Meet the 21 Badass Women Changing the Food World as We Know It

The James Beard Foundation's 2016 female nominees are forces of nature.

The James Beard Awards are here—AKA the Oscars of Food—and women. are. killin' it. This year, 21 women have been recognized for their contributions to the culinary world, from industry vets to stars on the rise. Winners will be announced on May 2 in Chicago, but honestly, these ladies are already changing the game.

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Lucques
Outstanding Chef Nominee: Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles, CA

With a background at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the United States, including Ma Maison, L'Orangerie in Los Angeles, Al Forno in Providence, Olives in Boston, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, as well as Alain Passard's Arpège in Paris, Los Angeles native Goin has paved her way as an esteemed chef and restaurateur.

Goin has received nine nominations for Outstanding Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. In 2011, she became a member of the International Culinary Panel of distinguished chefs for Singapore Airlines, developing her recipes for in-flight dining. Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne have prepared several fundraising dinners for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama over the years. Goin is also a founding member of Lunch Matters, the organization working to create a partner school lunch program to Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard project.

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Outstanding Baker Nominee: Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Café in Boston, MA

Chang is an honors graduate of Harvard College, and left her career as a management consultant to become a chef. She started at Biba in Boston, and throughout the 90's Chang worked at Bentonwood Bakery in Newton, Rialto in Cambridge, and the acclaimed Payard Bistro in New York City. She later returned to Boston and opened Flour in 2000. She also opened Chinese restaurant Myers + Chang, which is also up for a James Beard Award this year. She is a marathon runner and author of three cookbooks. Chang has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards.

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Aubrey Pick
Outstanding Baker Nominee: Belinda Leong of b. patisserie in San Francisco, CA

Belinda Leong began her career as a pastry chef at Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco in 1999. After eight successful years, she left the restaurant for Europe to stage at some of the most esteemed restaurants and patisseries in Paris, Barcelona, and Copenhagen. After two years in Europe, Leong returned to the Bay Area and became pastry chef at Manresa Restaurant, a two star Michelin Restaurant, in Los Gatos, California before opening b. Patisserie. Leong was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2014 for Best Pastry Chef.

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Outstanding Pastry Chef Nominee: Dolester Miles of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, AL

According to al.com, Miles has been working for more than 30 years in one kitchen—and her pastries have been at the cornerstone of it all. Inspired by her mother and aunt, she went to school for computer science before listening to her passion. She started out as a pantry chef (preparing salads and cold appetizers), rose up the ranks, and eventually became the full-time pastry chef for Bottega. Since then, she's been making delicious treats, including her famous coconut-pecan cake.

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Courtesy Foundation Rwanda
Outstanding Pastry Chef Nominee: Dahlia Narvaez of Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, CA

Dahlia Narvaez developed a love for food when cooking for her family after school. One day in her early 20s, she confidently strode through the doors of La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles and asked for a counter job. But she never worked a minute behind the counter—she skipped immediately to the kitchen at Nancy Silverton's Campanile where, in 2003, she was named Executive Pastry Chef. Narvaez left Campanile in 2006 to assume the role of Executive Pastry Chef for what was to soon become Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza. She developed the menus and pastry departments for all of Mozza's LA restaurants and oversees the department in Newport Beach, San Diego, and Singapore. Narvaez has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Pastry Chef Award three times.

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Outstanding Pastry Chef Nominee: Maura Kilpatrick of Oleana in Cambridge, MA

After receiving a graduate certificate in baking at the California Culinary Academy, Kilpatrick moved back to her hometown of Boston and worked with some of the city's top chefs. In 1999, she opened two highly acclaimed and successful Boston-area bakeries: Hi-Rise Bread Company and Hi-Rise Pie Company, where some of her recipes are still in use. In 2001, she and Ana Soturn, who she worked with earlier in her career, reunited to develop the concept of Oleana Restaurant. Working at Oleana has demanded that she constantly try new things, take chances, and try, try again. Kilpatrick and Soturn also opened Sofra in Cambridge, Mass. Maura has won multiple James Beard Awards in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category.

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Anthony Tahlier
Outstanding Pastry Chef Nominee: Meg Galus of Boka in Chicago, IL

Galus began her career in the culinary arts when she attended the French Pastry School in Chicago in 2005. Galus' time as an executive pastry chef at Park Hyatt Chicago and NoMI Kitchen garnered her many accolades, including StarChefs Rising Star award in 2011, Tasting Table's Top 10 Best Pastry Chefs in 2012, and found Jean Banchet nominations. In 2013, Galus took home top prize at the Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition. Today in addition to overseeing the pastry programs at Boka Restaurant and Momotaro, Galus serves as Executive Pastry Chef for Boka Restaurant Group's newest concept, Swift & Sons.

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Outstanding Pastry Chef Nominee: Ghaya Oliveira from Daniel in New York City

Oliveira's first career was not in the kitchen, but as a stock trader in her native Tunisia, but after moving to the United States in 1998, she chose to pursue creative challenges in the kitchen rather than on the trading floor. Upon graduating from the Culinary Academy and then earning a degree in Restaurant Management from the French Culinary Institute, Oliveira joined Café Boulud under Executive Pastry Chef Remy Funfrock in New York in 2001. At Café Boulud, Oliveira was promoted on several occasions, first to Pastry Cook, then to Pastry Sous Chef. She continued to learn from Chef Funfrock, as well as Daniel Boulud's Corporate Pastry Chef Eric Bertoia. Since then, she worked at Bolud and Bolud Sud. In July 2013, Boulud named Oliveira Executive Pastry at his flagship DANIEL. She was previously nominated three times by the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

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Noah Fecks
Outstanding Pastry Chef Nominee: Jennifer Yee of Lafayette in New York City

Jennifer Yee has arrived at the head of the pastry program at Chef Andrew Carmellini's French grand café and bakery, Lafayette, by way of an education and training with Ivy League equivalency. Beginning at London's Le Cordon Bleau, Yee remained abroad in the UK to begin her training at Gordon Ramsay's The Connaught followed by a position as opening team member of Yauatcha in Soho. In 2006 she returned to the US to become a sous chef at Gilt inside the ultra-luxe Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue, where she took particular ownership of the fanciful and thorough chocolate program. In 2010, Yee went on to become Charlie's Palmer's pastry chef at Aureole where she was awarded that year's Rising Star Pastry Chef award, and then on the Michelin-starred SHO where she was able to showcase limitless technique and detail.

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Lifetime Achievement Award: Leah Chase of Dooky Chase's Restaurant in New Orleans, LA

Known as the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," Leah Chase has been the matriarch and Executive Chef of the famous Dooky Chase's Restaurant in New Orleans since the early 1950's. With her undeniably delicious recipes, she has fed some of the most culturally significant figures in history, including Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, Ray Charles, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and countless others. Chase has received many awards for her cooking throughout her lifetime, but it's her warmth, character, and her mastery of the culinary arts that continue to bring in flocks of patrons from across the globe to Dooky Chase's Restaurant.

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Teddy Wolf
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Daniela Soto-Innes of Cosme in New York City

Daniela Soto-Innes comes from a long line of women who love food and cooking. And visiting the food markets and restaurants of Mexico City as a child only stoked her curiosity further. By the time she was 14, Soto-Innes was ready to work. She started as an intern with Marriot Hotels, a position which turned into a job that lasted through high school and landed her in Austin at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. Soto-Innes stayed there for three years, building up a skill set in the context of a professional restaurant. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, she worked at numerous restaurants in Texas, New York, Europe, and Mexico including Marks Restaurant, Brennan's of Houston, Triniti, Underbelly, and Pujol. Two years later, Soto-Innes continued exploring, at progressive American restaurant Triniti and charcuterie-driven Underbelly with Chef Chris Shepherd. In Pujol, she worked alongside Enrique Olvera. When Olvera was looking to bring his operation to New York City, he tapped Soto-Innes as opening chef de cuisine. Now at the helm of Cosme, Soto-Innes works on menu development with Olvera and kitchen management with fellow chef de cuisine Mariana Villegas. In 2015, Soto-Innes earned a StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award for her work at the restaurant.

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Brayden Olson
Rising Star Chef of the Year Nominee: Angela Dimayuga of Mission Chinese Food in New York City

Dimayuga, age 29, is the Executive Chef of Mission Chinese Food in NYC. She is of Filipino descent, and studied hotel and restaurant management at Cal Poly and humanities at Strathclyde in Glasgow as San Francisco State. She worked as a line cook at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, and then was hired by James Beard Award Winner Danny Bowien as sous chef for Mission Chinese on Orchard Street. When the restaurant reopened on East Broadway in 2014, Dimayuga was promoted to Executive Chef.

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Best Chef Nominee (Mid-Atlantic): Cindy Wolf of Charleston in Baltimore, MD

A 2006, 2008, 2014, 2015, and 2016 James Beard Foundation finalist for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic, Chef Wolf focusese on natural flavors with regional products. Charleston is an American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Five-Star Diamond award recipient, a Forbes Four-Star award recipient, and AAA Four Star Diamond Award recipient.

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Best Chef Nominee (New York City): Jody Williams of Buvette in New York City

Jody Williams is an American chef and TV personality who began her career in food early by working at her father's hot dog stand at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. She relocated to New York City where she mastered Italian cuisine at restaurants such as Tappo, Morandi, and Gottino. She was also featured on the Food Network show Chopped (NBD).

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Best Chef Nominee (New York City): Anita Lo of Annisa in New York City

Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa in New York City, is one of the most respected chefs in the country, earning numerous accolades for her inventive Contemporary American cuisine that reflects her multicultural upbringing and classic French training.

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Best Chef Nominee (Northwest): Renee Erickson of The Whale Wins in Seattle, WA

One of the country's most acclaimed chefs, Renee Erickson is the owner of several Seattle restaurants: The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle. She's built a career around celebrating the fresh seasonal food of the Pacific Northwest.

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Veronica Flickr
Best Chef Nominee (Northwest, alongside Seif Chirchi): Rachel Yang of Joule in Seattle, WA

Husband and wife chef duo Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi met while cooking at New York's acclaimed Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. And while both chefs have a distinctly different point of view, their tastes seamlessly blend together to create modern and creative cuisine in their restaurants, Trove, Revel, and Joule. Rachel's training in French techniques meld with her Korean heritage, which helps to influence her cuisine.

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Best Chef Nominee (Northeast): Susan Regis of Shepard in Cambridge, MA

Co-owner of Shepard, Regis began her cooking career at Seasons in the Bostonian Hotel, a restaurant that launched the careers of many of Boston's most famous chefs. Regis opened several other restaurants, most notably Biba. Regis also was chef at Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, where she was named "Best Chef—Northeast" by the James Beard Foundation.

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Best Chef Nominee (Northeast): Karen Akunowicz of Myers + Chang in Boston, MA

Akunowicz has called Boston home for nearly a decade. Originally from New Jersey, she is a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and UMass Amherst, after which she traveled around the world working in all aspects of the food industry, from hospitality to bartending. Akunowicz was also on Bravo's Top Chef, and was previously nominated for the James Beard Best Chef, Northeast, in 2015.

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Best Chef Nominee (West): Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, CA

Dominique Crenn grew up in France and began her formal training as a chef when she moved to San Francisco in 1988. During that time she worked under working under San Francisco food icons Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz for for two years at Stars. She later worked at Campton Place, 2223 Market, the Park Hyatt Grill, and Yoyo Bistro at the Miyako Hotel. In 1997, Crenn made culinary history as the first female executive chef in Indonesia, heading the kitchen at the InterContinental Hotel in Jakarta. She earned her first Michelin star in San Francisco in 2009 and again in 2010. She opened Atelier Crenn in January 2011, a concept that embodies both her heritage and an ode to "poetic culinaria." The restaurant quickly earned its first Michelin star, and Crenn was awarded a second star in October 2012, becoming the first female chef in the United States to receive this accolade.

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Outstanding Restaurateur Nominee: Cindy Pawclyn in Napa, CA

Cindy Pawlcyn has pioneered fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable wine-country cuisine since opening Napa Valley's legendary Mustards Grill in 1983. She is the founder/owner of two of Napa Valley's most beloved restaurants—Mustards Grill and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen—and is Culinary Partner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Pawlcyn won a James Beard Award in 2002 for Best American Cookbook for Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook and was twice nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Culinary Excellence.

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