If you were asked to name a famous female American chef, you’d probably think of Julia Child right away. But what if you were asked to name a French one? Paradoxically, even though studies show that French women spend much more time in the kitchen than French men, most of France’s most famous chefs are men! In 2010, only 1 percent of French chefs awarded Michelin stars were women. This year the number grew to 5 percent, which means that the restaurant industry is making progress, but it still has a long way to go.
Thanks to writer, filmmaker, and gastronomist Vérane Frédiana, female chefs are becoming more visible. We recommend Frédiana’s books and her documentary that examines what the restaurant industry is like for women. You can watch the trailer for her documentary A la recherche des femmes chefs (Looking for women chefs) here. Our articles about French food are some of our favorites, and we’re really excited to share our list of the most impressive French women chefs working today. Discover some of their fantastic recipes below!
By Sophia Millman
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Amandine Chaignot didn’t start out wanting to be a chef. She went to pharmacy school, but dropped out in 1998 to take classes at École Ferrandi, France’s most prestigious ecole de cuisine. (Side note: the Cordon Bleu might be more well-known to Americans, but Ferrandi has the best reputation in France!) Chaignot was apprenticed to several famous chefs, and then worked at the Plaza Athénée before moving to the Ritz Hotel in London. Chaignot is famous within France for being a jury member on MasterChef. You can watch a clip about her on the show here!
Read a few of her recipes in English here.
If you’d like to know more about why it’s so hard for French women to succeed in the restaurant business, read this article about the incredibly inspiring Dominique Crenn, the first woman in the United States to earn three Michelin stars. Crenn left France for San Francisco in 1988, and later moved to Indonesia, where she became the country’s first female head chef. She opened the internationally-renowned Atelier Crenn in 2011, followed by the more affordable Petit Crenn. She was declared best female chef in 2016 in “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” Practice your French comprehension skills by watching this video interview with her!
Learn more about her cookbook and recipes here!
You can also watch Crenn in episode 3, volume 2 of Chef’s Table
You might have trouble pronouncing “escaoutoun,” but you should still try Hélène Darroze’s delicious signature dish! Darroze comes from the South West of France, so many of her recipes are variations on basque dishes. Darroze is from a famous family of restaurant owners. She won her first Michelin star for her restaurant Chez Darroze, located in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Darroze also runs a two-Michelin-star restaurant in the Connaught Hotel in London, and is famous for her appearances on the French version of Top Chef.
Check out some of her recipes here!
Stéphanie Le Quellec
Stéphanie Le Quellec won the French Top Chef in 2011. She opened her own restaurant, La Scène, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris in 2019. Last month, La Scene awarded two Michelin stars, a rare distinction for such a young restaurant. Le Quellec’s husband is also a chef and the couple somehow manages to find the time to raise their three children. In a recent interview, Le Quellec explained, “If there is one thing as a woman I cannot stand it is to be the token woman. I want legitimacy. If I get another star it must be because of my work. The feminist struggle is meaningful only if women are celebrated because of their work and not because of their gender.”
Check out one of her recipes here!
Anne-Sophie Pic is one of the most renowned French chefs in the world. She holds more Michelin stars than any other woman chef, and has repeatedly won “meilleure cheffe du monde.” Pic comes from a family of three-star chefs and one of her signature dishes is a tribute to her father. She also often reworks her great grandmother’s famous île flottante with pink pralines. Want to learn more about Pic? Watch this short BBC Travel documentary called “Anne-Sophie Pic: The chef who rules France.” Then try out her recipe for berlingots in the article below it!
Check out some of her other recipes here!
At 21, Julia Sedefdjian became the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France. She opened her first restaurant Baieta in 2018. “Baieta” means “kiss” in the niçois dialect Sedefdjian spoke growing up. Sedefdjian works hard to make her mediterranean dishes affordable, and she recently opened a new, less pricey restaurant called Bô, which means “kiss” in Creole. At Bô you can buy delicious and unusual dishes to go like Sedefdjian’s famous bouillabaieta, a unique twist on bouillabaisse.
Check out one of Sedefdjian’s famous fish recipes here!
Jessica Préalpato won “Best Pastry Chef in the World” in 2019 in the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” ranking. She works at the Plaza Athénée in Paris and has won three Michelin stars for her pastries there. Préalpato creates her pastries according to a concept that she calls desseralité (a portmanteau of the words dessert and naturalité). She uses fruits and other natural sweeteners, avoiding sugar and heavier elements like cream. You can watch a video of her speaking about winning “Best Pastry Chef in the World” with English subtitles here.
Unfortunately, Préalpato’s recipes haven’t been translated into English yet, but you can buy the French version of her cookbook Desseralité here!
Other French women chefs you should know:
Ghislaine Arabian – The first woman chef to join the French Top Chef’s jury in 2010. Try out her waffles recipe here!
Adeline Grattard – She has appeared on the French version of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Her restaurant Yam’Tcha is famous for its blend of French and Asian cuisine.
Fanny Rey – Elected chef of the year and awarded a Michelin star in 2017, Rey has become a big name in the French food industry. She runs a restaurant in Southern France with her partner, pastry chef Jonathan Wahid.