The Melbourne food scene is something that never slows down. It’s competitive, it’s innovative, and most of all, it’s bloody delicious.
There’s always a big focus on male chefs that are serving up dishes around Melbourne, but there are plenty of female chefs absolutely killing it in Melbourne right now, and it’s time we took a look at what they’re dishing up.
Here are 7 female chefs in Melbourne that you should know about.
Annam, Bia Hoi & Pho Nom
Annam is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne, and at the helm, you’ll find Jerry Mai.
Jerry’s food is predominantly Vietnamese with inspiration from Thai, and Cambodian cuisine, all influenced by the places her parents were raised or lived in before they settled in Australia in the 1980s.
Jerry’s resume features stints at Longrain, Seamstress, and Gingerboy, along with a two-year stint at David Thompson’s London restaurant, Nahm. Alongside Annam, Jerry is also behind Pho Nom, and the recently opened Bia Hoi in Glen Waverley.
Head Pastry Chef of the Van Haandel Group, Lauren brings experience from all around the world, including working alongside Massimo Bottura at the world’s best restaurant, Osteria Francescana.
Aside from Lauren’s amazing work behind the scenes at Stokehouse, she also helps support other women in the hospitality industry through action groups such as Women In Hospitality, an Australian not-for-profit that helps empower and connect female hospitality workers.
Lisa Van Zanten
The Atlantic Group are doing some fine things around Melbourne, and right at the helm of the pastry and baking team is Lisa Van Zanten, the group’s Executive Pastry Chef.
Lisa’s resume features time at Noma’s London 2012 Olympics pop up, as well as stints at Melbourne institutions Fenix, and The Press Club.
Travel across Australia and Europe has inspired Lisa’s approach to pastries, sweet treats, and her highly sought-after celebration cakes. In her current role, she oversees the sweet and savoury pastry menu at Melbourne venues such as Mill & Bakery, The Atlantic, and the group’s event spaces Peninsula, Sumac, MAIÀ, Sketch, and Gardens House.
Lisa also has a retail line of goods that you can get your hands on called Tonkah Foods. The range includes hot chocolates, pannacotta mixes, and cake dry mixes.
Jenna Louise North
Jenna lives up to her name, at Lucy Liu she is the orientating point that keeps the well-oiled kitchen machine at Lucy Liu chugging along.
Jenna’s work includes stints at Balzari, Enoteca, and The Smith. It was at The Smith that Jenna worked alongside Lucy Liu’s Managing Director Michael Lambie, and General Manager and Executive Chef Zac Cribbes.
The menu at Lucy Liu takes inspiration from all over Asia, with influences from Thailand, Vietnam, alongside touches borrowed from Cantonese cuisine and from Korea, and Japan.
Jenna’s killer kitchen skills have seen her rise through the ranks after starting as Chef de Partie in 2014, all to the way her current role as Head Chef.
Now in its tenth year of business, Maria Kabal is leading the charge into the future as Head Chef at Añada.
The restaurant boasts an all-female kitchen, one that follows Maria’s ethos of promoting quality ingredients from small, local farmers and the utilisation of rare and interesting meats.
Maria’s career includes stints at Caravan King’s Cross in London and Copenhagen’s Noma. Upon moving to Australia, Maria landed the role of Sous Chef at Añada working alongside Russell Hall and Jesse Gerner, before stepping into the role of Head Chef once Hall moved to Park St. in Carlton North.
If you’ve been to any event in Melbourne over the past few years, you’ve no doubt had the pleasure of consuming food prepared by Sophie Cookes.
Cookes Food has no packages, no standard menus, everything Sophie creates is a one-off menu tailored to the event and the client.
Sophie’s journey to Cookes Food includes time under Michelin-starred chef Skye Gyngell, and time studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
When founding Cookes Food the thinking was clear, where most catering companies have business managers at the helm, Cooked Food would be run by a chef.
You’ll find Marion right next door to Andrew McConnell’s well-known Gertrude Street restaurant Cutler & Co.
After beginning her cooking career in Noosa, Natasha moved to Melbourne in 2012 and kicked off her journey at Stokehouse in St Kilda, and their CBD venue.
Her time in Melbourn has also included stints at Pei Modern as Sous Chef, before starting as Chef de Partie in 2017 and becoming Head Chef at Marion in just eighteen months.
Still hungry? Check out Melbourne's latest openings on our New Eats page.
Image credit: Griffin Simm