Despite how sexist the cliché of “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” sounds, we need to keep women in the kitchen. It’s no shocker that the top rungs of the food industry have long been dominated by men. Even Times published the article “Gods of Food” in 2013 with not a single female in their list. But the status quo is teetering with female chefs and restauranteurs arising. There have, of course, been women trailblazers at the helms of kitchens for decades but today, the few have become the many.
A woman’s place is in the kitchen if she so decides it to be. International Women’s Day 2019 (IWD 2019) is coming up on 8 March and we’re celebrating the global campaign all through the year the best way we know how. This list recognises some of the heroines who are changing the food scene by stepping up to the plate. No matter where they came from or how high they have strived, one thing unites us with them: we love food. And when food doesn’t discriminate why should we? Drop by their eateries and prepare to be impressed.
Photo Credit: Tokyo Sushi Academy Singapore
You’ll easily spot sushi chef Aeron Choo working unhurriedly behind a fully occupied counter in Kappou Japanese Sushi And Tapas Bar because she single-handedly helms it. She takes reservations, shops for supplies, cooks, and cleans. The sliver of no-frills Zen vibes there is an oasis in Fortune Centre. Aeron started as a kitchen-washer at 14 and climbed her way up to being a cook at Japanese eateries like Tanuki Raw, earning stints in sushi shops in Japan. Pumping all her savings into this joint was a daring move that’s paid off.
Photo Credit: Broad Sheet
ArChan Chan is the new Executive Chef of LeVeL 33, the world’s tallest microbrewery that has had eight successful years in business. Matching this year’s IWD theme #balanceforbetter, ArChan is part of the influx of females who are changing the dynamics of communication in the kitchen. Running one of the woman-led kitchens in Singapore, the Hong Kong-born and Australia-trained chef kindled her love for cooking from her grandma who cooked sumptuous meals for family gatherings. We can see why cooking is, to ArChan, one of the most significant expressions of affection.
Photo Credit: Black Cow
One woman rocking Singapore’s bar scene is Bannie Kang who joined the Craftsman team at Anti:Dote in 2013. What’s unique are her cocktails with medicinal properties made using Korean native ingredients. Her journey here was unexpected. After the Hotel Management graduate moved to our shores from Korea, Bannie discovered her passion for bartending while waitressing. She returned to Seoul to pursue bartending courses under renowned academies and she’s since clinched titles like Best Female Bartender, Bar Awards Singapore for two years running, and Finalist, Speed Rack 2017.
Photo Credit: Canon Singapore
Remember 77th Street? The streetwear empire began in 1988 after Elim Chew sold her hair salon that saw models and celebrities as her clients. It’s demise moved her into food, social enterprise apps, and philanthropy winning her many accolades. She now has food outlets all over the island with ‘I’m Kim Korean BBQ’, ‘Kokomama Café’, ‘GoroGoro Steamboat’, and ‘Korean Buffet’ all under her belt. This woman’s story is about how she never gives up and the thing she wants to do most is to change the world.
Photo Credit: Genevieve Lee
Genevieve Lee is a culinary student best known for being one of the finalists in Masterchef Singapore. The adrenaline rush of working in the kitchen keeps her thriving as if she were born for it. Her fish and chips may have earned her compliments from the British culinary legend but poultry dishes are right up her alley because her family sells soya sauce chicken at Lee Fun Nam Kee. Gen has been helping out at the business since young and you might spot her serving food there on weekends when she is free.
Photo Credit: Janice Wong
Chef-owner Janice Wong is famous for her artistic treats at 2am;dessert bar and 2:am lab in Holland Village, Tokyo, and Macau. With three times Pastry Chef of the Year in the World Gourmet Summit to her name, she’s more than just a sugar rush. But for those without a sweet tooth, the Singaporean dessert queen expanded into savoury foods since 2014. At the National Museum of Singapore, Janice Wong Singapore serves playful dim sum treats based on her book Dim Sum: A Flour-Forward Approach To Traditional Favourites And Contemporary Creations published in 2013.
Photo Credit: Halogen Foundation Singapore
You’d know Awfully Chocolate unless you’ve been living under a rock. With 15 stores in Singapore and franchises across Asia, founder Lyn Lee’s also founded Ninethirty as well as Everything With Fries. How this lawyer left her profession to be an entrepreneur since 1988 started with a lifelong dissatisfaction with not being able to find the ultimate chocolate cake. It was a simple resolve and her advice to her budding entrepreneurs is that if talking about it gives them goosebumps, tingles, and gets their blood pumping, they should give it a shot.
Photo Credit: Petrina Loh
It was an arduous journey becoming a private banker and at the height of her career at 29 years old, Petrina Loh quit to be a chef. At 30, she enrolled in California Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Blue and made it out as the chef-owner of MORSELS, one of Dempsey Hill’s selection of incredible finds. Despite the awards she’s won, she still frequently travels to learn from other chefs, giving her the creativity to continually refresh her menu every 6 months. The ubiquitous use of fermented and pickled ingredients are what her dishes stand out for.
Photo Credit: Coriander Leaf
Chef Samia Ahad is the woman who set up Coriander Leaf which quickly rose to be one of Singapore’s best Pan Asian restaurants. Her journey started when she traded her business suit for kitchen whites and chef’s knives in 1991 to get her culinary education in New York City before eventually working with Michelin-starred Chef Wayne Nish. She’s since created a cooking school with immensely popular cooking classes and conducts team-building programmes for corporate executives. Having published a cookbook and been on two culinary TV shows, this woman has done it all.
Chef Violet Oon is a familiar face that’s quickly become one of the most respected in Singapore’s culinary scene since she stepped into the industry in 1971 as a food journalist. Renowned food critic, author, and cooking show host, Singapore’s food ambassador has accumulated a slew of four restaurants under her belt. Within their chic colonial ambience, she unabashedly demonstrates how her culinary passion has remained with Singapore by serving Nyonya, Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisines in their grandeur.