The Female Icons Every Food Lover Should Know
Odds are good that a handful of very special women in your life are behind your most memorable food moments: Perhaps it was the first time you tried your grandma's best-ever lasagna recipe (that has never been written down!), or memories of your mom's famous chicken noodle soup. Or maybe it's your sister's chocolate chip cookies, which were present at every family party and always gone in a flash, that you have the fondest memories of. Whatever it may be, it's clear that women have been culinary change makers in the world of cooking, eating, and dining for as long as anyone can remember.
That's why, in honor of Women’s History Month, we're paying tribute to some of the most iconic women in the culinary industry. Not only have these women—from Edna Lewis and Alice Waters to Julia Child and Joyce Chen—dedicated their lives to exploring, experimenting, and sharing new flavors with the world, but many of them have helped define an entire culture's culinary identity. They have broken glass ceilings in restaurants, pioneered movements around food justice and sustainable food-sourcing, and devoted themselves to educating fellow chefs and home cooks about different cuisines, healthy eating, and the best cooking techniques.
It's not always easy to be an innovator. Many of these women faced criticism simply for being women, for going against the status quo, or for daring to do something different with everyday ingredients. Some of them have left us a strong legacy, others continue to inspire the next generation of home cooks and professional chefs, educators and advocates, you and me.
Click through to learn about the women who've helped shape the world of eating and drinking as we know it.
Not only was this Virginia chef the doyenne of Southern cooking, she both preserved its tradition and took it to new heights (including debunking the myth that Southern food was not refined!).
The queen of Creole cuisine is known for her gumbo and for her role in civil rights. She's also fed and influenced legendary performers and politicians from Duke Ellington to President Obama.
As the "Queen of Cakes," this famed female baker doesn’t take her reign lightly (she celebrated her 102nd birthday last fall). We love her not just for teaching us to bake better, but for rooting us along the whole way.
Among many honors, this spunky, all-American cuisinier is most revered for making French cooking—and simply, great cooking—accessible to gourmets and home cooks around the globe.
Being the first woman of color to host a nationally broadcast cooking program is just one of Joyce Chen's incredible accomplishments, all of which helped to demystify the many notions about Chinese food.
This California-born food writer championed home cooking by reminding us of the power a simple meal with loved ones can truly have.
She was a scholar, author, historian, and serious influencer of how the world would come to understand foods of the African diaspora.