Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman named best female chef in world

By Geraldine Gittens

Northern Ireland chef Clare Smyth has been named "best female chef" in the world at the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards.

The Antrim-born woman was given the honour at a ceremony in Bilbao on Monday night, due to her work at her debut restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth, in London's Notting Hill.

Meanwhile, Italian chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana was named the best restaurant in the world for a second time.

While chef Joan Roca's El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, came second and Mauro Colagreco's Mirazur restaurant in Menton, France, came third.

In 2007, Smyth became the first and only female head chef in the UK to secure three Michelin stars.

She grew up on a farm near Bushmills, left school at 16, studied catering at Highbury College in Portsmouth, and then quickly honed her craft in kitchens in the UK and the US.

Leaving Northern Ireland at the age of 16, Clare worked in some of the most celebrated kitchens in the world, before opening her own modern fine dining restaurant last year where dinner can cost £150 a head.

She worked at Terence Conran's Michelin House restaurant, the French Laundry in California, Per Se in New York, Alain Ducasse's renowned Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo and Restaurant Gordon Ramsey for more than 13 years.

She was awarded the Michelin stars at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Previously, Smyth spoke about how the increased presence of female chefs makes kitchens better places.

"It makes it a much more pleasant environment to work in," she said. "But you can go too far the other way, with too many women. It's better to have a good balance, as in any working environment."

She said she resisted the label of 'female chef' for a long time, wanting to be known for her talent rather than her gender.

"I never wanted to be separated," she said.

"But as I've grown up I do understand the importance of having someone at the top of the industry who you can recognise yourself in, and say 'if that person can do it, I can do it'."

Clare - who prepared a sit-down dinner for the select 200 guests at the wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex - said to separate male and female chefs "for me is strange, but we don't see enough women coming through at the top and we need to do something about it".

"I would love to see very soon that we don't need gender-specific awards because women will have recognition and there will be a balance in the industry," she said.

"Hopefully we'll see plenty of women on the 50 best list and there won't be a need for that award."

As to why there aren't more female chefs in the industry, Clare also previously said she simply doesn't know.

"The working environment is way better now, for everyone, so being a chef is a much more attractive profession - and a much more professional profession too," she says.

"It's people's choice whether they want to go into it, but there's nothing to stop them doing it if they choose to."

Belfast Telegraph

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