By Mariza Halliday

Image: Martha Stewart

Although women who have traditionally assumed the role of cooking, the culinary industry is not a particularly positive example of a strong gender balance. In a trend that’s all too familiar, the top positions in many kitchens and food companies across the globe are occupied by men.

For decades, women have fought for equality in every aspect of their lives. And it is certainly true that this overall trend towards equality has had an impact in the professional kitchen. Over the past few decades, inspirational female chefs and restaurateurs have shown the world what we are capable of. They have worked with tenacity and perseverance to thrive and exert influence within a male dominated industry. These dynamic culinary females have applied their unique creativity and style to the art of cooking.

Dione Lucas

Dione was the first woman to ever appear in a cooking show back in 1940, making her one of the most influential food celebrities. She was also the very first woman to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Image: Dione Lucas
Julia Child

The world-famous chef attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she developed her love and talent for French cuisine. She had a wonderfully flippant and confident attitude, experimenting with food, accepting mistakes and putting passion ahead of perfection. In 1963, she won over the admiration of many aspiring chefs in her television series ‘The French Chef’. It was the first experiment with a TV “cooking show”, but more than that – she changed the way we look at women in the world of cooking.

Image: Julia Child
Martha Stewart

Brief stints as a Wall Street stockbroker and owner of a catering business gave this home chef all the skills she needed to dominate the food industry. Her aspirational brand, with a penchant for baking and home beautification offered viewers an escape from the everyday. Keen business skills led her to launch Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which controls award-winning magazines, television and radio shows, bestselling books and mass-market product lines.

Irma Rombauer, author of Joy Of Cooking

Few women have contributed as much to the food industry as Irma. When the homemaker was widowed in the early 1930s, she took half of the money left to her and self-published 3,000 copies of her book. Let’s think about that for a moment. Before everyone could publish an e-book, this woman self-published her own book. Now consider this: her husband had committed suicide the year before. In order to find new purpose in life, she spent the year after her husband’s death assembling her recipes into a book that she sold out of her apartment. Her book has since sold over 18 million copies and is the most printed cookbook to date!

Image: Irma Rombauer

Female chefs and restaurateurs have shown throughout the years that women can stand the heat and can dominate the kitchen – on their own terms.