Women on Top Awards: The Transformers

For Marie Claire's third annual Women on Top Awards, we combed the country for the up-and-comers leading thought-revolutions, creating businesses, and making names for themselves in fields from the military to the arts. None is a day over 40, with a couple of notable exceptions: We've added a "Super Woman" category to celebrate women of any age who made their mark on 2012. But their accomplishments speak for themselves...

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October 22, 2012 9:33 AM
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12. Top Foodie

Sonya Coté, 36, executive chef, Hillside Farmacy

Résumé: As a kid, Coté learned to whip up meals from ingredients, like alfalfa sprouts, she'd grown herself. At 18, she took a job at the second-ever Whole Foods, in Dallas, and in 2010, 19 years later, she sold $30,000 worth of Whole Foods shares to open Hillside Farmacy, in Austin, Texas.

Path to the Top: "I learned how to cook from my grandmother's boyfriend, a professionally trained French chef. As a teenager, I worked with amazing chefs who taught me about butchering, offal, and making my own pâté. My culinary education came from apprenticeships: That's why I'm successful. I've seen so many chefs with graduate degrees who don't know much."

Defining Moment: "When an abandoned po'boy shop in my neighborhood became available, my business partners and I crunched the numbers and realized we needed $250,000 to open our own place. We scrounged up the cash and renovated, and Hillside Farmacy immediately had a line out the door."

Menu Planning: "I only eat things grown locally; you can't find a fresher ingredient than a local one. Sometimes I forget about, like, pineapple, or other awesome nonlocal ingredients. But mass-produced food is soulless."