Book Review: Showcase of top female chefs

26 January 2006
Book Review: Showcase of top female chefs

This book showcases the very best female chefs we have. About time, too - they are a rare species and should be celebrated. Women chefs have it twice as hard as their male counterparts and it takes a special kind of person to stick it out in the kitchen. They also make the best restaurant hosts and are generally better organisers than men.

The book is beautifully written by French food writer Gilles Pudlowski and has a great look about it thanks to the photography of Maurice Rougemont. Each chapter gives some background on the featured chef and her restaurant. Behind-the-scenes insight and the odd trip to the market also lend colour to the pages before two recipes from each of the chefs complete these snapshot portraits.

It's no surprise to see some three-Michelin-star holders under the spotlight: people like Nadia Santini of Dal Pescatore in Lombardy, Annie Feolde from Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Spain's Elena Arzak and Luisa Valazza from Piedmont's Al Sorriso. But it's also really good to see our very own Angela Hartnett included in the line-up. She's a great inspiration for all our female staff at Maze.

Also featured are two of my favourite female chefs - Carme Ruscalleda of Sant Pau, just north of Barcelona, and Anne-Sophie Pic from Valence, France. Ruscalleda has just achieved three Michelin stars in this year's Spanish guide and her food is extremely polished and exciting. Pic has transformed her father's old restaurant and she is my tip for three stars in the French Guide Rouge this year.

Great Women Chefs of Europe isn't loaded down with recipes - they are cherry-picked to encapsulate their originator's style - but it's a great source of information on the chefs and their restaurants. I particularly liked reading about everyone's history and discovering what has driven them to become chefs.

The recipes are restaurant dishes, and not really aimed at the home cook. It's a great book.

Jason Atherton, chef-director, Maze, London

Great Women Chefs of Europe
By Gilles Pudlowski
Flammarion, £25
ISBN 2080304879

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