To honor Women’s History Month, we are featuring six women that influenced the culinary world. From breaking glass ceilings to revitalizing the way we cook, these women paved the way for many of us working in the culinary and hospitality industries today.
Bringing French cooking into American kitchens, Julia Child changed the way we look at food. In addition to authoring Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Louisette Bertholle and Simon Beck, Julia was America’s first celebrity chef. She graced TV screens for four decades with her iconic shows like The French Chef and Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Her carefree attitude, unique sing-song voice, and bigger than life personality made Julia the quintessential culinary icon, down to earth and relatable. Her legacy lives on through her Gastronomy Master’s program at Boston University that she developed with fellow chef and dear friend Jacques Pépin. Julia has a special place in our hearts since Priya is an alumnus of the program.
Considered one of the greatest food writers of all time (if not the greatest), Mary Frances Kennedy (MFK) Fisher used her gastronomic experiences from her time in France to depict the pleasures of eating through the written word. Her literary works transformed the American mentality about food from nourishment to enjoyment. Her first book, Serve It Forth, deviated from the traditional cooking that critics believed it impossible to be written by a woman. MFK Fisher’s books have inspired some of today’s best writers including Ruth Reichl, Leo Racicot, Krissy Clark, and many more.
The philosopher behind the farm-to-table and slow food movements, Alice Waters wanted to change the status quo. Unable to find a restaurant to suit her sustainability needs, she created her own: Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. An author, chef, food advocate, and restaurant owner, she has used her voice to evoke change in the culinary world. Alice’s passion for sustainability and school lunch programs has earned her many honors including the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2015.
When it comes to Southern food, Edna Lewis is the one to thank for putting it on the culinary map. She was a champion for the cuisine and made it renowned worldwide. Edna’s philosophies revolved around elevating Southern food; she believed everything was seasonal, including chicken. Her coveted recipe for the fried bird takes three days and her cooking method is low and slow. Although Edna is revered in the gastronomy community and wrote The Taste of Country Cooking and won numerous accolades, she is relatively unknown. As Alice Waters states, “We weren’t ready for her then, now we are”.
A woman in what was deemed a man’s world, Madeline Triffon was an instrumental influence in the wine world. Her journey into oenology wasn’t sought out, but she fell in love with wine. The second woman to pass the Master Sommelier Exam (MSE), a rigorous exam of blind tastings, practical service, and theory over the course of three days with a less than 10 percent pass rating, she became part of an elite group of sommeliers in 1987. Her tenacity inspired other females to follow in her footsteps and work towards becoming Master Sommeliers. In 2016, of the 130 Master Sommeliers in the United States, more than 20 are women.
Mimi Sheraton knows a thing or two about New York City’s restaurant scene. Mimi was the first female food critic for the New York Times and visited numerous restaurants during her tenure between 1975 and 1983. Adorned with wigs, hats, and other sophisticated disguises, she remained anonymous throughout her tenure to make sure her experience was synonymous with every other guest in the restaurant. Since working for the NYT, Mimi has written articles for Time, Harpers Bazaar, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vogue. She continues to share her expertise today as a food columnist for The Daily Beast.