March is Women’s History Month. As a nationwide celebration of women’s accomplishments in history, we think it’s a perfect time to highlight just a few of the female pioneers in the food industry.
Buwei Yang Chao
Originally a doctor in China, Buwei Yang Chao began cooking while studying medicine. After moving to Massachusetts for her husband’s job, Buwei decided to document the steps on traditional Chinese cooking, which became her first cookbook, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese. While she was modest and said that she only created the recipes and her daughter and husband did the translation, Buwei helped coin the terms ‘stir fry’ and ‘potstickers’, now both part of the English language.
We all think we know Julia Child, but did you know that in World War II she worked for the agency that developed into the CIA? Innately curious, Child began her cooking training while living in Paris with her husband. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, she started a cooking school with some French counterparts for wives whose husbands were working in Europe. Once she and her partners decided to work on a French cooking book directed at an American audience, the rest was history. Child began the cooking television genre and helped bring foods previously considered hard to make easier for the everyday cook.
Originally a seamstress who developed her home restaurant into an empire, Edna Lewis was a firm advocate for Southern cooking and what African Americans brought to the chef’s table. The first recipient of the James Beard Living Legacy award, Lewis now has a foundation named in her honor that advocates for African Americans in all aspects of the cooking field.
Ruth Graves Wakefield
Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie? Well, you can thank Ruth Graves Wakefield for that oh-so-simple treat that’s easy to make. Proprietor of the Toll House Inn, Wakefield experimented with cookie recipes based on her travels. Chopping up a Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate bar, Wakefield achieved a cookie where the chocolate didn’t fully melt, creating bites of chocolate instead of cookies that were completely chocolate. A strong businesswoman, Wakefield allowed Nestlé to share the recipe in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Sounds like a deal to us!
The pioneer of California cuisine and a huge proponent of farm-to-table eating, Alice Waters has made a large impact on how the United States eats. A graduate of the University of California, Berkley, Waters spent a semester in France where she learned to shop daily at farmers markets for the freshest ingredients. Returning to the States after traveling around the world, she incorporated this way of eating into her restaurant Chez Panisse. With a dedication to organic foods, the restaurant has helped foster a change in how Americans view the organic movement.
We know that women in foodservice are true pioneers, and would love to highlight some of your favorites. If you know of any, please let us know who they are in the comment section so we can feature them in the future! Strong girls, strong world!