The role of women within the culinary world and gastronomy at large is too great for a simple article in our gastro-column. But this March 8 we’d like to shine a spotlight on some of the figures who have earned their place in what can often be an uphill battle. We dedicate this space to appreciating all the women who inspire their teams with their passion for food, their ability to lead, and their ongoing demand for quality.
Recognized as the best pastry chef in Latin America in 2020 by Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, Sofía can boast of her vast experience at Enrique Olvera’s restaurant Pujol, where she specialized in the pastry area alongside Chef Alejandra Rivas. She employs a tireless search of traditional and avant-garde techniques from different European countries that she executes in her own way among various local ventures.
Her unique touch has been present at Hotel Carlota, Máximo Bistrot, La Vitrine, Te Extraño, Extraño (in Mérida, Yucatán) and she was even charged with the desserts at a charity dinner at Salma Hayek’s house. Sofía’s deft handling of sweet ingredients ensures that her creations are always of the highest quality without neglecting the healthy elements of food.
Mónica Patiño’s interest in food has been present since she was a child, encouraged by trips abroad to learn English and French. She studied at L’École de Cuisine in France and interned at Hacienda de los Morales. This combination of learning abroad and applying it in her own country is a consistent characteristic of Monica’s style. She has taken courses in India and Thailand, represented Mexico in gastronomic competitions in Spain, Germany, Portugal, and England.
In addition to her crucial role in the menu planning of numerous restaurants, Monica is also known for sharing her culinary knowledge through television programs on Canal Once and Canal Gourmet and the publication of cookbooks, one of which (Sabores en la cocina de Mónica Patiño) won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award in the category of best book by a female chef. Popular Roma restaurants Delirio and Casa Virginia offer just a couple of successful examples of Mónica’s cooking.
Carmen “Titita” Ramírez Degollado
Titita’s story goes hand in hand with one of the most representative Mexican restaurants, El Bajío, at whose tables chefs like Rick Bayless and Ferrán Adriá have sat. This restaurant, originally founded in Cuitláhuac in 1972, currently has 19 locations thanks to a family-led effort. Titita’s five children all participate in various aspects of the business, all while taking care to ensure that the recipes and flavors stay faithful to the Veracruz traditions she grew up with. Titita is internationally recognized as an ambassador of Mexican cuisine, which she promotes with books, festivals, culinary demonstrations, and more.
She has been nominated by the New York Times as the matriarch of Mexican flavor and won the Business Merit Award in 2008. At El Bajío, a group of “mayoras” start work early in the mornings to prepare those particularly demanding dishes like mole de Xico, sauces that require roasting and grinding the chilies, and making the corn dough from scratch for all the antojitos (snacks). They are Elia Rodríguez, María Antonia Hernández, Maricela Avendaño, Bertha Legorreta, Edith Robles, and Sandra Olvera, to name a few.
Cuando la gente cambia de país, se lleva consigo costumbres, historias, tradiciones y recetas; con el paso del tiempo, es posible que haya una combinación con lo propio del nuevo lugar y los resultados sean deliciosos y sorprendentes. La familia de Andrea Sayeg proviene de Líbano y en su casa siempre abundaron los aromas especiados de la cocina de sus abuelas. Fuera de su hogar encontró un México lleno de taquerías con especialidades por descubrir de la mano de su padre.
Andrea ha afirmado que siempre tuvo claro que quería su propia taquería con sazón única, basada en la comida tradicional del Medio Oriente, pero con preparaciones contemporáneas. El resultado de esta claridad y determinación es Alay Alay, donde esta joven chef ofrece tacos con especias y técnicas provenientes de Israel, Yemen y Turquía. Considerada como una promesa de la gastronomía, Andrea tiene una especialidad en nutrición y vasta experiencia en restaurantes como Nosh, Punta Corcho, Peltre y Nudo Negro; fue jefa de cocina en Merkavá, chef corporativa de Bull & Tank del chef Daniel Ovadía y es embajadora de US Meat.
Even an unassuming dish can become extraordinary without unnecessary touches of sophistication when it’s made with precision and care. Unpretentiousness in the kitchen is the hallmark of Ana Dolores. Ana is another promising young Mexican chef, who after graduating from the ASPIC Instituto Gastronómico, learned from Mexican cuisine specialist and researcher Yuri de Gortari.
Later she would be a key element in Expendio de Maíz, where, without a fixed menu, Ana gave life to new dishes every day in creative ways that avoided waste, armed with three stoves and a library of recipes she has compiled around the central ingredient of corn. Now, her kitchen has moved to the Condesa neighborhood, to Esquina Común, where she offers less traditional dishes. While based on Mexican cuisine, the food has various influences from other latitudes and diners are served in a manner very similar to going to a friend’s home for dinner, albeit a friend who has prepared a very special menu for you.
Since opening in 2014, Mariana has directed the kitchen at Lalo! and has been a close collaborator of Chef Eduardo García after also spending time at Máximo Bistrot. She defines herself as the creator of your favorite burger and her goal for 2023 is to make more pasta. For this graduate of the Centro de Estudios Superiores de San Angel (CESSA) the most important detail is to create from scratch, hence Lalo! bakes their own bread, stuffs their own chorizo, and smokes their own salmon.
With care and attention to every part of the process, Mariana achieves distinctive results. Mariana Alfarache is part of the Arca Tierra Collective, which promotes regenerative agriculture in the chinampas (Mesoamerican farming technique) through culinary experiences in Xochimilco.
Lula Martín del Campo
Mexican culinary heritage is a treasure and thanks to people like Lula Martín del Campo who seek to preserve it, it will continue to be known as such. Chef of Cascabel, Lula calls her menu “Culinary Heritage of Mexico” and has been an active figure in related fields, from chairing the women’s collective Pesca con Futuro of the Mexican Council for the Promotion of Fishing and Aquaculture Products (COMEPESCA) to publishing more than a dozen recipe books.
Lula shares her mastery and enthusiasm for Mexican cuisine through restaurants such as Marea, whose motto is “Sea, corn, and mezcal,” but also in the classroom, teaching and bringing knowledge directly to new generations of chefs. Needless to say, she is a prime example of success and passion in her endeavors.
Maricela “Mate” Zorrilla
As mentioned, family and travel are two big influences on the palate. Chef Maricela Mate Zorrilla took the taste for home cooking from her Hidalgo family and nurtured it in distinguished European schools and restaurants (L’Espadon and Lucas Carton, with two and three Michelin stars, respectively). Mate has been at the helm of Condimento Banquetes for more than a decade, her own venture that has earned her the trust of high-profile clients such as Dior, Givenchy, Gucci, and El Palacio de Hierro, among others.
But it is in her restaurant Les Divins where her culinary vision shines. In this cozy Polanco bistro you’ll find a variety of creative and dynamic dishes for a wide range of occasions, from casual to formal, and with an excellent selection of French wines. Mate has also participated in the Meat Sorority initiative, which seeks to build a positive community of women in the culinary industry, where stories of successes and failures are shared in order to encourage women to achieve their personal and professional goals.