Traditionally, women have always done the cooking at home but unfortunately, that has been seen as domestic and not a 'real' job. Several studies globally, show that men make up for 80 to 90 per cent of chefs, while women hold only 10 per cent of executive chef positions, earning nearly 22 per cent less as against their male counterparts. Whether they are the unsung heroes of domestic kitchens or they run professional ones—women have made significant contributions towards the growth of food culture the world over. In the last three decades, more women have become employed and self-employed in the cooking sector than ever before.
So what does it take to succeed in this male-dominated landscape? Imagination, talent, and sheer determination. These game-changers show us how it’s done.
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Garima Arora is the first and only female Indian chef to earn a Michelin star for her restaurant – Gaa in Bangkok, Thailand. Her love for India pushes her to change the narrative of the Indian food culture and promote it globally. Voted Asia's Best Female Chef 2019, she began her career as a journalist before she found her calling in the culinary world. She graduated from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, and then gained her experience working alongside world-class chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Rene Redzepi, and Gaggan Anand.
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Ritu Dalmia is the chef and co-founder of a popular Italian Restaurant, Diva in New Delhi. Hailing from Kolkata, Dalimia was introduced to Italian food during one of her trips to Italy in her teenage years. With no formal training in food, at an early age of 22, she opened her first restaurant MezzaLuna, serving both Indian and Italian delicacies. Additionally, she even hosted her own shows like, Italian Khana, and Travelling Diva. In 2011, she was awarded the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity by the government of Italy.
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Though it was her triumphant turn on Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word that saw Bhogal beat 9,000 women to the title of ‘Britain’s next Fanny Cradock’, she’ll tell you her culinary career began at her mother’s side as a child. Born into a large extended family in Kenya, Bhogal found herself surrounded by foodies, and learnt to cook at a relatively young age. It’s her implicit understanding of marrying flavour and cultures that has won her an army of fans, including Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigella Lawson, who declared her Scrag End Pie the best shepherd’s pie in London. Stage shows, pop-ups, and private catering gigs followed, and eventually, she opened her own restaurant, Jikoni.
Romy Gill MBE
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Romy Gill is an Indian chef based in England. Born and brought up in West Bengal, this self-taught chef opened her first restaurant at the age of 41. She is one of the very few Indian chefs to be appointed as an MBE in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list in 2016. Author of ZAIKA - Vegan Recipes from India, Gill was invited to speak at The MAD Symposium 2018 and, in February 2020, was invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard Foundation in New York. Presently, she is writing her next book - On The Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Leh, slated for a Spring 2022 release.
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Since opening in mid-2017, Asma Khan’s kitchen at Darjeeling Express has been talked about almost non-stop. And that’s because it’s made up of an all-female team who were housewives from South Asia, none of whom have professional cooking training, nor Khan herself. The restaurant serves up high-quality authentic dishes from her Bengali heritage, the menu comprising family recipes passed down through the generations. In 2012, she started her own food business, which has found its permanent home in Carnaby Street’s food court, Kingly Court, and even boasts a meat-free Monday menu, which started last month. A percentage of all proceeds from the restaurant supports a charity called “Second Daughters”, which is close to Khan’s heart. It helps support the girls overlooked by their families in favour of their brothers, largely traditional in India, especially the second daughter, and helps provide them with opportunities.
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The award-winning food expert has been producing truly authentic North Indian Punjabi cuisine with a Kenyan twist. She has written a cookbook, is a familiar face on television courtesy her show Dip in Kitchen, runs a cookery school, has been praised by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron–and she’s all of 35! Co-owner of the well-known Brilliant Restaurant in Southall, London, Anand’s love affair with cooking started at a young age. Known for her signature recipes and love for Indian cuisine, this chef has won a National award from The British Nutrition Foundation for The Best Food Technology project in UK. She is also focussed on low-fat Indian cooking catered to people who suffer from heart disease.