, Amanda Freitag, Alex Guarnaschelli, Emily Isaac, Patti Jackson, Sara Jenkins, Abigail Kirsch & Alison Awerbuch, Erica Leahy, Sarabeth Levine, Anita Lo, Margaritte Malfy & Barbara Sibley, Nancy Olson, Deborah Racicot, Alexandra Raij, Amy Scherber, Ivy Stark, Julie Taras, Sue Torres, Jody Williams, Patricia Williams and Kate Zuckerman.

Save the date for next year: Monday, September 20, 2020 (

A couple of foodies have turned their passion into fruitful global businesses. Lawyers Nina and Tim Zagat, co-founders and co-chairs of Zagat Survey, launched their first questionnaire as a hobby in 1979. Sylvie Douce and Francois Jeantet produce the Chocolate Show around the world. The sweetest couple may be pastry icon Jacques Torres and Hasty Khoel Torres, aka Madame Chocolat.

It's been difficult for women to rise to the top in the culinary profession. Julia Child was the first and only woman, and 37th inductee, into the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame.

Organizations founded to promote the education, advancement and networking of women in the culinary industry include Le Dames d'Escoffier International, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs and the New York Women's Culinary Alliance.

Les Dames d'Escoffier International is an invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality, whose mission is education, advocacy and philanthropy. Carol Brock, then Sunday Food editor at the New York Daily News, believed opportunities for women in the industry were limited and founded the organization. In 1976, the Dames welcomed 50 professional members. The next year they created a Grande Dame award with Dame Julia Child as the first recipient. Today, LDEI has more than 1,200 members in 25 chapters across the U.S. and Canada. (

Women Chefs & Restaurateurs was founded in 1993 by eight of the nation's industry leaders: Lidia Bastianich, Elka Gilmore, Joyce Goldstein, Johanne Killeen, Barbara Lazaroff, Mary Sue Milliken, Anne Rosenzweig and Barbara Tropp. WCR has grown to 2,000 members nationwide, offering a variety of networking, professional and support services. (

The New York Women's Culinary Alliance (NYWCA) was founded in 1982 by Sara Moulton and Maria Reuge, with the encouragement of Julia Child and an endorsement by the Boston Women's Culinary Guild. More than 200 professional women in the food and wine industry are dedicated to encouraging networking and education. (

Batter Up! Send Nominations Today

Please submit your nominations here today for America's best new and established women chefs, whose groundbreaking success and originality merit recognition. Bon appetit!

Watch this space for progress reports.

See Beverly Wettenstein's PBS interview on

See Beverly Wettenstein's Letter in the NY Daily News, Sept. 4, 09

See Beverly Wettenstein's Letter in the NY Times Science Times, July 21, 09

"Celebrate Women Every Day!'

November 11

1744 Abigail Smith Adams born. First Lady (1799-1801) and mother of future president,
John Quincy Adams. She wrote to her husband, "Remember the Ladies."

1848 Boston Female Medical School opened. The school operated for 26 years and merged
with Boston University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first coed medical

1979: Bethune Museum and Archives was established in Washington, D.C., as center for
African-American women's history.

1993: The Vietnam Women's Memorial by sculptor Glenna Goodacre was dedicated in
Washington, D.C.

Beverly Wettenstein's "Women in History & Making History Today - 365-Days-A-Year Database."

Beverly Wettenstein speaks nationally on "A Woman's Place in the 21st Century."