Sous Chef team for International Women's Day

(Above: The Sous Chef team, celebrating women in food)

Are Women Visible In The Food Industry?

As a proudly female-founded business, we love to celebrate the many inspiring women who continue to shape our approach to food. Whether that's writing cookbooks, producing ingredients, or simply creating incredible food for friends and family.

We asked 2,000 of the UK's biggest food fanatics (Sous Chef customers) to name their favourite chef, food writer or food personality. We were surprised by the results...

  • Just one of the top 10 most popular food personalities is a woman - Nigella Lawson.
  • There were 342 different food personalities nominated in total. 116 of those nominated were women - that's 33%.
  • Of the 1,971 votes, 28% of total vote volume went to female food figures.

And this apparent imbalance is evident across the food industry:

So we're asking - are women represented in the food industry?

We know that many women are shaping and influencing the UK food industry every day. But are their stories being told? Why are women in food being overlooked?

We asked some of our good (female) friends to share which women inspire them in their work. And - to mark International Women's Day (March 8th 2023) - we're celebrating these stories of women inspiring women in food. 


The UK's top food personalities

*Data taken from 2,000 Sous Chef customers, in a poll dated 26th February 2023. Please credit www.souschef.co.uk whenever using or publishing this data.

1. Yotam Ottolenghi

2. Nigella Lawson

3. Rick Stein

4. Nigel Slater

5. Jamie Oliver

6. James Martin

7. Jay Rayner

8. Raymond Blanc

9. Michel Roux

10. Anthony Bourdain

The UK's top women in food

1. Nigella Lawson

2. Mary Berry

3. Angela Hartnett

4. Grace Dent

5. Diana Henry

6. Delia Smith

7. Felicity Cloake

8. Meera Sodha

9. Claudia Roden

10. Sabrina Ghayour


Women inspiring women

To mark International Women's Day 2023 on 8th March, we spoke to some of our good (female) friends across the food industry. We asked them which woman has most inspired their approach to food.

So read on to discover some of the most exciting names in food today, nominated by industry experts. Some household names, others you might not have heard of... all women.


Nicola Lando

Nicola Lando, CEO of Sous Chef

"The list of women who’ve inspired me is far too long to print! There are the food writers who I met in the early days of Sous Chef and have had the pleasure to share food with – Milli Taylor, Victoria Glass, Jenny Linford, Mimi Aye, Sabrina Ghayour. And the authors whose books transport me instantly to another place: Claudia Roden, Fuchsia Dunlop, Edna Lewis. Plus Nigella and MFK Fisher for the sheer beauty of their prose.

"Yet fewer female chefs and TV cooks leap to mind. Asma Khan, Clare Smyth, Thuy Pham are a few… the male list feels far longer.* I have a lift in my step after any event with women who work in food. I just wish there were more."

* Just 6% of the world's top restaurants are led by women


Diana HenryDiana Henry

"Jane Grigson and Claudia Roden have inspired me most. They both wrote about food in a new way. They didn’t think food writing was just recipes - although recipes are central and important - but also about culture, history, personal feelings. They’re very different writers in terms of style, but they both put food into a context. And Claudia is still going! Indefatigable curiousity!"


MiMi Aye

"I’d like to nominate May Kyi Noo, the woman behind Rice Over Everything. Based in Manchester, she’s thrown her heart and soul into her business to share her love of Burmese food throughout the whole of the UK with her Burmese chilli oils, meal kits, pop-ups and events, but she’s also used her skills, time and resources to support humanitarian efforts in Myanmar after the coup left our mutual motherland in crisis. May is also a wonderfully collaborative member of the wider ESEA community here and she has a fabulous sense of humour."


Amy Poon

Amy Poon

"Fuchsia Dunlop, of whom I am an unashamed fan girl because she communicates her love and knowledge of Chinese cuisine with such respect and genuine appreciation. She has dedicated her career to educating people about and promoting Chinese food in such an approachable way. Her recipes are well researched and easy to follow and above all, she wants to share this joy with the whole world. How fabulous is that?"


Fuchsia Dunlop

"I’d like to nominate two women! One is the late Yan-kit So, who was a brilliant cook, fiercely clever and great fun – not to mention the author of two superb cookbooks, Yan-kit’s Classic Chinese Cuisine and Classic Food of China. I was lucky enough to know her for a number of years and she was so kind and encouraging to me. Thanks to the generosity of her son, I inherited her books and some of her cooking things, which I use on a near-daily basis. The other person is a veteran chef in the Shandong culinary tradition, Wang Xinglan, who I met a few years ago in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province. She started cooking as a teenager and, through exceptional grit, talent and determination, battled her way to the top of the Chinese culinary hierarchy – an almost inconceivable achievement for someone of her generation (she’s now in her seventies). She is tough, kind and absolutely hilarious – and seems to be universally respected and adored by the other (male) chefs of Shandong."  


Thuy Pham

Thuy Pham

"Without hesitation, I would pick my high school friend Georgina Hayden. A super talented chef with an effortless ability to effectively communicate her recipes and ideas to people. However, what inspires me most is her kindness and generosity, both through her words and the thoughtful actions that follow. On top of all that she makes juggling motherhood and a career look far easier than we all know it to be! The humblest soul and a true gem of a person.”


Georgina Hayden

"My nomination is Tessa Kiros. I started working in food publishing in my early 20s, around the same time that Tessa wrote and released her 2nd cookbook Falling Cloudberries. It was the first time I'd seen Greek Cypriot food (my motherland) in a mainstream book, and so beautifully done too. It was eye opening and refreshing, as a budding writer, stylist and author, to see food that I'd always thought humble, shared in such an inspiring way. Tessa writes so beautifully and poetically, whilst being authentic and true at the same time."

Reiko Hashimoto

Reiko Hashimoto

"My nomination is Milli Taylor – Founder of Milli’s Catering. Milli is a talented chef who has a knowledge of varied cuisine. Through social media she has inspired many audience from young age to elderly. I admire her approach and cooking style which is casual and easy to follow. Milli has made to look cooking is fun and exciting and most of all, all her food is delicious!"


Milli Taylor

"The first woman I thought of when asked who I'd nominate for International Women's Day, was Dee. Denai Moore. She has this fresh approach to recipe writing that really speaks to me, her food is experimental and vibrant and there are days when I lose my cooking mojo and her creativity sparks something in me. I'd never think to put plantain in focaccia or callaloo in gözleme, I love how she clearly has fun with the Jamaican ingredients she's grown up with, sharing vegan recipes that feel both easy and a joy to cook from."

Denai Moore

"I vote for Mam Sham. They are an incredible and dynamic duo who are carving their own very unique lane in food! They host incredible events and supper clubs, creating an immersive and visual dining experience with comedy. The menus that they make are very creative and I'm always inspired by their content on Instagram. They're one of my favourite voices in the food world!"


Uyen Luu

Uyen Luu

"Ravinder Bhogal. She is an excellent food writer and chef, restauranteur!"


Rosie Birkett

Rosie Birkett

"I'd like to nominate Lizzy Douglas, my local butcher at The Black Pig in Deal. Lizzy is such a trailblazer, and a crucial part of our coastal community and local rural economy. She works so hard with incredible local farmers and the local abattoir to provide the folks of Deal, and its many seasonal visitors, with beautiful, traditionally-reared, locally-slaughtered meat and she does this affordably and creatively, making her own delicious sausages, marinades and seasonal specials featuring foraged ingredients. We are so lucky to have her."


Giovanna Ryan

Giovanna Ryan

"I nominate my nonna as my biggest food influence. There are lots of amazing women who have inspired my food and how I cook, but none so much as my nonna Giovanna, who I'm named after. She's taught me so much about cooking seasonally, cooking ingredient-lead meals, she's really frugal and she's a huge influence on how I cook and eat."


Helen Graves

Helen Graves

"I find Rebecca Spaven of Camberwell's Toad Bakery very inspiring. She's set up an incredible independent bakery with her (also very talented) business partner Oliver Costello, and she makes the very best bread out there - I cannot get enough of her baguettes! I am in awe of her skill and work ethic. It's a slog running a small indie business and it's marvellous to see it thrive when there are so many generic chains out there."


Letitia Clark

"I'd like to nominate my old cookery school companion, Olia Hercules, who has done incredible things for not only the food of Ukraine but for its people too. She is an incredible cook, writer and activist and I have enormous admiration for her."


 

Thomasina Miers

"I’d love to put forward Naomi Smart and Nicole Pisani of Chefs in Schools. They are transforming school food across the country feeding some of the country’s poorest children real food that also tastes great. It is a really important and brilliant mission."


Eleanor Ford

"I would like to nominate Dr Saliha Mahmood Ahmed who combines her work as a doctor doctor with being a hugely successful food writer, mother and campaigner. She approaches each role with drive and enthusiasm, and has thoroughly good taste!"


 


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