From Samin Nosrat to The Lazy Makoti, women around the world are taking to careers in food and drinks.
#21DaysofTrends: Women In Food
There’s no denying the fact that women have always been in charge of domestic kitchens. After all, the saying most heard around the world to describe a great home-style dish is ‘as good as my mom made it’. But as with many other areas of work outside of the house, men have tended to dominate the professional world of food.
The ranks of celebrity chefs over the last century have tended to be predominantly male, for example, with women barely getting a look-in when it comes to high-end restaurant food in particular. Of course, there have been exceptions to this rule – Alice Waters of the immensely influential San Francisco restaurant Chez Panisse comes to mind, as do the founders of London’s River Café, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. But in general, one need only look at the S.Pellegrino-sponsored list of top 50 restaurants in the world to wonder just how cooking amazing food for a living came to be so very closely defined as a man’s job.
Happily, the past few years have seen a veritable explosion of women in food becoming renowned as professional cooks. From beloved cookbook authors such as Nigella Lawson and South Africa’s own Dorah Sithole to TV chefs such as Zola Nene and up-and-coming food entrepreneurs like Sinenhlanhla Ndlela of Yo Coco, the future for women in food looks bright. And that’s good news for everyone's taste buds.
Women in Food: Our Top 5 Examples of Women Taking Over the Kitchen
1. Samin Nosrat
Samin Nosrat is a young Iranian-American chef, author and Netflix star, and someone with a truly global profile at the top of the food chain (pun intended) right now. Salt Fat Acid Heat, the series based on her bestselling 2017 cookbook of the same name, was one of the streaming service’s most acclaimed food documentaries of 2018. If you haven’t yet watched it, do so ASAP – you’re missing out on a serious dose of inspiration from someone who’s clearly going to have a key influence on the way we eat for years to come.
2. FOOD XX
Dreamed up by the remarkable Hannerie Visser of Studio H, the inaugural FOOD XX symposium and awards took place in February 2018. The inaugural one-day event, held in Cape Town, was a huge success and featured talks from both local and international female stars in the food industry, such as baker Lily Jones as well as panel discussions of current topics in food and drinks. Find out more here.
3. Zola Nene
Having studied law for two years, Zola Nene headed to the UK on the old two-year working visa programme, and there she found her calling in food. Once back in SA, Nene enrolled at the Institute of the Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, and after graduating, worked in catering. She was soon tapped to create food on the SABC’s daily Expresso magazine show, where she worked as resident chef from late 2010 until the end of 2017. Now she has her own show, Celeb Feasts With Zola, on Mzansi Magic on DSTV, and has published two cookbooks with Penguin Random House, Simply Delicious (2016) and Simply Zola (2018). Says Nene, ‘I love bringing people joy through food; sharing my passion for food with the world and making food less intimidating for people.’ We simply consider her a national (food) treasure…
4. Cherry Bombe
Already five years old this year, Cherry Bombe is a superb biannual independent magazine devoted solely to the subject of women in food. It has featured female food legends and influencers from Ruth Reichl to Chrissy Teigen on its cover, and also runs an annual one-day conference event, Jubilee (incidentally, Samin Nosrat is one of Jubilee 2019’s speakers). If you’re interested in what’s happening with, by and for a diverse array of women in food in the US, the The Cherry Bombe 100 is a great place to start.
5. Andrea Burgener
One of our very favourite South African chefs, Andrea Burgener, has a long history in food that includes having started and owned two restaurants. The second of these, Joburg’s beloved The Leopard, is now in its second incarnation as a lunch spot and deli in 44 Stanley. She’s also the author of a cookbook, Lampedusa Pie (2013), and pens a regular food column in one of SA’s top lifestyle publications. Look out for Burgener’s brilliantly witty comment piece, penned with her business partner and husband Nick Gordon, in print in our upcoming Kitchen issue (it’s on shelf on 15 April 2019).