Hélène Darroze beats off global competition to win the coveted prize and joins Angela Hartnett, Skye Gyngell, Clare Smyth and more on our list of the women chefs running London’s top restaurants.
Hélène Darroze, 48, from south-west France has one of the most beautiful and lavish dining rooms in London, the wood panelling and ornate ceilings of The Connaught Hotel. On Monday evening, she was crowned ‘the world’s best female chef‘ at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.
She made her name in Paris and still has a restaurant there, as well as her two Michelin star restaurant in the UK. Her cooking style is bold and strong, yet refined, and uses lots of decadent ingredients such as langoustine and foie gras, making it a huge treat.
Diners are offered served slices of Bayonne ham with moreish herb brioche before they order. Hélène uses lots of dramatic colour in her dishes: a favourite is black rice cooked risotto style with lobster, calamari and huge scallops.
Her favourite ingredient is piment d’espelette, a mild chilli pepper from the Basque country which is used in dishes including Alaskan black cod and green apple sorbets.
Skye Gyngell, 51, originally from Australia, was previously head chef at Petersham Nurseries, where she won a coveted Michelin star. It was Petersham that Skye became renowned for her distinctively seasonal, elegant cooking, creating dishes inspired by what she saw growing and blossoming around her.
Skye was the Independent on Sunday’s food writer for five years and last year opened a new restaurant, and her first solo venture, Spring at Somerset House.
Angela Hartnett MBE, 46, is one of the busiest and most well-known chefs in London. She rose to fame as the first female chef in the kitchen of the Connaught with Gordon Ramsay.
Together with Ramsay, she opened Murano in Mayfair in 2008, serving modern cuisine with an Italian style reflecting her family roots. Angela now owns Murano, which has held a Michelin star for five years outright.
Angela also has Café Murano, in Mayfair, which has a female head chef, Sam Willians, who cooked for Nelson Mandela twice and owns Merchant Tavern in Shoreditch with her partner Neil Bothwick.
Anna Hansen MBE, 44, loves to experiment with unusual flavours and ingredients from all over the world. I first tried pomegranate molasses at her restaurant, The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell, long before it was widely available.
Baharat spice mix is one of her current favourite ingredients, popping up with duck confit and pearl barley and in a salad of Stichelton cheese, beetroot and pumpkin.
Brunch is special and different at The Modern Pantry, especially Anna’s sugar-cured spiced prawn omelette served with a smoky chilli sambal. There are plans afoot to expand the Modern Pantry to a second venue in the City in 2015.
Even afternoon tea is given a fresh and original makeover: scones are flavoured with clementine and jasmine, chocolate brownies with rosewater and jasmine.
Northern Irish Clare Smyth is the only female chef to hold three Michelin stars in the UK. She is chef-patron of Gordon Ramsay Hospital Road. She is the only female chef to have achieved a perfect ten out of ten in the Good Food Guide.
Clare was trainied in some of the most renowned restaurants in the world including Per Se in New York and Alain Ducasse’s Louis XV in Monaco. Perfect culinary technique and exquisite presentation are of supreme importance to Clare, who has been praised for ‘dressing plates like Picasso’.
The dining room has a modern meets Art Deco feel and the most superb cheese trolley. Among Clare’s most superlative dishes are turbot with artichoke canneloni and a chocolate ‘cigar’ with blood orange jelly.