by Rachel Cranshaw, The Telegraph, March 7, 2018
It's fair to say that the food and drink sector has traditionally been male-dominated, and nowhere more so than at the world's top hotels and restaurants. Figures from the Office of National Statistics in 2016 revealed that only 18.5 per cent of professional chefs in the UK are women, down from 20.5 per cent the year before.
Both here and further afield, women continue to be underrepresented, though there are many female chefs at the top of their game. To celebrate International Women's Day, we profile four of them.
Angela Hartnett - Hartnett Holder & Co, Lime Wood, New Forest
Angela Hartnett MBE won her first Michelin star in 2004 at London's The Connaught hotel, and has since received another for her Italian restaurant Murano. Along with Luke Holder she heads up Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood, creating seasonal Italian dishes locally sourced from Hampshire's New Forest.
Hartnett started her career working in local pubs in Cambridge, and before that, helped out in her grandparents' fish and chip shop. She says that while there are lots more women in the industry these days, there is still a perception that it's very male-dominated.
Her advice to a woman starting out as a chef today would be: "Decide what you want to do and work for the best. For example, if you’re interested in pizzas then work for the best pizza place. Don't be put off by hours as the industry is so super flexible. Lastly, stick with a company; so many cooks jump around too often and you only learn [your way around] an establishment if you stick through the seasons."
• Read the full review: Lime Wood, New Forest
Anne-Sophie Pic - La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square, London
Anne-Sophie Pic is one of only four women ever to be awarded three Michelin stars, for her restaurant Maison Pic in France. At the start of 2017 she crossed the channel to open La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons' new Ten Trinity Square hotel, the second for the group in London.
It wasn't until she was 23, following a stint travelling the world after attending business school, that Pic realised her "true calling" and returned to Valence in southeast France to train as a chef. She says the proudest moment of her career was regaining her restaurant's third Michelin star after it had previously been lost. "I finally felt that I had honoured my father," she explains.
Her top tips for women wanting to break into the industry are: "Believe in your dreams and follow your intuition. And most importantly, be sincere."
• Read the full review: Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square, London
Carme Ruscalleda - Moments, Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
The Mandarin Oriental Barcelona's Carme Ruscalleda has more Michelin stars than any other female chef in the world - seven in total; two for Moments at the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, three for Sant Pau Barcelona, and two for Sant Pau Tokyo, her three restaurants.
A chance opportunity kick-started her career, after a hostel with sea views and a garden became available right opposite the deli she was running with her husband Toni, in a shop she inherited from her parents, and Sant Pau Barcelona was born. Ruscalleda says of her early days as a chef: "It was not an easy position for a woman to hold. A lot of restaurants were not interested in employing women, whereas now it’s totally different."
She goes on to explain: "Thirty years ago kitchen tools were very heavy and this was often used as an excuse to discourage women from becoming chefs – they would say that we were not strong enough to handle these tools. We should focus on the hard work of a chef, not their gender. Now there are no excuses left."
• Read the full review: Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
Hélène Darroze - Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, London
When Angela Hartnett left The Connaught in 2008, she was succeeded by Hélène Darroze, who had won two Michelin stars for her self-titled restaurant in Paris. She went on to win a further two stars at the London hotel, and in 2012 entered the French Legion of Honour as a Chevalier (Knight). The character Colette in the film Ratatouille was inspired by her.
She says that though there is still a very small percentage of women in the culinary world, its big female names are at last getting their moment in the limelight. Her secret to success? Good old-fashioned hard work. "If you perservere, then noone can stop you."
• Read the full review: The Connaught, London