Food News & Trends

Celebrate Women in Culinary on International Women’s Day

March 4, 2020

Whether for work or pleasure, the practice of dining out often exposes us to new flavours or taste experiences. This is especially the case for those who travel to other countries, and encountering restaurants where the cooking has made a deep impression. The fact that many of these top tables are helmed by incredibly driven and talented women is a bonus.

This year, International Women’s Day is on March 8. To celebrate the achievements of female culinary professionals, we’re acknowledging this short list of inspirational women who are well known in the culinary community but not yet household names. Although their splurge-worthy restaurants are worth travelling for, we’ve also some great alternatives at The Food District that will help satisfy those taste buds in the interim.

Garima Arora, Gaa

Mumbai-born Arora serves modern eclectic cuisine based on Indian traditions at the restaurant she co-owns in Bangkok. As the first Indian female chef to earn a Michelin star, Asia’s Best Female Chef 2019 uses fire, pickling, fermentation, and different oils – peanut, coconut, sesame – to coax flavours from foods. Those efforts and her training at renowned Noma restaurant show up as fish sauce, lychee sake or split pea miso that the kitchen preserves using seasonal indigenous Thai ingredients on Gaa’s progressive 10-plus course tasting menu.

The Food District option: See how infused oils from Kingston Olive Oil Co can add pizazz to even the humblest of dishes.

Vicky Lau, Tate Dining Room

Top Hong Kong chef Vicky Lau (Asia’s Best Female Chef 2015) is celebrated for the edible stories she creates at Michelin-lauded Tate Dining Room. The former graphic designer imparts subtle and refined touches to everything at the restaurant from a polished dining room to the intricate ultra-refined French cuisine that pay homage to her Chinese heritage. This is where you’ll experience dishes like wagyu beef tenderloin with herbal beef bouillon or a baked apple soufflé with jasmine ice cream.

The Food District option: Uncle Tetsu’s delightfully fluffy Japanese cheesecakes also employ the technique used to make airy French soufflés in another successful East-meets-West culinary mashup.

Pía León, Kjolle

For a decade, Pía León shared the accolades at Central with her husband, notable Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez. But two years ago Latin America’s Best Female Chef 2018 emerged into the spotlight as a solo restauranteur with Kjolle, a warm and slightly less rigid restaurant than the flagship, serving seasonal ingredients sourced from the country’s many ecosystems. The thoughtfully composed and delicious courses might start with earthy maca (Peruvian ginseng) bread that’s served with an akee-like cocona spread then volley into a gorgeous dish of river prawns and orzo that’ve been folded into ethereal mashed loche (squash) and shielded by a chip dusted with salsa-like tomato and seaweed powder.

The Food District option: Discover new flavours at Arvinda’s Spices & Chai which sources the ingredients used in their spice blends from Canada whenever possible.

Rosio Sánchez, Sanchez Cantina and Hija de Sanchez

Photo: @sanchezrosio by Mathilde Schmidt

When it comes to creating food that tastes like home, Sánchez’s inspired tacos are quite possibly the best in Europe. The former Chicagoan is best known for her acclaimed Mexican outposts – a restaurant and two taquerias – in Copenhagen, plus her stints as pastry chef at New York’s WD-50 and top-table Noma. From fresh masa that’s made into tortillas to Mexican-style cheeses, Sánchez ensures that food served are not only of high-quality but true to her native cuisine. Go for the tacos and mescal-based cocktails, but stay for the open-faced cinnamon churro sandwich that’s topped with Mexican vanilla bean frozen parfait, bitters whipped cream and orange zest.

The Food District option: Check out La Carnita for their gentrified takes on the popular tacos and crema-drizzled street corn.

Renée Suen is a Toronto-based restaurant and travel writer/photographer who searches the world for memorable tastes and the stories behind the plate. She is a columnist at SingTao’s EliteGen magazine, a regular contributor to Toronto Life and WestJet Magazine, and has works in AFAR, Best Health, Bon Appétit, CBC Life, enRoute, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star Travel.