Top 15 Badass Women Chefs in America

A celebration of ladies who do exactly what they want, exactly when they want to

Traci Des Jardins, Sue Zemanick, Cat Cora, Susan Feniger, and Michelle Bernstein
Traci Des Jardins;Gautreau's;Cat Cora; Arlene Golant Creative Group; Michael Pisarri
Traci Des Jardins, Sue Zemanick, Cat Cora, Susan Feniger, and Michelle Bernstein

The ever-evolving world of culinary professionals in this country is not unlike the cut-throat industries of politics and finance. The rate at which women are becoming professional chefs is continuing to increase, but the superstar names in the field still tend to be overwhelmingly male. So those women who aim to make their mark in the food world need to have twice the drive, passion, and talent that their male counterparts do in order to claim success — and this collection highlights the exceptional individuals who have achieved their dream.

Click here for the Top 15 Badass Women Chefs in America Slideshow.

The focus of this story is badass chefs —the kind of women who do exactly what they want to do exactly when they want to do it without regard for how the public (or critics) may perceive them. Why is it important to single out the women chefs of the country based on their toughness? Because the kitchen is still largely a man’s world, with a culture built on harassment, extreme physical and mental endurance, and unpredictably long work days.

The chefs on this list earned their stripes in the traditional way, by working their way up the ladder from the most entry-level positions in the kitchen to the top. Many of these women worked under and alongside the most respected and successful chefs in the industry, and now many own their own restaurants (and restaurant groups, in some cases) and others have received the most prestigious awards in the industry. And the good news is that according to the Culinary Institute of America, enrollment of women in the last 25-plus years has doubled, from 21 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 2007. So the badass club is only going to grow in number.

Think we overlooked a deserving member of this list of the most badass women chefs in America? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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lili's picture

I greatly enjoyed reading this article.


Vail, CO based Chef and Owner Kelly Liken is definitely a badass both in and out of the kitchen and sits amongst the ranks of these culinary forces above.

The menu at Restaurant Kelly Liken is inspired by the Rocky Mountain region, and the products and ingredients are sourced from Colorado’s local farms.

She has been recognized in Bon Appétit as one of the nation’s leading female chefs to watch under 35, featured on Bravo’s Top Chef D.C. as one of the last female chefs left standing to make it to the final four episode; appeared on Iron Chef America; and chosen as one of Batali's picks for contemporary chefs to watch.

She also works with local schools and has developed a program what emphasizes the importance of nutrition, agriculture, and sustainability, as well as providing students with hands-on knowledge of their environment. Additionally, she is involved with Ells Angels, and at risk youth group for young female teens.

That level of dedication and hard work in her craft and in her community is tre cool!

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