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.
Avery Ruzicka, Head Baker/Partner, Manresa Bread
BONA FIDES: She trained in baking at the French Culinary Institute in New York and began at Manresa as a food runner before later starting its bread program.
PASSION DRIVER: "I really fell in love with bread and with making it. I like to experiment a lot, and I love the fact that with a simple recipe you can have endless variety of breads."
PRIORITY (FE)MALE: "Women think that they can multitask, but it is very difficult. They cannot do it all at once. This has been a big revelation for me. Women think they have to know how to do everything, but it is not possible and it is a process of learning and time."
FUTURE PERFECT: "I would like to take on more and more opportunities to teach people about bread and pastry-making, showcasing the process at demos and hands-on classes throughout the year."