Five of the Most Inspirational Women in Food – Past And Present

© shutterstock

© shutterstock

Lara Gilmore: Restaurateur & Social Activist 

Lara Gilmore is the measured counterpart to her husband, chef Massimo Bottura. Both are equally driven by their passion for food, art and the community. Gilmore not only runs Osteria Francescana’s operational growth which now includes several Gucci Osterias and their hotel Casa Maria Luigia in Modena but oversees their Reffetorio projects worldwide feeding the disadvantaged and homeless with leftover foods in the most civilised and tastefully designed surroundings. Lara and Massimo were among the first to foster a new kind of chef community bringing culinary ideas into the social realm. Food for Soul Refettorios (communal dining halls) repurpose restaurant and supermarket leftovers into civilised, delicious meals served to diners with dignity. Not only do they provide exceptional food, they spread their love for art through ensuring these social projects are beautifully designed.

Sri Owen: Author

Owen wrote the definitive work on the most universal food: Rice. She grew up among the rice fields of Indonesia and writes with immense knowledge of this ingredient which is key to so many cuisines. Her Rice Book, first published in 1993, with recipes for sumptuous vegan dishes and sushi still reads as very modern. She was ahead of the game in her love of Korean food, giving recipes for bibimbap and bulgogi, although she assumed then her British readers would not be able to obtain kimchi and suggested gherkins as an alternative.

Sri Owen's magnum opus, The Rice Book

Sri Owen's magnum opus, The Rice Book

© photo provided

Andi Oliver: Chef and Broadcaster

Black women in food have long been under-represented, yet they are now changing the way we eat and think about food. Andi Oliver with her high profile role as presenter of the UK TV hit Great British Menu is showing that people who look like her can succeed. She sees food as a portal into social history and Wadadli Kitchen, her pan-Caribbean heritage cooking project, is about celebrating and spreading the word about the sheer variety of culinary traditions throughout the Caribbean, with special focus on her home country of Antigua.

Claudia Roden: Food Writer

Claudia Roden is a food writer with a special interest in the social, cultural and historical background of food. She was the first to base her cookery book on recipes gleaned from visiting people in their homes. Roden grew up in Cairo, went to school in Paris and came to London to study art. She revolutionised Western attitudes to Middle Eastern cuisines with her bestselling A Book of Middle Eastern Food in 1968 and has published multiple bestsellers including her seminal The Book of Jewish Food. Her latest book Med Cuisine, published 30 years after her first, and hailed "a palpable instant classic" by Nigella Lawson takes us from Provence to Petra, Madrid to Marrakech. Claudia is President of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery and an Honorary Fellow of SOAS and UCL Universities.

Claudia Roden's A New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Claudia Roden's A New Book of Middle Eastern Food

© photo provided

Alice Waters, Chef, Activist & Author

Alice Waters opened her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, in 1971 and was amongst the first to champion what is now known as farm-to-table eating. The focus on seasonal, home-grown foods was pioneering in 1970s America and she is thought of as one of the defining minds and creators of California cuisine. Her Edible Schoolyard project has inspired children since 1995, bringing them closer to home-grown food, flavour and seasonality.

FIND OUT MORE