8 San Francisco Chefs Prove a Woman's Place Is at the Head of the Kitchen
Nightbird's chef/owner Kim Alter. (Patricia Chang)

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


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.

​Sarah Rich, Chef/Co-owner, Rich Table and RT Rotisserie

BONA FIDES: Formerly of the two Michelin-starred restaurants Michael Mina and Coi.

PASSION DRIVER: "Making people happy. I want them to enjoy my food."

PRIORITY (FE)MALE: "Being in a kitchen with men, you have to learn to make dirty jokes, but it has never been a big deal for me. A few years ago, I was all about my career, now I have kids and they are my priority. I don't feel like less of a business person or a chef because of my choice. I feel lucky that I can spend time with them."

FUTURE PERFECT: "We are opening our second restaurant, RT Rotisserie, in Hayes Valley in early spring. The restaurant will focus on whole-roasted chicken (one of my favorite dishes to make), porchetta and cauliflower, with sides like umami fries and seasonal salads."

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