There are not a lot of women who hold head chef positions at independent restaurants in the United States. In fact, only 10 out of 160 positions are held by women (6.3%). Just like every other industry, as you near the top, you see fewer and fewer women. That’s not due to a lack of talent-nor desire-on the part of women (there’s a mild degree of irony in the fact that women aren’t present in great numbers as head chefs, yet the classic gender essentialist roles of women have them raising children, cleaning, and…cooking). Perhaps it’s because restaurant owners aren’t aware of the existence of female chefs. I hear they are very difficult to find. I had to scour the internet for all of 20 seconds before I found one: Top Chef alum Nyesha Arrington:
Arrington recalls her first memories in the kitchen, where she was tasked with doing a brunoise—or making a perfect small dice—on an giant case of red bell peppers. The task took her entire first shift, and she almost quit, but thankfully she kept at it. Since then she’s worked under Michelin-starred chef Josiah Citrin at Melisse, the Jonathan Beach Club, and most recently Wilshire, but most people will recognize her from her appearances on “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Duels.”
Between the traditional kitchens and grueling reality TV competitions, it’s safe to say that Arrington has mastered the grind. She’s enjoying her career as a personal chef and special events caterer, utilizing her world travels to help evolve her eclectic cooking style. Now, she’s her own boss, creating unique, internationally-influenced menus for high-end clients, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Listen to more of her story and her particular culinary approach here.