In an industry with a reputation for being male dominated and testosterone fueled, let’s take a moment during Women’s History Month to shine the light on women who have made a lasting impact on the food world, from restaurants to home cooks and education. Here are 5 inspiring female chefs—some you’ve surely heard of and some you may not have—whose careers helped shape today’s food industry.
The pioneer of the farm to table movement, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California in 1971 and demanded organic and locally grown food. She has become one of the most influential voices on the American food scene and inspired a generation of chefs. Her activism extends into working to influence public policy on universal access to healthy, organic foods and for school lunch reform.
The granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Edna Lewis was the first person to receive the James Beard Living Legend Award in 1995. She is a chef and author of best-selling books on traditional Southern Cuisine. Even years after her death, her books continue to be considered by many to be the definitive cookbooks on the topic. She is often cited as being the first African-American celebrity chef, and inspired a generation of African-American chefs.
A home economist and businesswomen, Marjorie Husted worked with advertiser Bruce Barton to create the fictional character, home cook Betty Crocker. Wanting to give a personalized touch to the products and recipes created at the Washburn-Crosby Company (now part of General Mills), Marjorie Husted supervised the creation of the image that became an icon for General Mills. Betty Crocker was given an all-American name, Betty and also paid homage to William Crocker, the company director.
Gertrude I. Johnson and Mary T. Wales
Gertrude I. Johnson and Mary T. Wales founded Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island as a business school for women in 1914 and eventually grew into the university that it is today. In 1973 the university announcing the opening of its College of Culinary Arts, and expanded its curriculum to include not only culinary arts, but also degrees in hospitality and food service fields. JWU now has campuses in 4 different states, and has produced notable alumni such as Tyler Florence, Emeril Lagasse & Chris Santos.
The back of house can be an intimidating world but knowing these women did it, and paved the paths for future female chefs, makes it just a tiny bit less scary. Which women in the food industry inspired you? Were they mentors, restaurateurs, or moms and grandmas?
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