More women than ever awarded hats in the Good Food Guide 2019
by Jill Dupleix (9 Oct, 2018)
More female chefs have earned hats in the 2019 Good Food Guide than in any previous edition. Hallelujah! Time to crack a beer or raise a glass of sweet sherry, whatever's your thing.
These powerhouses are running their own businesses, heading key restaurants within major groups, or flying under the radar as head chefs at top restaurants – and they all deserve our recognition.
Because, frankly, the more female chefs, the better. They bring a whole new set of values to the restaurant kitchen (and not before time), they cook like bad-asses, and they have a lot to say that's worth listening to. Here are just 10 of them. And here's to many more.
Analiese Gregory, Franklin, Tasmania
"The generation of female chefs that has been cooking and learning for the last 10 or so years in Australian kitchens is now rising through the ranks into head chef roles and staying there."
What does success mean to you? It used to mean Michelin stars and critical acclaim. Now it means being creatively fulfilled, cooking food I believe in and that others enjoy, and trying to tread the tightrope of feeling that you're not negatively affecting the environment or the lives of your staff just by dint of running a restaurant.
Describe your approach to cooking Low-tech and natural. Hunt down the absolute best produce you can find, cook it over fire, then pair it with things I'd like to eat. That's essentially it.
Dish Tasmanian octopus, grilled in the scotch oven with a pepperberry glaze, then carved and served with smoked macadamia nuts, currants pickled in kombucha, local olive oil, and a bread sauce made from our leftover sourdough.
Personal mantra or motto When I was young and working in Europe I often used "failure is not an option". These days, I try to have a genuine moment every day where I appreciate where I am and what I'm doing.
Ali Currey-Voumard, the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, Tasmania
"A further push for equality, and treating each other more humanely, has resulted in kitchens being more balanced in terms of gender. Now what we need to push for is a time when it's so normal for a woman to be running a kitchen that we don't even notice it."
Describe your approach to cooking I really love classic dishes, and the daggier the better. We are very much dictated by our farmers, so we're getting good at subbing in local ingredients for their traditional counterparts.
What does success mean to you? For me, success has a sort of final sound to it – you've completed a task, and it's time to move on to the next. I'm not quite there yet, but I imagine the feeling to be immense pride, satisfaction and fulfilment.
Dish This week, it's an "almost vitello tonnato" but instead of tuna, we use what we have – a heap of cured and smoked gurnard, dried oysters and fried mussels.
Personal mantra or motto Be kind to one another. And learn the merits of laughing while you work.
Emma McCaskill, The Pot by Emma McCaskill, South Australia
"We're in a time that is exciting for both women and men. Those who work the hardest, put the time in, and have the ideas, succeed."
What does success mean to you? Success to me is working towards my goals. As long as I am doing the best I can do, and I keep moving in the right direction, I feel successful and happy.
Describe your approach to cooking I just want people to come in and enjoy delicious food. I'm always asking "how can we make this ingredient taste delicious?". Recently, I have learnt so much about my own style and in particular my own heritage (British-Indian), which is making our dishes so much more colourful.
Dish My grandma's paratha recipe with dhal butter; kingfish sashimi with Indian pickle and fried curry leaves.
Personal mantra or motto Whatever happens, it will always work out.
This will be her last week at The Pot
Alla Wolf-Tasker, Lake House, Victoria
"Numbers of female chefs have increased as their visibility has grown. There's more profiling and media as female chefs are given some oxygen. Women are also staying in the industry longer, probably due to better working conditions."
What does success mean to you? It means being acknowledged as being good at what I do. My migrant parent upbringing instilled the desire in me to be the best I could possibly be, at whatever I did.
How do you describe your approach to cooking? Provenance, relevance and seasonality. They are familiar words nowadays but when we opened in 1984, it was a mark of ostentatious, affluent gastronomy to have luxury ingredients flown across the world.
Dish Right now, I'm dreaming of a dish that celebrates local baby lamb with crisp sweetbreads, sheep sorrel, tips of stinging nettle and wild morels.
Personal mantra or motto Everything is a lesson – right up to the last day.
Thi Le, Anchovy, Victoria
"Female chefs have always been there, but may not have been given the air time. The media focus within the restaurant industry in the past three to five years has identified a gender bias in kitchen leadership roles, and perhaps done so in light of an enlightened society's fight for gender equality."
What does success mean to you? As a chef, success is having a platform to showcase the food I want to present without any compromise, in an environment where I have the opportunity to motivate, encourage and teach. As a restaurateur, success is the cohesion and sustainability of the business as a whole. Personal success is about work-life balance and having time for myself.
How do you describe your approach to cooking? Taking an overlooked or unglamorous protein, jazzing it up with herbs and spices, and ensuring each mouthful speaks of balance and flavour, influenced by both heritage and my education as a chef.
Dish Vietnamese blood pudding with pickled ginger and herbs.
Personal mantra or motto Life is manageable if we spend a bit of time every day keeping it under control. I tell my chefs they can keep their knives sharp if they spend three to five minutes sharpening them each night after service, instead of spending that time on social media.
Tama Carey, Lankan Filling Station, NSW
"Why haven't there been more women recognised in previous years, and why is it still noticeable when it does happen? The recognition of women in power is still definitely skewed, not just in our industry but world-wide."
What does success mean to you? Being happy and comfortable in what you do, whether professionally or personally.
How do you describe your approach to cooking? I approach cooking with fun and excitement. The food at Lankan Filling Station comes out hot, spicy and fast. It looks simple, but hides a complex blend of spices and flavours.
Dish Sri Lankan hoppers with an array of curries and sambals.
Personal mantra or motto Have fun, be kind and do your best to not f--- it up. .
Zoe Birch, Greasy Zoe's, Victoria
"Women have an eye for detail. We are strong, resilient caring and patient, and that is portrayed in our food, which is earthy, natural, instinctive, simple and smart. The conversation around womens' rights, the gender wage gap, #MeToo and equality in the workplace seems to be ubiquitous, allowing us to shine, finally."
What does success mean to you? For me it is all about work-life balance, and the feeling of being truly fulfilled by what you do. Sometimes you just need to take a risk and invest in yourself.
How do you describe your approach to cooking? Sustainability and the wellbeing of the environment are driving forces. We keep things simple and fresh. We make everything in house and support small, local, organic businesses in our area. Instead of telling the farmers and producers what we want to cook, they tell us.
Dish Fermented roadside quince, whipped duck egg custard and burnt butter.
Personal mantra or motto Putting produce first results in minimal intervention and a more sustainable environment.
Kylie Kwong, Billy Kwong, NSW
"Over the past three years, we have been excited and inspired by the positive stories of international female chefs, with their mantras of seasonality, innovation, creativity, diversity, fairness and equality. Here at home, we have so many amazing talents and positive role models that young women can now aspire to. They make this profession look highly attractive as a lifestyle and a way of thinking."
What does success mean to you? Being acknowledged, respected and valued by one's local and global community for one's personal values and passions.
How do you describe your approach to cooking? I love to integrate Australian native foods into my Cantonese-style fare to create a truly meaningful and authentic version of Australian-Chinese cuisine.
Dish Stir-fried Saskia Beer chicken with BK Wayside Chapel Rooftop Honey and Outback Pride's native Geraldton Wax – it's my version of lemon chicken.
Personal mantra or motto The quality of our daily life directly reflects the quality of our mind. It's very easy to forget to look after the "engine room" when we are frantically busy running our restaurants.
Amy Hamilton, Liberte, Western Australia
"I'm always trying to dodge the woman chef topic as much as possible because I would just like to be known as a good chef, regardless of the fact that I am male or female."
What does success mean to you? Doing something you truly believe in and having people recognise and support you in that endeavour.
Describe your approach to cooking To create great tasting food that is shaped by the produce of the Great Southern region of WA. I like to challenge people's perception on what tastes good too.
Dish Garlic and tamarind crab noodles. We grate oodles of parmesan over the top, which is a no-no for seafood purists but it wouldn't taste the same without it. You have to leave your preconceptions at the door sometimes.
Personal mantra or motto You have to believe in yourself before anyone else does. And believe in the people around you. I would be nothing without the support and strength of my staff (and my mother, I have an amazingly supportive mum! Love you mum!)
Danielle Alvarez, Fred's, NSW
"I would like to think that our industry is moving towards more inclusion and promotion of women at higher levels. Kitchens are becoming fairer and more civil, which hopefully means women are staying in those roles longer. Whether or not you have children is no longer a deciding factor."
What does success mean to you? Happiness. What makes me happy is a busy restaurant, a delicious plate of food that I know has been prepared with care and attention to detail, and a team that shares a common vision. The product is never more important than the people who make it.
How do you describe your approach to cooking? It's very much based on the seasons and what our farms are sending us. But the biggest consideration is – is it delicious?
Dish Leg of lamb "a la ficelle", cooked over the fireplace and served with farro, cime de rapa and anchovy salsa verde.
Personal mantra or motto "It starts and ends with me." If I want to work in a positive environment, I have to live that. If I want the people around me to be happy, I need to be happy. If I expect resilience, then I must be resilient. If there is something bothering me, I must be the one to stop it. Another equally important motto to me is "do no harm, but take no shit". No explanation needed, I think.
Two-hatted Female Chefs of 2019
Danielle Alvarez, executive chef, Fred's, NSW
Sarah Knights, head chef, Automata, NSW
Alanna Sapwell, head chef, Saint Peter, NSW
Ali Currey-Voumard, head chef, the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, Tas
Eileen Horsnell, head chef, Lume, Vic
Analiese Gregory, executive chef, Franklin Tas
Alla Wolf-Tasker, chef/owner, Lake House, Vic
One-hatted Female Chefs of 2019
Kylie Kwong, chef/owner, Billy Kwong, NSW
Natalia Gaspari, chef/owner, Ble, NSW
O Tama Carey, chef/owner, Lankan Filling Station, NSW
Jemma Whiteman, head chef, Lankan Filling Station, NSW
Simonn Hawke, chef/owner, Lolli Redini, NSW
Jacqui Challinor, executive chef, Nomad, NSW
Eun Hee An, chef/owner, Paper Bird, NSW
Isabelle Caulfield, head chef, Poly, NSW
Lisa Margan, owner/chef, Margan, NSW
Kim Currie, owner/chef, Zin House, NSW
Imogen Czulowski, head chef, Africola, SA
Mimi Rivers, head chef, Osteria Oggi, SA
Lindsay Durr, executive chef, d'Arenberg Cube Restaurant, SA
Tuoi Do, chef/owner, FermentAsian, SA
Emma McCaskill, executive chef, The Pot by Emma McCaskill, SA
Federica Andrisani, chef/owner, Fico, Tas
Thi Le, chef/owner, Anchovy, Vic
Emma D'Alessandro, executive chef, Donovans, Vic
Zoe Birch, chef/owner, Greasy Zoe's, Vic
Pam Talimanidis, owner/chef, Ipsos, Vic
Sonia Anthony, Masons of Bendigo, owner/chef, Vic
Natasha Burnett, head chef, Marion, Vic
Jo Barrett, head chef, Oakridge Restaurant, Vic
Skye Faithfull, Billie H, head chef, WA
Amy Hamilton, chef/owner, Liberte, WA
The Good Food Guide's second annual national edition, with hats awarded across Australia, was launched on October 8 with our presenting partners Vittoria Coffee and Citi. The Good Food Guide 2019 is on sale in newsagencies, bookstores and via thestore.com.au/gfg19 (delivery included), RRP $29.99.