Top 15 Badass Women Chefs in America Slideshow

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Sonya Coté
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Sonya Coté
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Chef/Chef-Owner: East Side Show Room and Coté Catering

Home Base: Austin, Texas

Badass Because:
• She looks like a grown-up spaghetti Western-version of Shirley Temple, complete with blonde curls and dirndls, but runs her kitchen with Big Texas style, making her own croissants and charcuterie.
• She’s not just a locavore, she’s a raging local food maniac: Nothing says "from Texas" like antelope tartare, braised duck wings, and goat ribs.
• She’s a Twitter fiend, dispensing her cooking advice in 140-character snippets. Lately it’s: "If your tomato sauce is bitter, add a date! It’s what my grandma used to do." And: "When rendering pork lard add a potato. It will absorb the impurities & make your lard snow white!"

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Cotécatering.com

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Michelle Bernstein
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Michelle Bernstein
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Chef/Owner: Michy’s, Sra. Martinez

Home Base: Miami

Badass Because:
• She took down Bobby Flay on the "sweet onion challenge" of Iron Chef America.
• She puts her Jewish-Argentinean roots and love of Spain to use at her funky, Latin-inspired restaurants and isn’t afraid to mix genres when she wants.
• She’s a former ballerina but has dishes such as fettuccine carbonara with pork belly, guanciale, poached egg, and St. André cheese on her menus.

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Michael Pisarri

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Jennifer Carroll
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Jennifer Carroll
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Chef/Chef-Owner: Concrete Blonde (yet to open, but in the works), former chef de cuisine at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert

Home Base: Philadelphia

Badass Because:
• She’s a tough-talking, onetime law major whose outsize attitude is matched by a particularly delicate way with fish and seafood that caught master French chef Eric Ripert’s eye.
• She hung with the boys, often out-cooking them all, on two seasons of Top Chef.
• She didn’t just pack her knives and go when Padma told her to — she stuck up for herself and her dish.
• She left her post as Eric Ripert’s chef de cuisine last summer to open her own restaurant, Concrete Blonde. 

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Twitter/ChefJenCarroll

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Sue Zemanick
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Sue Zemanick
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Chef: Executive chef of Gautreau’s

Home Base: New Orleans

Badass Because:
• She wasn’t afraid to make friends (butting against the reality show cliché "I’m not here to make friends!") and help out other chefs, even when it cost it her time and points, on Top Chef Masters.
• Just weeks after she was promoted to executive chef at the storied New Orleans restaurant Gautreau’s in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city. But she stayed, painstakingly helped rebuild the restaurant, and reopened the kitchen in 2007.
• Because her menu’s brunch staple is the BLT with roasted garlic served on French toast.

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Gautreau's

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Traci Des Jardins
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Traci Des Jardins
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Chef/Chef-Owner: Jardinière, Mijita, Public House, and Manzanita

Home Base: San Francisco

Badass Because:
• As a college dropout she petitioned star chef Joachim Splichal to give her a chance in his kitchen; he gave her two weeks to prove herself. "It was an atmosphere of militarism, aggression, abuse, yelling," she has said. But she made it.
• She left Splichal and went to France to study at the famed Troisgros, where she was the only woman of 25 kitchen apprentices. Again, she made it.
• She goes boar-hunting in Mongolia for inspiration.

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Traci Des Jardins

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Barbara Lynch
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Barbara Lynch
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Chef/Chef-Owner: No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters; and seven other food- and drink-related businesses, including a butcher shop, wine bar, and a catering company

Home Base: Boston

Badass Because:
• She grew up as one of seven kids raised by a single mother in a South Boston housing project and found her passion in a high school home ec. class.
• She went from narrowly avoiding welfare to employing more than 200 people.
• When a sous-chef screws up, she’s been known to throw a vase (and then cook at his or her wedding).
• She’s started a philanthropic program to give back to the Boston community. 

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Justinide.com

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Cat Cora
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Cat Cora
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Chef/Chef-Owner: Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America; Executive chef, Bon Appétit; Co-creator, with the Walt Disney Corporation, of Kouzzina restaurant at Walt Disney World’s BoardWalk Resort; Co-creator, with Macy’s, of CCQ (Cat Cora’s Que) in California’s South Coast Plaza; co-host of Bravo’s new show Around the World in 80 Plates

Home Base: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Badass Because:
• In 2005 she became Food Network’s first — and to this day, only — female Iron Chef (and first in franchise history, including in Japan).
• She lives an openly gay lifestyle with her partner and their four sons in front of millions of people and doesn’t ever make a big deal out of it.
• Because she shares a shot of ouzo with her team after every episode of Iron Chef America.

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Cat Cora

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Gabrielle Hamilton
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Gabrielle Hamilton
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Chef-Owner: Prune

Home Base: New York City

Badass Because:
• She turned a 30-seat restaurant on a grungy block of Manhattan's East Village into one of the city’s hippest dining rooms.
• "I am covered in scars" is her most repeated quote (and this includes the ritualistic body modification "slash and burn" cut she bought herself for a 35th birthday present).
• She wrote a New York Times best-seller, that’s not a cookbook.
• Her food is messy, lusty, and full of attitude: shrimp in anchovy butter; thick-cut pork chops with lots of fried cabbage; and hunks of chocolate on the table offered with the check.

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© Melissa Hamilton

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April Bloomfield
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April Bloomfield
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Chef/Co-Owner: The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, The John Dory Oyster Bar

Home Base: New York City

Badass Because:
• Her original goal was to be a policewoman, but when she missed the application deadline, she went to work in a restaurant instead.
• She’s an English expat who taught scene-it-all New Yorkers how to appreciate a good bar menu.
• She's 100-times more likely to be seen cooking on the line in her restaurants than in front of a television camera... except for her recent Gossip Girl cameo.
• She’s not afraid to put pig’s ear or peanuts fried in pork fat on the menu.
• She loves pigs so much that she posed with one on her shoulders for the cover of her recently published book, A Girl and Her Pig.

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Amy Hou

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Lydia Shire
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Lydia Shire
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Chef-Owner: Scampo, Towne Stove and Spirits

Home Base: Boston

Badass Because:
• The original grande dame badass — she became the "salad girl" at one of Boston’s most venerable French restaurants, then took herself to a London cooking school, opened the Four Seasons Hotel dining room in LA (becoming the prestigious chain's first-ever female executive chef to open a luxury property), then went home again to open her own joint, the award-winning BIBA.
• In 2001 she took over Locke-Ober, a Boston institution that had refused to allow women in the main dining room for almost 100 years, and became its first female chef. (She is not currently involved with the restaurant.)
• No matter what’s trendy, her food is always daring and always "big," made with butter, cream, and offal. And her menus include "sort of burnt Maui onions" and lobster pizza.

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Eric Levin

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Stephanie Izard
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Stephanie Izard
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Chef-Owner: Girl and the Goat, Little Goat (coming soon)

Home Base: Chicago

Badass Because:
•She was the first woman to win Top Chef
•Nationally acclaimed publication Saveur chose Girl and the Goat to be the focus of the magazine's first full-scale restaurant review ever (and it’s a glowing one, at that).
•Her restaurant received a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant the year it opened.
•Despite all her acclaim and growing popularity, she keeps her head down and cooks her heart out (as well as the hearts… and other organs of many animals) every day.

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Stephanie Izard

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Anita Lo
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Anita Lo
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Chef-Owner: Annisa

Home Base: New York City

Badass Because:
•When her restaurant Annisa (which had received two stars from The New York Times) was destroyed by a fire in 2009, Lo re-opened the restaurant the following year and subsequently received another two-star review.
•She is reserved by nature, shy, and focused, but Lo’s passion comes through in her food and in her competitive spirit.
•She fought fiercely alongside a cast of her peers (mostly males) in the first season of Top Chef Masters and beat Mario Batali in "Battle Mushrooms" on Iron Chef America in 2005, becoming the first challenger to take down an Iron Chef in the series’ history.

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Anita Lo

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Christina Tosi
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Christina Tosi
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Pastry Chef-Owner: Momofuku Milk Bar

Home Base: New York City

Badass Because:
•According to David Chang in the introduction to the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, "I hired Tosi to help us organize our 'office' — a desk in a hallway; instead, she started organizing the company."
•Despite being only 30, Tosi has a culinary résumé that includes having worked in the kitchens of Bouley and WD~50 before blowing fellow cool kid Chang away with her chops at Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssäm Bar.
•Tosi’s outrageously genius flavor combinations and confident risk-taking set her apart from the pack. •She’s responsible for creating her now celebrated Crack Pie and Cornflake-Marshmallow cookies.

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Momofuku Milk Bar

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Susan Feniger
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Susan Feniger
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Chef/Co-Owner: Susan Feniger’s STREET, Border Grill, Border Grill Las Vegas, Border Grill Downtown, Border Grill Taco Truck, Border Grill Stop

Home Base: Los Angeles

Badass Because:
• She was the last woman standing in the second season of Top Chef Masters.
• She and business partner Mary Sue Milliken starred on the cooking show Two Hot Tamales long before celebrity chefs started dominating the television world.
• She has become an authority on Latin cuisine and street food, though the cuisine served at her restaurants is truly international.
• She's an exuberant personality (try to find a photo of her where she's not laughing or at least grinning broadly) with a magnificent mane of hair and lots of earrings, who once revealed that her childhood hero was legendary athlete Jim Thorpe.

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Arlene Golant Creative Group

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Elizabeth Faulkner
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Elizabeth Faulkner
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Chef-Owner: Formerly of Orson and Citizen Cake

Home Base: San Francisco

Badass Because:
In 1994 Faulkner was chosen by badass chef Traci Des Jardin to head the pastry department at Drew Nieporents Rubicon.
She gained popularity by creating avant-garde, design-driven cakes at her former bakery Citizen Cake.
Proving her chops as a savory chef, she was the runner-up to Geoffrey Zakarian in the most recent season of The Next Iron Chef.
She sports a badass bleach-blonde pixie haircut.

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Frankeny Images