Emerging Female Chefs to Follow this Year

More and more women are making a name for themselves in the notoriously male-dominated world of the professional kitchen. But despite the increase in the number of women entering the culinary world at large, relatively few receive recognition at the highest levels.

According to the 2016 Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR) conference, women make up less than seven percent of executive chef positions at leading culinary organizations, yet more than half of culinary school graduates are women.

That’s just one reason why (at every chance we get!) Special K champions the emerging female chefs who are serving up change to the international food scene. Here are just a few unstoppable women on our radar. They have no affiliation with Special K; we’re just eager to shed light on their remarkable efforts:

Danni Barry

Restaurant: Clenaghans

Location: Aghalee, Northern Ireland

Bio: Danni Barry, from Northern Ireland’s Mourne country, began her career in 2003 in the then Michelin-starred Deanes in Belfast. After taking some time to travel, she headed to England, working in Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, Cumbria, and Cartmel’s Rogan & Co, until Michael Deane persuaded her to return to Belfast to head up Deanes EIPIC. She recently reopened Clenaghans restaurant in the village of Aghalee, County Antrim, with Stevie and Cristina Higginson. Barry is known for her bold flavors and passion for fresh, seasonal produce. 

Why worth watching: She earned a Michelin star for EIPIC within 18 months of taking charge.

Jinhee Lee

Restaurant: Foreign Concept

Location: Calgary, Canada

Bio: Originally from South Korea, Lee moved to Calgary, planning on a corporate career. She didn’t tell her parents she’d switched to a culinary arts program until she’d graduated and worked her way up to be executive chef at Raw Bar in the Hotel Arts. Now heading the kitchen at the Pan-Asian restaurant Foreign Concept, she has acquired a large fan base due to her elegant and creative approach to food, inspired by her heritage.

Why worth watching: In 2016 she won the gold award in the Canadian culinary competition Gold Medal Plates Calgary, in 2013 she won Critic’s Choice at Calgary Cooks, and in 2012 she took first place at the Calgary Stampede Dueling Chefs competition.

Lauren Eldridge

Restaurants: Stokehouse (St Kilda and Q), Pontoon and Fatto Bar & Cantina.

Location: Australia 

Bio: As a child Eldridge designed and cooked dinner parties at home with her family. Now she’s one of Australia’s most exciting young chefs. She’s worked at Osteria Francescana in Italy, as well as France’s Le Cinq and Guy Savoy. The multi award-winning patissier was recently appointed group head pastry chef of Australia’s Van Haandel Group.

She uses sugar more like salt as a flavor enhancer, rather than as an ingredient. Her honeycomb and cultured cream signature dessert made the Gourmet Traveller Hot 100 list in 2015.

Why worth watching:  In 2015, Eldridge won the Josephine Pignolet Award (SMH Young Chef of the Year). She was the first pastry chef to win it, as well as the first woman winner in a decade. She also won the 2016 Gault & Millau Potentialist of the Year and participated in the 2016 Young Chefs Lunch for Good Food Month in Sydney.