New York City’s Best Female Chefs

Julie Besonen

(Updated 03/06/2019)

More women are heading up restaurant kitchens all over New York City. Marie-Aude Rose’s classic French cooking at La Mercerie is all the rage in Soho. Chef Emma Bengtsson earned two Michelin stars last year for her progressive Scandinavian cuisine at Aquavit in Midtown. Daniela Soto-Innes has been entrusted by Enrique Olvera to run two world-class kitchens, Cosme and Atla.

The restaurant industry is notoriously tough, but Rebecca Charles has shown staying power with Pearl Oyster Bar. And the dynamic duo of Sarah Sanneh and Carolyn Bane is still going strong at Williamsburg’s Pies ’n’ Thighs. Alex Raij is another force, recently adding the acclaimed Saint Julivert Fisherie to her portfolio, which includes El Quinto Pino, Txikito and La Vara (her husband, Eder Montero, shares duties as co-chef). Our roundup heralds 11 more women, a mix of newcomers and seasoned pros. Gender aside, they’re great chefs, period.

Einat Admony. Photo: Ania Grucia

Einat Admony

Einat Admony was once a cook in the Israeli army and marshals a bold imagination for her mini empire. At Kish-Kash, her nuanced, labor-intensive, hand-rolled couscous is garnished with spicy fish, saucy meats, poultry or Moroccan-style vegetables. Modern Israeli fare (whipped feta with pomegranate molasses, lamb shank with dates) stars at Balaboosta, which she recently transferred to the West Village from Nolita. Then there are her Taïm falafel shops, where the must-have is sabich, a textured mix of fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, hummus, tahini and Israeli salad tucked into a pita.

Nasim Alikhani. Courtesy, Sofreh

Nasim Alikhani

Sofreh, the restaurant debut of Nasim Alikhani, is sensational. Her stripped-down gathering spot in Brooklyn showcases Persian home cooking. A side dish called tahdig is what patrons clamor for the most: crusty, golden clusters of rice scraped from the bottom of a pot. Once you’ve got that order secured (it sells out), get grilled cauliflower with shallot yogurt and pistachios, the spinach and prune stew with braised beef, and the smoked eggplant with tomato-garlic sauce and poached eggs.

Kelly Cho

Only a handful of people can cram inside Suki—and they do, for Kelly Cho’s Japanese-style curries. Cho is a perfectionist, making her own butter for roux, the curry’s foundation. The flavor is deep and balanced with a tinge of sweetness. Spice levels are customized from 1 to 5; medium (say, 3) leaves the tongue coated with heat that doesn’t sting. Pair a bowl of it with pounded, breaded pork or chicken katsu, shrimp ramen or udon noodles with pork belly. This is Cho’s first restaurant, which she opened in 2018.

Dirt Candy. Photo: Evan Sung

Amanda Cohen

Amanda Cohen keeps outgunning her vegetarian rivals in NYC, constantly reinventing plant-based creations that are both playful and high end. Furthermore, everything at the lively Dirt Candy can be made vegan. Brunch is à la carte, while dinner revolves around two tasting menus—one with five courses, the other nearly twice that. Look for pumpkin pad Thai, carrot sliders on carrot buns and portobello mousse with Asian pears and truffle toast. Wine pairings are available as are inventive vegetable-infused cocktails.

Sohui Kim

At the Good Fork, a longstanding neighborhood spot in Red Hook, Sohui Kim’s menu globe-trots from France (onion soup lidded with Gruyère) to Italy (house-made pasta with lusty lamb ragu) to her native Korea (bavette steak with kimchee fried rice and a fried egg). Kim more fully explores her Korean heritage at Insa, in Gowanus, where groups gather at long tables to share seafood and scallion pancakes, melting short ribs, and juicy, crunchy fried chicken before heading to the restaurant’s karaoke rooms. Look for her updated take on a classic American chophouse and raw bar when the historic Gage & Tollner is reborn (this fall) in Downtown Brooklyn.

Lilia. Photo: Evan Sung

Missy Robbins

Reservations are snapped up 30 days out at Lilia and Misi, Missy Robbins’ wildly popular pair of Italian restaurants in Williamsburg. Both are modern and airy and feature her signature fresh-made pasta. Lilia’s dreamiest dish is agnolotti stuffed with sheep’s milk cheese and topped with saffron-spiked honey. At Misi, go for the spinach-and-mascarpone-filled tortelli with brown butter and a generous dusting of tart ricotta salata. She’s strong in the vegetable department as well, adding herbs, chiles, lemon or toasted nuts to make meatless dishes shimmer with flavor.


Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer

Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer alter the lunch and dinner menus daily at King, a chic downtown boîte. The Brits both trained at Ireland’s Ballymaloe Cookery School and cooked at the fabled River Cafe in London. French-ish describes their offerings here (there are strong Italian influences as well) . Carta di musica, a crisp flatbread scented with rosemary and swimming in olive oil, kicks off each meal. Move on to panisse (long chickpea fritters) and the scallops perfectly grilled with seasonal vegetables, then perhaps some quail or a steak. The co-chefs keep it simple, and yet it’s all unfailingly delightful.

Rita Sodi and Jody Williams

Devotees of Via Carota were probably conflicted when the New Yorker trumpeted how the West Village trattoria “quietly became New York’s Most Perfect Restaurant.” OK, it’s true, but isn’t it hard enough to get a table already? No reservations are taken. Figure out a way so you can order the tonnarelli cacio e pepe, lemony grilled chicken and off-the-charts insalata verde. Sodi also runs the esteemed Tuscan nook I Sodi, while Williams still captains Buvette, a cherished French spot. And now fans are raising a glass to Pisellino, the duo’s much-anticipated all-day café-bar on Grove Street.

Diana Tandia

Diana Tandia pivoted from working in fine dining (Daniel, Gramercy Tavern) to opening Berber Street Food, a snug, folksy spot in the West Village that dishes out jerk chicken wings and lamb meatballs with tangy harissa sauce. The chef-entrepreneur is originally from Mauritania and has Senegalese roots, so her menu is a mix of North and West African specialties. The savory bites, sandwiches and curry-laced stews can be consumed at small tables or packaged to go.

Simone Tong. Photo: Afra Lu

Simone Tong

Simone Tong leads two branches of Little Tong Noodle Shop. The East Village original focuses on comforting mixian rice noodle recipes she adapted from a tour through Yunnan province. The Midtown East location offers a similar menu with the addition of the Shank JB Melt, one of the most unforgettable sandwiches in NYC. A flaky scallion pancake is smeared with spicy mayo and wrapped around tender beef shank, melted cheese curds and crunchy cucumber. Tong has an eye for style, which makes her dishes irresistible to post on Instagram.