Asian female chefs with Michelin stars: Breaking out in a male-dominated industry

Asian female chefs with Michelin stars: Breaking out in a male-dominated industry

Shining stars

Text: Corinne Cheah

"You can do anything you want to do, it has nothing to do with gender. Go out there and just do it" - Dominique Crenn.  

After recent news of French chef Dominique Crenn becoming the first woman in the US to be awarded 3 Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, we can't help but wonder if that accolade was something unattainable in a male-dominated industry. Is it harder to prove yourself as a female chef? Or are things already shifting? Circling a little closer to home in Asia, we look at these inspiring female chefs who rose to the top and holding Michelin stars of their own.

Garima Arora

"Food is the art of the 21st century"

Meet Garima Arora, the journalist-turned-chef behind restaurant Gaa in Bangkok, Thailand. After Arora's previous stints of working under Gordon Ramsay in Dubai and Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, she opened restaurant Gaa and was awarded her first Michelin star — making her the first Indian to win the award. Known for her artsy mix of Indian and Thai cuisine, restaurant Gaa captures the amalgamation of culinary influences from both cuisines, using locally harvested and seasonal ingredients. 


Bee Satongun 

"A dish that does not breed culture is worthless." 

Bee Satongun takes the helm of Paste Bangkok, working alongside Australian chef and husband Jason Bailey. Recently being named elit Vodka Asia's Best Female Chef 2018, Satongun draws inspiration from centuries-old Thai cookbooks and reinterprets traditional Thai cuisine in a modern context; earning Paste Bangkok its reputation for its "heirloom creative Thai cuisine" and its first Michelin star.

Bee Satongun

Vicky Lau

"I present my dishes as food for thought. I want each of them (guests) to interpret the dish in their own way"

Holding the fort of Tate Dining Room and Bar in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong is designer-turned-chef Vicky Lau. The tate menu is conveyed as a series of "odes" to the different ingredients to express appreciation and to celebrate the origins of these ingredients. Drawing on the cumulation of her career experiences, Lau leans towards French techniques but uses Asian ingredients in her craft. 


Kwen Liew

"Always stay humble no matter what your position is. We are learning every day"

Malaysian born Kwen Liew and co-owner of Pertinence in Paris, France is one of just two women chefs and the first Malaysian to be awarded the Michelin star this year. Liew attended Le Cordon Bleu in Australia and Bangkok and raked up working experience in both France and Singapore before deciding to open Pertinence. The restaurant serves classical French cuisine cooked with Japanese technique and focuses on the different textures and flavors. Of course, being brought up in Malaysia, a melting pot of culinary influences Malaysian influences can also be seen in their food such as using different spices and products that add personality to her dishes. 

Kwen Liew

Click here for the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.