It's no secret that men have dominated the restaurant industry for centuries. And although progress has been made in recent years, there is still a long way to go when it comes to representation.
Fortunately, there are a handful of Michelin Star women-led restaurants throughout the US that give us something to be proud of—and a chance to enjoy their amazing cuisine!
In this article, we'll review the top 20 Michelin Star women-led restaurants in the US and explain why they deserve all credit for transforming the face of fine dining one delectable dish at a time. This is your chance to experience these iconic establishments and learn more about why they deserve their Michelin stars!
List of Female Chefs With Michelin Stars and their Michelin-Starred Restaurants
Cooking outside the home, particularly in a professional capacity, seems to be men's domain. That dynamic has been changing slowly over the years, and the United States alone boasts quite a few restaurants women lead in cooking, menu selections, aesthetics, and more. What’s more, many of these locations boast at least one Michelin star. We’ll take you through some short profiles of the women who helped make this happen at different restaurants across the US landscape.
Chef Pim Techamuanvivit - Nari, Kamin, and Kin Khao in San Francisco
Some of the women who craft names for themselves in the professional culinary world of the US don’t start out that way. In fact, some of them may not start in the US at all. Such is the case for Thai chef Pim Techamuanvivit. She spent her formative years in Thailand, mostly growing up in the cultural capital of the city of Bangkok. However, her academic studies brought her to multiple locations across the globe as she grew into an adult. One of these stops was the United States, and Pim happened to fall in love with the city of San Francisco in particular.
As an adult, California and her interests drew her to a job in the region’s Silicon Valley. Although this worked well for a time, Pim developed other interests. She chose to pursue them with vigor in 2005, starting with writing or reporting about food in general. This started her on the path to becoming a professional chef, and it is an opportunity that has definitely paid off. Her Kin Khao restaurant specializes in Thai cuisine, and it obtained a Michelin star in 2015.
Chef Nancy Silverton - Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, Mozza2Go and chi SPACCA in Los Angeles
Based in Los Angeles, Nancy Silverton owns or operates several restaurants specializing in Italian cuisine of some kind. One of these is Osteria Mozza, and it has the distinction of sporting a Michelin star since 2009. This honor happened not long after she opened the restaurant to critical acclaim. A big part of the reason for this early success comes from the chef’s unique interpretation of cheese or dishes featuring cheese. Thanks to this, the establishment got a James Beard Foundation nomination for the best new restaurant. Shortly thereafter, the Michelin guide awarded the place its star.
Chef Mariya Russell - Kumiko and Kikkō in Chicago, Illinois
Mariya Russell herself credits a close-knit family and lots of support as the foundational blocks which helped her become the chef that she is today. She worked in several prominent restaurant kitchens throughout Chicago, gaining new insights and experiences along the way. In a strange twist, taking a front-of-house position at a major dining establishment is a move that led the chef to a new culinary opportunity. Since then, she has opened an omakase-style restaurant. In this tradition, the customer allows the chef to choose and prepare dishes for them. Kumiko and Kikkō act as a pair of bars, and the latter serves cuisine in the Japanese omakase tradition. It received a Michelin star in 2019.
Chef Missy Robbins - Lilia and Misi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
If one looked at Missy Robbins’ early life, it wouldn’t be surprising that they might not guess about her future career as a chef. Indeed, Robbins graduated from Georgetown with degrees in both psychology and art history. During the final year of her studies, she took a job at a restaurant. Once she had worked at the place for about a year, the inspiration took over. She moved to New York to attend a culinary school and learn the art of cooking. After working at a handful of restaurants following her graduation from the school, Robbins traveled to Italy for some time. Her stay here influenced her later cooking styles, and she returned to the US to work at several more restaurants under renowned chefs.
Although Robbins is responsible for helping more than one restaurant get various nominations, it is the Italian-themed A Voce which stands out. After becoming the executive chef there, she changed almost its entire menu. This bold decision paid off, helping to launch a second location. Both the first and second iterations of the establishment won their own Michelin stars in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Chef Iliyana Regan - The Milkweed Inn in Wetmore, Michigan
Many award-winning people in this industry don’t seem to start out with a clear path into this industry, and Iliyana Regan is no exception. Regan attended school in order to study chemistry, and from there she went on to receive a degree for creative writing. Like many of the women on this list, Iliyana worked in restaurants, serving in different roles that opened her up to the world of fine dining. In her spare time, she grew and sold vegetables and microgreens at various markets.
Although these beginnings were small, the chef started to host small, intimate supper club gatherings at her own apartment. During this time, several of her guests expressed interest in becoming potential investors to help her expand these kinds of operations. She did so in 2012, opening Elizabeth in Lincoln Square. Regan is no longer the owner, but it won a Michelin star in 2014. The new owners have maintained this status ever since.
Chef Melissa Perello - Frances in San Francisco
Melissa Perello started working in the culinary industry early, gaining a job in the kitchens of a country club while she was still in high school. It is a job she put full-time hours into while finishing her secondary studies. While it certainly gave her some experience, it was her decision to dine at Aqua in San Francisco that helped launch her career. The professionals there noticed her, and they would later invite her to work in the kitchens there instead of the country club. Her skills here certainly impressed the staff, and Perello went to the Culinary Institute of America to hone her craft before returning to the professional world.
One of the previous restaurants Perello oversaw was Fifth Floor, an establishment that gained its own Michelin star in 2006. Fifth Floor is a take on Modern American cuisine, and the chef helped to make it a popular destination for diners. Later, in 2009, Perello opened Frances, giving patrons modern cuisine with a local California twist. Frances won its own Michelin star shortly after opening.
Chef Nancy Oakes - Boulevard in San Francisco
Nancy began her career as a chef working at the Mad Hatter under its head, Pat O’Shea. Her first solo endeavor started in 1988 with the opening of L’Avenue. Although it only lasted for five years, many critics in the industry credit L’Avenue and Oakes’ work in it as two major factors that changed trends in San Francisco's food scene.
Once she closed the first place, it didn’t take long for Nancy to open Boulevard, notably housed in the only building still around that survived a devastating earthquake in the early 1900s. Boulevard operated for many years to great acclaim, with Oakes herself grabbing consecutive nominations for the Outstanding Chef award from the James Beard Foundation. She finally won this honor in 2001. In 2009, Boulevard got its own award in the form of one star.
Chef Niki Nakayama - n/naka in Los Angeles
Niki was born in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles, where her parents worked in fish distribution. This upbringing may have helped Nakayama get her early start in the culinary world. She began working at a sushi restaurant while attending culinary arts classes in Pasadena. During this time, she wanted to try out new techniques in cooking, particularly with regard to Japanese cuisine. To further this goal, she began a three-year journey throughout Japan, working at various restaurants as she did so. Niki claims that this level of immersion is a big part of what helped her become the chef she is today.
While in Japan, she became fascinated by what artisans could do with Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Kaiseki involves traditional Japanese meals with multiple courses, but it also encompasses the various cooking skills one learns in order to make such meals. Her n/naka restaurant received two Michelin stars in 2019, and it focuses on using seasonal ingredients in novel ways.
Chef Carrie Nahabedian - NAHA in Chicago, Illinois
NAHA is a restaurant that specializes in Modern European dishes, and it is for her work at this Michelin-starred location that Carrie Nahabedian is perhaps best known. Nahabedian has been with NAHA for many years now, and she won an award from the prestigious James Beard Foundation while working there in 2008. Carrie credits both her mother and famed chef Julia Child as major influences in her career and style. The chef moved between different locations in both the US and Europe for many years. After spending several of these years at different Four Seasons Hotel locations, she made the move to NAHA.
Chef Anita Lo - Annisa in New York
Anita Lo went to culinary school in Paris, but she returned to the US to open Annisa in 2000. The restaurant received smaller awards and excellent reviews from other publications, but it finally got a Michelin star in 2006. Although a fire destroyed the restaurant in 2009, Lo was able to open it up again less than a year later. The reopening proved successful, and the establishment maintained its Michelin status. Other difficulties caused Annisa to close its doors for the final time in 2017.
Chef Liya Lin - Terrapin Creek Cafe in California
As with many of the big names on this list, Liya Lin gained some success and recognition in the San Francisco's area of California. Although restaurant jobs in this area suited her, she and her partner wanted a somewhat slower, quieter life elsewhere. They found this in Bodega Bay, but they didn’t abandon their love of cooking entirely. After taking over an established restaurant in the area, they reopened it under the new moniker of the Terrapin Creek Cafe. Its dishes reflect the diverse influences of food throughout the many cultures that call California home. The cafe earned a Michelin star in 2011.
Chef Nicole Krasinski - State Bird Provisions in San francisco
Nicole and her husband both trained as chefs from a young age, and it may have seemed natural to go into business together professionally. The result of this was State Bird Provisions. The somewhat unique name here comes from the name of a dish at a previous restaurant involving California’s own state bird. After a couple of years in business, State Bird Provisions closed briefly to remodel. The owners reopened it to the news that they would receive a Michelin star in 2014.
Chef Beverly Kim - Parachute in Chicago, illinois
Unlike some of the other chefs here, Beverly Kim was interested in being a chef professionally at an early age. She even wrote to various chefs in high school, and she hoped to gain at least one internship via this route. This tactic paid off, and Kim garnered a spot studying under a chef even before going to college. Upon graduation, she worked in or managed various restaurants, including at least one that had already achieved Michelin status. She and her husband opened their own restaurant in 2014. Parachute received a Michelin star in 2016.
Chef Emma Bengtsson - Aquavit in New York
Another contender with roots in Europe, Emma Bengtsson hails from Sweden. She is only the second woman in this field to win two stars for a restaurant in the US. She did not start out as the head chef at Aquavit, a restaurant specializing in cuisine from the Nordic countries. However, the establishment still got a star during her time there, and Michelin gave it a second one under her leadership.
Chef Shelley Cerneant - Applewood Inn in Guerneville, California
In 2012, Michelle Cerneant became one of just 10 female chefs in the entire world to gain a Michelin star. This is all thanks to her work at the Applewood Inn, an establishment that has helped to propel the talents of many young chefs today.
Chef Suzette Gresham - Acquerello in San Francisco, California
Suzette Gresham’s position as a head chef started decades ago when the front-of-house manager for The Donatello asked her to take up the position there. Although staff there initially assumed she would only be the pastry chef, she quickly erased any doubt. Due to various circumstances, some staff from The Donatello went on to open Acquerello about a year later. Thanks in part to Gresham’s leadership, Acquerello got its first star in 2007, followed by another in 2014.
Chef April Bloomfield - The Spotted Pig and The Breslin Bar & Dining Room in New York
Originally from England, April Bloomfield gives credit to some American chefs for at least part of her success in the industry. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver suggested that Mario Batali train Bloomfield to open her own bistro in New York. The latter moved to the city in 2003, opening The Spotted Pig not long after. In just two years, the restaurant gained a Michelin star. Bloomfield would repeat this success with a second restaurant later.
Chef Dominique Crenn - Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, California
Dominique Crenn is a French chef, but she has been a fixture of the US food scene for many decades already. Although she also moved in international circles professionally, including a stint as Indonesia’s first female head chef in history, most of her work comes from the US. She opened Atelier Crenn in 2011, and the Michelin guide awarded her two stars. This was another first for a female chef in the US.
Chef Patti Jackson - Delaware and Hudson in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Patti Jackson says that her early years brought on an admiration for things in the science field, particularly biology or chemistry. However, she developed some interest in cooking once she hit her teens. In 2014, Jackson opened Delaware and Hudson, a restaurant catering to Mid-Atlantic cuisine. These dishes would be eclectic, but they became popular with the locals. The establishment earned a Michelin star for every year that it was open. Unfortunately, Jackson decided to shutter Delaware and Hudson in 2018.
Chef Sarah Grueneberg - Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio in Chicago, Illinois
Like so many professionals in the world of food today, Sarah Grueneberg credits her family with helping her develop a keen interest in cooking. From an early age, Grueneberg’s German grandparents helped her to develop some skill with European food. Although her educational path took her down a different road, she returned to cooking later as an adult. It is closed now, but she ran Spiaggia’s kitchen for several years. During this time, the restaurant would receive a Michelin star for three years in a row thanks to Grueneberg’s efforts.
How Many Female Chefs Have Three Michelin Stars?
There are a handful of women-led restaurants throughout the world. However, when it comes to the US alone, only one female chef has been able to attain this honor. While some of the chefs on this list have worked at different locations that might each receive at least one star, one restaurant and its head chef make the list as having three of them. Dominique Crenn’s establishment, Atelier Crenn, gets three stars from the Michelin Guide.
Which Women-Owned Restaurant Will You Visit?
We hope we’ve given you some excellent food for thought here when it comes to great cuisine. Any of the spots on this list are sure to provide a great dining experience for you. Some of the locations are no longer open, but the chefs here are still very much involved in the culinary scene. Please take a deeper look at our list to find the award-winning restaurant of your choice.
No matter which restaurant you choose from this list, you can be sure that the quality and service will be top-notch. These twenty women-led restaurants have earned their Michelin stars, and they demonstrate that female chefs have just as much creativity and finesse as their male counterparts in the kitchen. Eating at one of these restaurants is sure to be a memory that lasts for a lifetime!