In time for Women's History Month, we're honoring top female talents in the Bay Area food industry who are really impressing us and making an impact in the community.
From chefs to food advocates to restaurateurs, there are women shaping what we eat and drink and how we do it.
Sadly, women make up a good chunk of the entry-level workforce in the food industry but are underrepresented across the board above this level — not to mention the low number of women of color in the industry overall. Luckily, there are successful women in the food industry who are champions for their peers, and their stories and advice are powerful for other women who want to follow in their footsteps. Additionally, there are organizations like Women Chefs & Restaurateurs and the James Beard Foundation's Women Entrepreneurial Leadership Program that have been working to give more women resources to start their own restaurants and companies.
For Women's History Month, you can help these local, hardworking women by putting your money where your mouth is and going to support a female-led or owned business. Please note, this guide does not include every female-owned restaurant, bar, bakery or pop-up in the whole Bay Area, so please feel free to add any favorites we may have missed by tagging KQED Bay Area Bites on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Guadalupe Guerrero's El Pipila
You may have heard of El Pipila's Guadalupe Guerrero from our digital series, Taste This. La Cocina is a non-profit incubator that has taught and guided many low-income entrepreneurs like Guerrero how to start and maintain a small business in the Bay Area, one of the most challenging culinary landscapes in the country. Guerrero built her catering business with their help, and her brick and mortar restaurant by the same name just opened at the end of last year.
Along with her two daughters Brenda and Alejandra, Guerrero shares family dishes from her hometown, Guanajuato, in Mexico, like her extremely popular pozole verde, enchiladas, carnitas, and chile rellenos. // 889 Brannan St. (SoMa), elpipila.com
Lalita Souksamlane & Wassana Korkheiola's Lao Table and Osha Thai
A dinner spread at Lao Table.
According to a 2010 SFGate article, "When sisters Wassana Korkhieola and Lalita Souksamlane needed a name for their Thai restaurant in the Tenderloin, they went with the royal Thai word for "delicious."" At that point, Osha Thai was a certified empire with locations throughout San Francisco. This year, Osha Thai will be celebrating 23 years in the fall — an impressive achievement in the Bay Area where restaurants tend to come and go.
The two sisters immigrated from Thailand in their 20s and opened Osha Thai in 1996 — and they have been deeply involved in every aspect of their restaurant empire since then, from the interior design to the menu. In fact, Chef Souksamlane uses many of her father's original recipes on the menu for both Osha Thai and Lao Table. // Lao Table, 149 Second St. (SoMa), laotablesf.com; Osha Thai, multiple locations, oshathai.com.
Dominica Rice Cisneros' Cosecha
If you look up Dominica Rice-Cisneros, you'll find on her website that she is "a chef, entrepreneur, mother, wife, community activist and urban gardener who believes that every single person deserves access to high-quality foods." She has been cooking for over 30 years, and, in 2017, she was inducted into Les Dames d'Escoffier, San Francisco, a philanthropic group of women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality.
Mentored by a notable female chef (Alice Waters) herself, Rice-Cisneros is a champion for females in the food industry and believes in providing career opportunities for local women in the Bay Area. At her California-Mexican café Cosecha, she hires many mothers and helps them make it work. In a Berkeleyside interview, she shared that "her hope is that all women can work to let go of the unnecessary burden of feeling they need to take care of everything and everyone." // 907 Washington St. (Oakland), cosechacafe.com
Fernay McPherson's Minnie Bell’s Soul Food Movement
Fernay McPherson, chef/owner of Minnie Bell's Soul Movement.
Like El Pipila's Guadalupe, Fernay McPherson is a La Cocina success story, and her rosemary fried chicken is pretty legendary. Her family moved to California around the time when the Fillmore was booming as the "Harlem of the West," and McPherson hopes one day that Minnie Bell's can find a place in the Fillmore, bringing back that vibrant heyday. For now, you can find her at the Emeryville Public Market.
Talk about family comfort food! McPherson's late grandmother Lillie Bell and her great aunt Minnie (the namesakes of Minnie Bell's) taught her how to cook her family's soul food recipes and inspired her to be a chef. Along with crispy, delectable rosemary fried chicken, you can get three-cheese mac & cheese with Parmesan, fontina and cheddar, cornbread and other tasty sides at the Minnie Bell's Soul Food Movement stand. // 5959 Shellmound St. (Emeryville), minniebellssoul.com
Beth Novak Milliken & Lindy Novak's Spottswoode
Wines that guests drank on the set of the premiere episode of Check, Please! Bay Area season 11 included a Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.
From the very beginning, Spottswoode was founded and led by talented women. Mary Novak took over the vineyard after her husband's death in 1977 and successfully completed her first harvest soon after, selling grapes to local vintners. Her daughters joined Novak (Beth in 1987 and Lindy in 1992) and, together, the trio established Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley's most esteemed multigenerational family estates. They are known for their cabernet sauvignon, and, according to Check, Please! Bay Area host Leslie Sbrocco's wine notes from Season 11's premiere, it "is rightly celebrated for its elegance and ageworthiness."
Spottswoode has made an enduring commitment to stewardship over the years by adopting solar energy, spearheading the restoration of Spring Creek, annually contributing 1 percent of winery profits to environmental causes through 1% for the Planet, and making notable contributions to the Land Trust of Napa County, Garden Conservancy, Yosemite Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land. Today, Beth is Spottswoode's President & CEO, and Lindy is its Marketing Ambassador. They carry on their mother's legacy with their families (and Pete, the family labrador and Chief Greeter at Spottswoode). // 1902 Madrona Ave. (St. Helena), spottswoode.com
For more eateries to visit during Women's History Month, see below.
Women-Owned Restaurants in San Francisco
- Frances: Melissa Perello, chef & owner
- Octavia: Melissa Perello, chef & owner
- b.patisserie: Belinda Leong, head pastry chef & owner
- Brenda's French Soul Food: Brenda Buenviaje, chef & co-owner, and Libby Truesdell, co-owner
- Libby Jane: Brenda Buenviaje, chef & co-owner, and Libby Truesdell, co-owner
- Brenda's Meat & Three: Brenda Buenviaje, chef & co-owner, and Libby Truesdell, co-owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- State Bird Provisions: Nicole Krasinski, pastry chef & co-owner
- the Progress: Nicole Krasinski, chef and co-owner
- Cala: Gabriela Cámara, chef (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review,Read BAB review)
- Boulevard: Nancy Oakes, chef & co-owner, Dana Younkin, chef, and Lisa Lu, pastry chef
- Prospect: Nancy Oakes, chef, Pamela Mazzola, chef & partner, Kathy King, partner
- A16: Nicolette Manescalchi, chef, Shelley Lindgren, wine director
- Foreign Cinema: Gayle Pirie, chef & co-owner
- Da Flora: Jen McMahon, chef & co-owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Jardinière: Traci Des Jardins, chef & owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Auntie April's (Link does not work): April Spears, chef & owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- RT Rotisserie: Sarah Rich, chef & co-owner
- Rich Table: Sarah Rich, chef & co-owner
- Kin Khao: Pim Techamuanvivit, chef & owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Media Noche: Madelyn Markoe, co-owner, Jessie Barker, co-owner,
- Atelier Crenn: Dominique Crenn, chef & owner (Watch Check Please! Bay Area review)
- Petit Crenn: Dominique Crenn, chef & owner
- Brown Sugar Kitchen: Tanya Holland, chef & owner (Watch Check Please! Bay Area review)
- Piccino: Sher Rogat and Margherita Stewart Sagan, co-owners
- Besharam: Heena Patel, chef & owner
- International Smoke: Ayesha Curry, co-owner
- Locanda: Annie Stoll, co-owner
- Barzotto: Michelle Minori, chef
- El Pipila: Guadalupe Guerrero, chef & owner
- Dynamo Donut and Coffee: Sara Spearin, chef & owner
- Osha Thai: Lalita Souksamlane & Wassana Korkheiola, co-owners
- Lao Table: Lalita Souksamlane & Wassana Korkheiola, co-owners
- Greens: Denise St. Onge, chef (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Zuni Cafe: founded by Judy Rodgers
- Three Babes Bakeshop: Lenore Estrada, co-founder & chef
- Gardenias: Dana Tommasino, co-owner and chef, Margie Conrad, co-owner and wine director (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- El Sur: Marianne Despres, owner & chef
- Smitten Ice Cream: Robyn Sue Fisher, owner and chef
- Nightbird: Kim Alter, chef & owner
- Marla Bakery: Amy Brown, chef and co-owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- The Front Porch: Josephine White, co-owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Black Jet Baking Co.: Gillian Shaw, owner & head baker
- The Riddler: Jen Pelka, owner, Zoe Deeg, chef
- Marlowe: Anna Weinberg, co-owner, Jennifer Puccio, chef and partner
- Park Tavern: Anna Weinberg, co-owner, Jennifer Puccio, chef and co-owner (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- The Cavalier: Anna Weinberg, co-owner, Jennifer Puccio, chef and co-owner
- Petite Marlowe: Anna Weinberg, co-owner, Jennifer Puccio, chef and co-owner
- Leo's Oyster Bar: Anna Weinberg, co-owner, Jennifer Puccio, chef and co-owner
- Rich Table: Sarah Rich, chef
- Bini's Kitchen: Binita Pradhan, chef and owner
Women-Owned Restaurants in the East Bay
- Brown Sugar Kitchen: Tanya Holland, chef & owner (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Chez Panisse: Alice Waters, chef & owner (Berkeley)
- Salute e Vita Ristorante: Menbu Akililu, owner (Richmond) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Guerilla Café: Andrea Ali, chef & co-owner, Kobu Konte, co-owner, and Rachel Konte, co-owner (Berkeley) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Lanna Thai: Prakin Gamble, chef & owner (Livermore) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Cosecha: Dominica Rice Cisneros, chef & owner (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- The Cook and Her Farmer: Romney Steele, chef & co-owner (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Souley Vegan: Tamearra Dyson, chef & owner (Oakland)
- Nyum Bai: Nite Yun, chef & owner (Emeryville) (Read BAB review)
- Minnie Bell's Soul Movement: Fernay McPherson, owner and chef (Emeryville)
- Shakewell: Jen Biesty, chef & co-owner (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Miss Ollie's: Sarah Kirnon, chef and owner (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Reem's: Reem Assil, chef and co-owner (Oakland)
- Dyafa: Reem Assil, chef and co-owner (Oakland)
- Honor Kitchen + Cocktails: Lara Trupelli, co-owner (Oakland)
- Copper Spoon: Carmen Anderson & Vita Simone Strauss, co-owners (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Nido Kitchen & Bar: Silvia McCollow, chef and co-owner (Oakland) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Oeste: Anna Villalobos, Lea Redmond, Sandra Davis, co-owners (Oakland)
- FOB Kitchen: Brandi Dulce, co-owner, Janice Dulce, co-owner and chef (Oakland)
- Brazilian Breads: Delvira Rodrigues, chef and owner (Berkeley)
- Zazzi Foods: Cassandra Chen, chef & owner (Berkeley)
- Moussaka Kitchen: Nilgun Boyar, owner & chef, Nildan Boyar, chef (San Leandro)
Women-Owned Restaurants in the South Bay
- Pasta Moon: Kim Levin, chef & owner (Half Moon Bay) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Flea Street Café: Jesse Ziff Cool, chef & owner (Menlo Park) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- To Bang Korean BBQ: Ji Yeon Kim, owner (Santa Clara) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Tamarine Restaurant and Gallery: Tanya Hyunh Hartley, co-owner, and Tammy Hyunh, chef & co-owner (Palo Alto) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Adega: Jessica Carreira, pastry chef (San Jose)
- Bird Dog: Emily Perry Wilson, co-owner (Los Altos), Serena Chow, pastry chef (Palo Alto)
- Sumika: Kuniko Ozawa, chef and co-owner
- Zareen's: Zareen Khan, chef and owner (Mountain View and Palo Alto)
- Manresa Bread: Avery Ruzicka, head baker and owner (Los Altos, Los Gatos and Campbell)
- Frost Cupcake Factory: Andrea Buswell, owner (San Jose)
Women-Owned Restaurants in Marin & Wine Country
- Mustards Grill: Cindy Pawclyn, owner & chef (Napa) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- El Huarache Loco: Veronica Salazar, chef & owner (Larkspur & San Francisco) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Copita Tequileria y Comida: Joanne Weir, owner (Sausalito) (Watch Check, Please! Bay Area review)
- Tiburon Tavern: Annie Hongkham, chef (Tiburon)
- Zazu Kitchen & Farm: Duskie Estes, chef and co-owner (Sebastopol)
- El Molino Central: Karen Taylor Waikiki, chef (Sonoma)
- Spottswoode: Beth Novak Milliken & Lindy Novak, owners (St.
- The Charter Oak: Katianna Hong, chef (St. Helena)
- Press: Samantha Rudd, owner, Amanda McCrossin, wine director (St. Helena)
- Alexis Baking Company: Alexis Handelman, owner (Napa)
This article was written by Grace Cheung for KQED's Bay Area Bites. Also check out their 2016 and 2017 guides to female-owned eateries.