17 Awesome Women Chefs in Los Angeles You Should Support Right Now
L.A. is home to some outstanding female chefs—from the stalwarts who broke ground for other women many years ago to young female chefs making their own mark in the culinary world. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting some of these amazing women here. While there are other women chefs that we love in LA (such as Nyesha Arrington and Mei Lin), the list below focuses on those whose restaurants are currently open, so we can all support local.
1. Niki Nakayama
After graduating from culinary school, chef Niki Nakayama worked with L.A.’s veteran sushi chef at Mori Sushi before deepening her knowledge of Japanese cuisine at a ryokan in Japan. Eventually, she went on to open the kaiseki restaurant, n/naka with her wife, Carole Iida, who is a partner and sous chef at the restaurant. With multiple accolades, two Michelin stars, and an appearance in the Netflix series Chef’s Table, n/naka is consistently one of the most sought after reservations in town. Currently operating as takeout only, n/naka’s elaborate bento boxes go on sale on Saturday mornings on Tock and sell out quickly.
3455 Overland Ave.; 310-836-6252 or n-naka.com
2. Antonia Lofaso
Chef Antonia Lofaso has accomplished much since graduating culinary school. The native Angeleno appeared on season four of Top Chef back in 2008 (and reappearing on other seasons afterwards). In 2011, she opened Black Market Liquor Bar with two business partners, which was then followed by Scopa and DAMA—both regarded as some of L.A.’s best restaurants. Other than running three restaurants, Lofaso keeps busy with multiple TV appearances (her latest gig is hosting the show Save the Leftovers on Food Network), published a cookbook and even started her own line of activewear for chefs. (Oh and she juggles all of these responsibilities along with being a mother.)
Multiple restaurants; chefantonia.com
3. Nancy Silverton
There is no one in the Los Angeles culinary world that does not know the name Nancy Silverton. After graduating culinary school and working as pastry chefs at various restaurants, chef Silverton opened Campanile and La Brea Bakery her then-husband, Mark Peel, to massive success. In 2007, she opened Osteria Mozza with two other partners, followed by Pizzeria Mozza and Chi Spacca on the same street (the trio of adjacent restaurants are lovingly dubbed “Mozzaplex”). Silverton has won too many awards to list, but not one to rest on her laurels, she recently opened The Barish Steakhouse inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and Pizzette in Culver City’s Citizen Public Market.
4. Vivian Ku
Growing up on a farm in Bakersfield, chef Vivian Ku got her start feeding others during her college years at Harvard University and decided that was what she wanted to do in life. She later went on to culinary school before opening the Taiwanese restaurant, Pine & Crane, in Silver Lake (where many of the fresh produce still comes from her family’s farm). Pine & Crane quickly became a beloved destination in the neighborhood and Ku has since opened two other equally popular Taiwanese concepts, Joy on York, and the breakfast pop-up, Today Starts Here.
5. Suzanne Goin
Before opening her first restaurant, chef Suzanne Goin worked at a number of acclaimed restaurants both in L.A. and abroad, including L’Orangerie, Chez Panisse, and Arpège. In 1998, she opened Lucques with her business partner, master sommelier Caroline Styne, which was consistently one of the city’s best restaurants, showcasing California’s seasonal bounty through a Mediterranean menu. Goin won the James Beard award for Outstanding Chef of the Year in 2016, and later opened A.O.C. and Tavern. While Lucques closed after 21 years and Tavern is temporarily closed, A.O.C. is going strong with outdoor dining on their beautiful patio.
Multiple restaurants; thelucquesgroup.com
6. Suzanne Tracht
Women chefs who own restaurants are rare, ones who own a chophouse even more so. But Suzanne Tracht has been running Jar since 2001. Tracht started her professional training in Arizona before working under Nancy Silverton at Campanile. She then ventured out on her own, and Jar has become one of LA’s most beloved restaurants, a stalwart destination thanks to the classic comforts like the signature pot roast that she and her chef de cuisine Preech Narkthong prepare with seasonal ingredients.
8225 Beverly Blvd.; 323-655-6566 or thejar.com
7. Margarita Manzke
Margarita Manzke grew up working in her family’s restaurant in Manila, Philippines before moving on to hone her skills at Spago, Melisse and more. Currently she is best known for the pastry chef responsible for the gorgeous baked goods and desserts at Republique, which she owns with her husband, chef Walter Manzke, whom she met while the two worked at Patina. In addition to her pastries and desserts at Republique Manzke also showcases her heritage with Sari Sari Store, her casual Filipino rice bowl spot inside the Grand Central Market.
8. Brooke Williamson
Chef Brooke Williamson has sharpened her knives at various restaurants in Los Angeles and New York. Her career was on the rise after becoming runner-up in season 10 of Top Chef and she later went on to winning the 14th season. Although she recently had to close her restaurant Hudson House with the ongoing struggle due to the pandemic, you can still visit Playa Provisions. Playa Provisions is a restaurant containing four different concepts in one with a daytime cafe, a seafood-centric restaurant, an ice cream stand, and a whisky bar.
119 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey; 310-683-5019 or playaprovisions.com
9. Genet Agonafer
Genet Agonafer was born and raised in Ethiopia and moved to the United States as a single mother with a young son. She didn’t plan on opening a restaurant, but happenstance turned her into the catering business and eventually opening Meals by Genet in Little Ethiopia, which quickly became a darling of food critics around town. Last year, she was even named a James Beard Award semifinalist. Her most famous dish is the spicy Ethiopian chicken stew, doro wot (on the menu, the dish is named after her granddaughter, Ria), but Agonafer is in fact a long-time vegetarian and you can find plenty of vegetarian options here.
1053 S. Fairfax Ave.; 323-938-9304 or mealsbygenetla.com
10. Susan Feniger & Mary Sue Milliken
Female chefs are a scarcity in the restaurant world, but they were even harder to come by back when chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken opened their first restaurant together in 1981. The duo later opened Border Grill and also starred in their own cooking show, Too Hot Tamales. Border Grill was one of the first modern Mexican restaurants in L.A. Forty years since opening their first restaurant, the partnership is still strong. In late December of 2019, the duo opened Socalo in Santa Monica which serves the Californian-Mexican fare the two are known for. While Border Grill in downtown L.A. is temporarily closed, Socalo is open for takeout and outdoor dining.
1920 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-451-1655 or socalo.com
11. Kuniko Yagi
In another life, chef Kuniko Yagi was a banker in Japan. Her first job in Los Angeles was as a waitress at a noodle shop as she didn’t really speak much English at the time, but she soon set her mind to a career in the kitchen. She worked her way up at David Myers’ restaurants and eventually opened Hinoki & The Bird together. From there, Yagi stepped out on her own and opened her own concept after a long struggle of finding people willing to invest in a woman. Now, her Pikunico at Row DTLA serves Japanese fried chicken, one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in LA, onigiri and other comfort food.
767 S. Alameda St. Suite 122; 213-278-0407 or pikunico.com
12. Natalia Pereira
Chef Natalia Pereira’s Wood Spoon has been quietly serving great Brazilian food in downtown L.A., from coxinhas to carne de panela. As a black Brazilian immigrant, Pereira opened Wood Spoon fifteen years ago to find her community and found a loyal following. At the restaurant, she serves the rustic, comfort food that her mother (Pereira was an orphan but was raised by her father’s wife) used to make when she was growing up, including her famous chicken pot pie made with hearts of palm, olives and corn. Not only a chef, Pereira is also an artist—her upcoming cookbook will feature her own photography and drawings.
107 W. 9th St.; 213-629-1765 or woodspoonla.com
13. Rocio Camacho
Chef Rocio Camacho is L.A.’s queen of the traditional Oaxacan sauce, mole. The Oaxacan native has worked her way up the kitchen ladder, starting as a shrimp peeler and working at various Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, before opening her own restaurants and making a name for herself among local food media, all thanks to her mole. Her struggles didn’t end there, though. One of her restaurants was burnt down by arson in 2015, but Camacho kept going. Nicknamed “the Goddess of Mole”, Rocio now prepares mole recipes that have been passed down her family for generations at Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen in Bell Gardens.
7891 Garfield Ave., Bell Gardens; 562-632-5855 or dezcuentoz.mymobisite.us/rociosmexicankitchen
14. Minh Phan
Chef Minh Phan learned to embrace the farm-to-table philosophy working at various restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Phan then ventured out on her own to do, of all things, porridge. Her porridge is not any old porridge, though; her take on the dish is made with heirloom grains and seasonally changing toppings. Porridge + Puffs started as a pop-up and later settled into a space in Historic Filipinotown. In the middle of the pandemic, Phan kept Porridge + Puffs mostly closed except for special occasions, but instead she took the leap to start a temporary fine dining restaurant, Phenakite, at Second Home in Hollywood, bringing the same farm-to-table sensibilities and Asian influences to her tasting menu.
1370 N. St. Andrews Pl.; phenakite.square.site
15. Jazz Singsanong
Sarintip Singsanong, better known as Jazz, took over Jitlada in Hollywood with her brother, Tui Sungkamee in 2006. Soon, the two transformed Jitlada into possibly the most popular restaurant in Thai Town with their large (no, really, there are 400 items on the menu) menu that includes southern Thai specialties that are often fiery hot. There’s also an off-menu Jazz Burger that you can only get when Jazz is there. Now, Jitlada’s walls are adorned by photos of Jazz with celebrity fans from all over the world. After Tui’s passing in 2017, Singsanong has been running Jitlada with Tui’s daughter, Sugar Sungkamee.
5233 Sunset Blvd.; 323-667-9809 or jitladala.com
16. Helene An
Helene An and her family arrived in San Francisco as Vietnamese refugees during the Fall of Saigon, flung from a life of aristocracy to a little apartment where Helene’s mother-in-law, Diana An, was already living. Her MIL was running an Italian deli right underneath the apartment and An started helping in the kitchen—the deli’s menu eventually turned to be fully Vietnamese, and the restaurant became Thanh Long, San Francisco’s first Vietnamese restaurant. Though they’re not traditional Vietnamese dishes, Thanh Long’s roasted Dungeness crab and garlic noodles became so popular that it spawned other locations including Crustacean in Beverly Hills. An’s daughters are also following in her footsteps and the family also runs Tiato in Santa Monica and AnQi Bistro in Orange County.
Multiple restaurants; houseofan.com
17. Ria Dolly Barbosa
Chef Ria Dolly Barbosa trained under some of the best, working with Michael Mina and Daniel Boulud at their Las Vegas locations. Returning to Los Angeles, where she had lived since she was six years old, Barbosa was the opening chef for Sqirl and later moved on to oversee the food operations for Go Get Em Tiger and Paramount Coffee Project. In April of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, Barbosa took the jump and opened her own restaurant, Petite Peso, which melds the Filipino food of her upbringing with her French culinary techniques. Petite Peso is currently only doing special takeout on select dates, but Ria plans to reopen takeout on a regular basis soon.
419 W. 7th St.; 209-438-7376 or petitepeso.com