Nightbird's chef/owner Kim Alter. (Patricia Chang)

8 San Francisco Chefs Prove a Woman's Place Is at the Head of the Kitchen

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When the World's 50 Best Restaurants recently released its 2017 list, just three women-run businesses made the cut. And, as of 2016, it has been estimated that only 4.7 percent of American chefs and head cooks are female. The professional kitchen, it seems, is still a man's turf.

But Bay Area diners are quite accustomed to seeing talented women at the helm of their favorite restaurants, following in the footsteps of such culinary trailblazers as Alice Waters, Traci Des Jardins, and Dominique Crenn. This year, in fact, some of the city's most promising restaurants star lady toques in executive and ownership roles.

To sit down and talk with them about their challenges and goals is telling: There are tales of kitchens fraught with subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination, snubs from investors, and a lot of dudes telling dirty jokes. Nearly all of these women said they are driven by the hope of nurturing young chefs and restaurant talent, men as well as women, and of fostering community, whether through collaborations with nonprofits and school programs or among their own teams and customer base. Every last one of them has, as Barzotto's chef Michelle Minori put it, "developed plenty of grit" to get their jobs done to delicious effect.

Meet eight of the city's hottest chefs (who just happen to have xx chromosomes) who are leveling the playing field in San Francisco.

​Michelle Minori, Executive Chef, Barzotto

BONA FIDES: Formerly executive sous chef of Thomas McNaughton's Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, overseeing corporate culinary operations for Flour & Water, Aatxe, Cafe du Nord, Salumeria and Central Kitchen.

PASSION DRIVER: "I like seeing how much respect the public has for where their food comes from and how it is grown and raised. People are not only showing more of an interest in what they are eating, but also how it makes an impact on the world around them."

PRIORITY (FE)MALE: "The biggest challenge as a young female chef is that people sometimes don't take you seriously—whether you're dealing with problematic purveyors or aggressive behavior from delivery drivers or bad attitudes from the staff. However, I've been doing this for 10 years now, and I quickly developed plenty of grit to nip that shit in the bud."

FUTURE PERFECT: "I will continue to do my best to foster the young cooks in this city who want to learn and who care about where their food comes from and how it is made."

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