Food & Drink

Meet the Most Badass Female Chefs in New York

Published On 05/27/2016 Published On 05/27/2016
Cosme chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes
Teddy Wolff

If the modern culinary landscape has taught us anything, it’s that women are a force to be reckoned with. But even in an age where there’s a totally female-focused food outlet like Cherry Bombe; consecutive women being named editor-in-chief of Food & Wine; and big wins for women at the James Beard awards, female chefs still don’t get the same airtime as their male counterparts.

It’s high time to bust through the kitchen’s glass ceiling. While this list is just a start, these 11 female chefs are obliterating stereotypes and influencing the national culinary landscape from the five boroughs. Some are already household names and powerful players in the industry; the rest are about to take the cooking world by storm.

Daniela Soto-Innes

Cosme

Address and Info

Flatiron

What were you doing when you were 25? (If our own experience is any clue, it likely had something to do with $1 drafts and a lot of making out.) At that age, very few of us can say that we were featured in a documentary series about powerhouse young women, or had won a James Beard Award. Chef Daniela Soto-Innes can claim both -- she was the subject of the short film La Cocinera, which was screened at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, and she took home the award for Rising Star Chef at the 2016 James Beard Awards. 

Age has rarely been an issue for Soto-Innes, though it did earn a chuckle from those who inspired her, like a past chef at a Marriott hotel kitchen who spoke at her high school and later (after getting past her youth) took her on as an intern. Since then, she’s given a metaphorical middle finger to sexism in the kitchen by turning down work with a male chef who once told her, “We don’t hire women.” Now, she’s chef de cuisine at Enrique Olvera‘s much-lauded Cosme, where she’s cooking upscale, modern Mexican dishes like cobia al pastor, duck carnitas, and spelt esquites.

Dylan Rives/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

April Bloomfield

The Spotted Pig (address and info), The Breslin Bar & Dining Room (address and info), The John Dory Oyster Bar (address and info), Salvation Burger (address and info), Salvation Taco (address and info), and Tosca Cafe (address and info)
Multiple locations
Some might find it exhausting to read out the names of six separate restaurants, let alone run them. It’s no wonder that April Bloomfield was once planning on becoming a police officer; she’s an absolute force to be reckoned with. Bloomfield once beat Michael Symon in an Iron Chef competition, was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2007 (alas, one of only 44 women to receive the title), and has earned Michelin stars and a James Beard. 

A true English “Girl and Her Pig” (borrowing from her 2012 book), Bloomfield and business partner Ken Friedman opened The Spotted Pig over 11 years ago -- a laudable life span in New York’s dining scene -- which boasts not just repeated earnings of a Michelin star, but also the title of the city’s first-ever gastropub. Her culinary triumphs don’t end there; another institution under the Bloomfield-Friedman name, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, has also received a Michelin star. And with her fast food-inspired joint, Salvation Burger, continuing to earn accolades on a near-weekly basis, it looks like Bloomfield is here to stay for a long while.

The Washington Post/Contributor/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Amanda Cohen

Dirt Candy

Address and Info

Lower East Side

Visit the website for popular vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, and above chef/owner Amanda Cohen’s bio, in lieu of a headshot, you’ll find a Lisa Frank-esque picture of a unicorn. It’s a fitting image for Cohen, who has seemingly achieved the impossible: managing a vegetarian restaurant -- one that’s been around since 2008 -- that’s also a five-time recipient of Michelin stars (one of two within that category in 17 years). 

Hailing from Canada, Cohen has perpetually seemed ahead of her time -- first, by showing that vegetarian food can be “cool,” and then by making Dirt Candy the very first New York City restaurant to do away with tipping. “I want to pay all my employees a better wage,” she’s said, and “raise the salaries of all my staff, from my dishwashers to my cooks to my servers.”

Oh, and Dirt Candy: A Cookbook is a graphic novel cookbook -- the first of its kind in North America. NBD.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Suchanan Aksornnan (aka "Chef Bao Bao")

Baoburg

Address and Info

Greenpoint 

The fortitude to compete on a show called Knife Fight (on the Esquire Network) is evidence enough of a certain character toughness. But if that’s not enough, just check out the Instagram account of Suchanan Aksornnan (better known as Chef Bao Bao): you’ll find pictures of her creations at Baoburg, where she’s chef/owner, that’ll make you want to stuff your face, alongside bikini and workout photos that’ll make you want to do hours of Pilates.

Bao Bao was born and raised in Thailand, where she was privy to some of the world’s best organic, regional ingredients. Since then, she’s cooked for the likes of the Princess of Saudi Arabia and Cameron Diaz, and has worked alongside Jean Georges and Top Chef’s Tiffany Derry. Today, her dishes at Baoburg draw influence both from Spanish and Asian cuisines, like Spanish-style garlic shrimp, and four different bao varieties. To those who question the authenticity of such fusion, she says, “Come to Baoburg and I will prove it!”

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Angela Dimayuga

Mission Chinese

Address and Info

Lower East Side

Anyone who’s spent time in San Francisco knows that Mission Chinese is the stuff of legends. It started as Mission Street Food, with wife-and-husband duo Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint selling pork belly & jicama sandwiches from a sub-leased taco cart, and then sharing a kitchen with Lung Shan Restaurant two days a week. Now under the name Mission Chinese Food, and with the long-time partnership of chef/co-owner/mastermind Danny Bowien, the legend is complete thanks to an ever-popular New York location that boasts Angela Dimayuga as executive chef.

Dimayuga is fittingly a California native who’s called New York home for nearly a decade now, moving here after college and starting at the very bottom as a line cook at Vinegar Hill House. Today, she’s been interviewed by Into The Gloss about her beauty routine and Grub Street for a detailed look into a day in the life as a chef, the latter of which involves her cooking food for the cast of Hamilton with impressive frequency.

Colleen Etchemendy

Sarah Nelson

Beauty & Essex (address and info) and The Stanton Social (address and info)
Lower East Side
Quality and consistency: it’s a culinary intersection that chef Sarah Nelson says many of her New York peers find elusive. But, as she puts it, “I’m not fucking scared!”

Nelson -- in her respective roles as chef de cuisine and executive chef at popular Lower East Side destinations Beauty & Essex and The Stanton Social -- proudly dismantles the stereotypes still attached to female chefs. To start woth, she says, there’s no difference between a tough man and a tough woman in the kitchen. “I never accept no as an answer,” she says, “and I will never back down.” That attitude encompasses her efforts to perpetually challenge herself, the end goal always being great food. She sets expectations high for her staff at both restaurants, as well. She’s one of the brains behind the menus (think beer-battered lobster tacos, octopus cassoulet, and brunch offerings that include mini lamb gyros). Not that we needed any further proof of her coolness, but when asked to share a fun fact about herself, she simply replies, “Whiskey. Just whiskey.”

Mireya Acierto/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Lucero Martinez

Pampano

Address and Info

Midtown East 

Add chef Martinez to the list of those who tried following the traditional trajectory, only to reach a point of not being able to deny a love for food any longer. She boasts a degree in graphic design and administrative experience at the Mexican Embassy, but it was in Atlanta where she found her true calling as a prep cook at Bice restaurant. She came without formal training, though, which only aggravated the struggle of working in a male-dominated kitchen, fighting for every shift and ounce of respect she received, and supplementing the little pay with a landscaping job. 

Though she still carries an aversion to the scent of freshly cut grass today, Martinez has made impressive strides -- from working her way up to pastry chef at Bice, to opening Atlanta’s Zocalo (where she still carries the working titles of executive chef and partner), to most recently being recruited by chef Richard Sandoval to take on the role of executive chef at New York’s Pampano. In her latest positions, she’s putting her own delicious twist on dishes like risotto with a Mexican corn truffle and manchego, chipotle-miso black cod, and shrimp chicharrónes.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Tiffany Minter

The Cecil

Address and Info

Harlem

Make no mistake: food can be really, really sexy. That’s the mission of chef Tiffany Minter, who, in her recent promotion to chef de cuisine at Afro-Asian-American restaurant The Cecil, is working to serve up a menu that’s soulful, sensual, and street-inspired -- from braised goat dumplings, to okra fries, to a pick-your-own-toppings-style wok bar.

With an equal appreciation for both street food and plant-based cuisine, chef Minter plays with a broad range of flavors in what she cooks. Her education spans from the Scandinavian technique she learned from Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit, to the farm-to-table style with which she became enamored while working under April Bloomfield at The Spotted Pig. As a black female chef, she’s especially proud to be breaking boundaries in a leadership role inside one of the city’s most established kitchens. 

Jason Rothenberg

Ann Redding 

Uncle Boons (address and info) and Mr. Donahue’s (address and info)
Nolita
“Heavenly Pig Ears” may sound like something out of a fairy tale, but it’s characteristic of the creative, delicious and -- at times -- surprisingly light and refreshing dishes conceptualized by co-chefs/owners Ann Redding and Matt Danzer at Uncle Boons. With an impressive cocktail menu that is rivaled only by an extensive offering of small plates, the Nolita favorite fits into what some might describe as a Thai gastropub, with a menu full of flavors that are at once vigorously green and indulgent.

It makes sense once a little light is shed on the chef/owner duo (who are also married). Danzer was raised in Long Island, while Redding was born in Thailand and spent her childhood there, as well as the Philippines and parts of the US. But the restaurant’s influence is no doubt spearheaded by Redding; it’s named for her uncle (Boon, of course), who served as an informal family tour guide of never-repetitive edible and drinkable field trips throughout Thailand. Now, the family is growing: the pair’s tiny, non-reservation-taking Mr. Donahue’s opened on Mott Street in February, offering a menu of upscale takes on such classics as rotisserie chicken, roast beef, and chicken fried pork cheeks.

Astrid Stawiarz/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Caroline Schiff

Maysville (address and info) and Kenton’s (address and info)
Flatiron and New Orleans
When New York native Caroline Schiff was tasked with compiling a bourbon-centric menu, the result was, essentially, a palatable destruction of the notion that bourbon is a “man’s drink,” proving that it’s something everyone can enjoy in plates and glasses alike. As the head pastry chef at both New York’s Maysville and Kenton's in New Orleans, Schiff has created delicious desserts and savory breads that align perfectly with their bourbon pairings. 

The only thing that rivals chef Schiff’s love for carbs is her love of running. Regularly competing in national marathons makes for great fodder on her Instagram account, with maps of her running routes appearing right next to photos of multi-layer cakes. 

Astrid Stawiarz/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Sarah Simmons

Birds & Bubbles (address and info), City Grit (address and info), and Rise (address and info)
Lower East Side, Nolita, and South Carolina 
City Grit was a game-changer, not only for female chefs, but for the NYC dining culture at large -- a combination restaurant group/culinary school/up-and-coming chef and restaurant blog, with chef Sarah Simmons as its chief executive officer. Simmons was named one of Food & Wine’s 2014 Top 50 Chefs in New York, and also runs the full-service venue Birds & Bubbles (which is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant solely focused on fried chicken and Champagne), as well as Rise Gourmet Goods and Bakeshop in Columbia, SC. And since she’s also speaking on SXSW panels and working on her own product lines as part of the Williams-Sonoma Chefs' Collective, it’s clear that chef Simmons is keeping those business acumen muscles flexed.

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Amanda Zantal-Wiener is a writer, editor, and small business owner whose love for food is only slightly trumped by a love for oxygen. Follow this Greek Jew on Instagram and Twitter

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1. Cosme 35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010 (Flatiron)

The brains behind the traditional yet unique and modern Mexican restaurant, Cosme, is superstar chef Enrique Olvera, who is aiming to change the way Americans eat and think about Mexican food. What makes the menu so contemporary is the absence of familiar Mexican cuisine markers. While you won't find enchiladas on the menu anytime soon, the core flavors are Mexican, and many of the ingredients are sourced locally.

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2. The Spotted Pig 314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014-2369 (West Village)

April Bloomfield's West Village restaurant and bar is a fan-favorite among celebrities, lifetime New Yorkers, and tourists, known for its bucket list-worthy chargrilled roquefort burger with shoestring fries. The British-meets-Italian gastropub famously doesn't take reservations, but it's also open until 2am nightly, so if you can't get a table during peak dinner hours, then a late-night seat at the bar is your best bet -- and probably the most quintessential New York experience.

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3. The Breslin Bar & Dining Room 16 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001 (Nomad)

April Bloomfield's all-day restaurant inside the Ace Hotel is an upscale British gastropub in the heart of NoMad. The Michelin-starred spot serves an indulgent meat-centric menu whose greatest hits include a lamb burger with thrice-cooked fries and fried sweetbreads. Aside from the à la carte menu, prix-fixe group dinners with your choice of meat (roasted duck, fried chicken, whole-roasted suckling pig) are available for advance booking. And if you have a sweet tooth, make sure to get something from the pudding menu.

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4. John Dory Oyster Bar 1196 Broadway, New York , NY 10001 (Nomad)

The second of April Bloomfield's restaurants in the Ace Hotel, John Dory Oyster Bar has all the pre-requisites of a great raw bar: shellfish platters, oysters from the East and West coasts, crudo, chilled crab, and cold-poached lobster. What really sets it apart from the rest of New York's oyster bars, though, is the decor. The dining room looks like a high-end seafood shack with fish wall art, cone shell door knobs, and a center shucking station.

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5. Salvation Burger 230 E 51st St, New York, NY 10022 (Midtown)

Superstar chef April Bloomfield is giving fast-food a run for its money with her fast-casual burger restaurant at Midtown's Pod 51 hotel. The menu revolves around the eponymous burger, made from beef that's butchered and ground in-house then formed into a patty and cooked on a wood-fired grill. The rest of the small-but-mighty menu includes hot dogs, veggie burgers, and fish sandwiches, plus crazy indulgent pies and boozy milkshakes for dessert. Salvation Burger might be casual, but it's definitely high-end.

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6. Salvation Taco 145 E 39th St, New York, NY 10016 (Murray Hill)

April Bloomfield's all-day restaurant in Midtown is doling out high-end Mexican street food plates in an insanely decorated space. The menu features plenty of traditional and inventive tacos, available three-per-order or as a more formal dinner, and shareable fusion plates like sticky rice tamale and meatballs with manchego cheese. The Murray Hill restaurant is a hit during the after-work hours, especially when the rooftop is open.

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7. Tosca Cafe 242 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

Tosca Cafe feels more like an under-the-radar mom-and-pop restaurant than a Michelin-starred Italian destination. Open until 2am, it's a prime spot for late-night dining, especially since reservations are necessary and hard to come by during peak dinner hours. The menu features unforgettable dishes like pork shoulder steak, grilled polenta with roasted mushrooms, and seafood stew.

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8. Dirt Candy 86 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Amanda Cohen was one of the first downtown chefs to prove that vegetarian food can be cool. Dirt Candy, her five-time Michelin star restaurant on the Lower East Side, serves an outstanding vegetable-only menu that will make you ditch any and all of your carnivorous cravings. Expect some of the most creative plant-based dishes you'll ever taste, like Korean fried broccoli, jalapeño hush puppies, and Brussels sprouts tacos. Know before you go: there's no tipping, but menu prices are inflated about 20%.

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9. Baoburg 614 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

This tiny Greenpoint restaurant serves truly eclectic Asian fusion food whose diverse flavors might have something to do with chef/owner Suchanan Aksornnan's pedigree. Born in Thailand, chef Aksornnan learned to cook when she moved to New York as a teenager (her mother owns Chai Thai kitchen and her father owns Ramen Yebisu), then studied at the French Culinary Institute before putting in time at Bar Boulud and Mercer Kitchen. Baoburg puts it all together -- the menu features Thai curries, dumplings, ramen, and dim sum with a European touch.

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10. Mission Chinese Food 171 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

The New York outpost of Danny Bowien's buzzy Chinese restaurant had a shaky start in the city -- after opening on Orchard Street in 2012, the restaurant closed down due to landlord issues and relocated to East Broadway. The Lower East Side spot is a destination for trendy and original Chinese food, far different from what you'll find at the family-owned banquet halls in Chinatown. Some dishes are spicy Szechuan, but for the most part, the menu draws from all over China and just about everywhere else (there's pizza on the menu). Make sure you get the fried rice, it's unbelievable.

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11. Beauty & Essex 146 Essex St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Beauty & Essex is a multi-level clubby restaurant and bar from the folks behind LES brunch behemoth Stanton Social Club. The pawn shop facade opens into a glam dining room filled with a high-rolling clientele. The menu features trendy food like steak tartare, amped up avocado toast, and lobster tacos.

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12. The Stanton Social 99 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

The Stanton Social is less of a restaurant and more of a culinary experience. The self-proclaimed sexiest restaurant in the Lower East Side boasts a multi-ethnic menu designed to help diners experience different cultures and flavors throughout their meal. There can be up to at least 40 different entrees on the menu at a time, so deciding which food journey to explore will be tough, but ultimately rewarding.

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13. Pampano 209 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

Richard Sandoval's Mexican restaurant in Midtown serves upscale taqueria food and tequila-centric drinks. Inspired by coastal cuisine, the menu is heavy on seafood -- expect ceviches, lobster tacos, and grilled fish entrees. The bar is stacked with a heck of a lot of tequila and mezcal, and if you prefer something lighter, the hefty wine selection is sourced from all over the world.

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14. The Cecil 210 West 118th St, New York, NY 10026 (Harlem)

The Cecil, the supper club sister to jazz joint Minton's in Harlem, fuses the flavors of Asia, Africa and North America. Inspired by Executive Chef Joseph "JJ" Johnson's travels, the menu is always changing, but past hits include now-famous oxtail dumplings, hearty gumbo, and a jumbo shrimp burger snazzed with kimchi and scallions. Don't expect ordinary French fries here: Cecil's take encapsulates the spot's eye for innovations, doing away with potato in favor of battered okra that comes out crispy and laced with salt.

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15. Uncle Boons 7 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

Unlike the countless generic pad Thai and pineapple fried rice spots around town, this Michelin-starred basement bungalow serves authentic Thai cuisine broken up into drinking snacks, small plates, large plates, and dishes off the charcoal grill. The Khao Soi Kaa Kai is an absolute must -- a steaming bowlful of yellow curry-soaked noodles and an almost impossibly tender chicken drumstick. Frozen beer slushies pair well with spicier dishes, and the small, always-packed space lends itself to trading a caramelized riblet for a bite of garlic-coated pea shoots with a nearby neighbor.

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16. Mr. Donahue’s 203 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

This Soho spot from the Uncle Boons team serves classic American food inspired by the meat-and-three concept of the South. The menu is split into three sections: main proteins (rotisserie chicken, roast beef, chicken fried pork cheeks), sides (shrimp cocktail, ravioli, onion strings), and sauces (classic gravy, lobster sauce, mushroom marsala). The tiny restaurant looks like a turn-of-the-century diner with tiled floors and a wooden bar, but seating is tight -- there's only one table and a few bar seats.

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17. Maysville 17 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010 (Flatiron)

Named after a small Kentucky town, this Flatiron bar and restaurant is built around the Southern enjoyment of a good, stiff drink. The diverse and extensive whiskey collection contains more than 150 American options and around 80 from elsewhere, all displayed on a backlit bar. Packed for both Sunday brunch and weeknight cocktail hours, Maysville also offers an intelligent take on Southern food with dishes like crispy squares of grits topped with country ham or smoked pork sausage served over -- what else? -- grits.

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18. Kenton's 5757 Magazine St. Suite A, New Orleans, LA

The clean elegance of this Magazine Street restaurant and bar might seem overly formal at first glance, but once you settle in with a whiskey cocktail and a plate of oysters, you'll feel right at home. Named after the founder of Maysville, Kentucky (an early bourbon hub), the restaurant focuses on its vast collection of American whiskey, whose 150-plus bottles include some from its own label. As for food, expect raw and fried oysters, crispy grits, and smoked and roasted meats.

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19. Birds & Bubbles 100B Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Sarah Simmons' upscale restaurant on the Lower East Side is dedicated to two things: Southern food and champagne. The menu changes with the seasons but you can always expect the signature buttermilk fried chicken, available by the half or full bird, and an extensive selection of champagne and sparkling wines. The subterranean space opens onto a large outdoor patio, and though it's popular for brunch and dinner, Birds & Bubbles serves a late-night menu with the aforementioned fried chicken and biscuit sandwiches that's a huge draw on Friday and Saturday nights.

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20. City Grit 38 Prince St, New York, NY 10012 (Nolita)

Sarah Simmons' City Grit is a special kind of restaurant. What started as a private dinner club in Nolita is now more of a culinary brand that still hosts signature dinners in New York, but also brings its show on the road, throwing pop-up dinners and cooking classes across the country.

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21. Rise Gourmet Good and Bake Shop 926 Harden St, Columbia, SC 29205

Sarah Simmons, of Birds & Bubbles and City Grit in New York, is behind this Columbia, SC bake shop. In addition to its all-day selection of breads, biscuit sandwiches, and savory lunch options, Rise is known for its speciality spreads, like truffle mushroom, chicken liver mousse, and boiled peanut hummus. Sounds strange but tastes great.

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