Published 13 July 2022
Welcome to CODE’s 100 Most Influential Women in Hospitality 2022.
We are delighted bring together a lineup of so many brilliant women. From national lobbyists and chairwomen to behind-the-scenes talent changing the face of their community, everyone on this list has made an inspiring impact over the past 12 months.
Our panel of judges have been an integral part of bringing this list together, from more than 600 public nominations. We extend our congratulations to all those nominated and everyone who has featured on the list, past and present.
This year we have introduced six special awards, celebrating the standout women in the fields of sustainability, drink, community, mentorship and entrepreneurship, with one overall ‘Most Influential Woman of 2022’.
We hope you enjoy reading their stories.
Chloë Hamilton, content editor, Knife & Fork Media
In 2014, Thompson left her job at a national newspaper to start a supper club in her front room. Since then, she has become one of the UK’s most respected voices in food, writing about diversity and identity for The Guardian, Stylist and Vittles, among other publications and winning the Guild of Food Writers’ Food Writing award in 2021.
Beckett is the co-founder of Hawksmoor, an international group of steakhouses that started life as a lone Spitalfields restaurant way back in 2006. Forever striving to improve working conditions in the sector, Will has been vital to ensuring Hawksmoor has been named one of the best companies to work for in the UK for more than a decade.
Famurewa is the Evening Standard’s chief restaurant critic, and has been awarded the Restaurant Writing Award from the Guild of Food Writers twice since joining the publication in 2015. Famurewa is also a regular on TV screens, having appeared on the BBC’s MasterChef, and Step Up to the Plate.
A champion of all things hospitality with her husband Pierre, Koffmann brings invaluable industry insight to the panel and was previously a judge for 2020’s 100 Most Influential Women in Hospitality list.
Restaurant inspector and contributor to The Good Food Guide since the ‘90s, and editor of the publication since 2007, Carter has extensive knowledge of the UK hospitality industry, particularly of the women working behind the scenes to power brilliant hospitality businesses.
Kate Nicholls OBE was appointed CEO of UKHospitality in 2018 and has become a leading voice in the sector. Pre-pandemic, Nicholls worked to ensure the industry was heard, but it was in March 2020, as pubs, restaurants and hotels suffered the wrath of Covid-19, that she truly found her platform. Since then, through lockdowns and beyond, Nicholls has been at the forefront in orchestrating hospitality’s response, lobbying the government to secure the support and legislation the industry needed. With the pandemic now taking a backfoot, she continues to press for its representation in Parliament.
Driven by a desire to celebrate her family heritage, Mexican-born chef Cavita opened her eponymous restaurant in Marylebone this year following residencies at The Dorchester and Carousel. The former El Bulli and Pujol chef has had a massive impact both in the industry and in the wider community, helping to raise more than £20,000 for Action Against Hunger UK.
Perhaps not the first person you’d expect to see on BBC’s Question Time or the Channel 4 news, Hartnett took to the national stage quite naturally to fly the flag for hospitality as we came out of Covid this past year. As well as running a small group of restaurants in London, she relentlessly supports food and drink events up and down the country. More recently, we’ve been enjoying her Dish podcast for Waitrose with Nick Grimshaw.
Originally making her name at Polpetto above the French House on Dean Street, Knight is now heading up the kitchen at one of London’s hottest restaurants, Sessions Arts Club in Farringdon. The owners of Sessions, Cabin Studio, are opening several sites across the UK and globally, at which Knight will oversee the food offering.
After 20 years at The Yorke Arms, Atkins might be forgiven for winding down her illustrious career. Yet when that chapter closed and the pandemic hit, it was onto the next project: a custom-built Airstream operating from Daleside Nurseries near Harrogate. The chef has now moved into a more permanent space on the site, turning out her signature seasonally simple, elegant cooking.
Bell has been a leader in the industry for over a decade, and her PR company, Gemma Bell and Company, is consistently regarded as one of the very best in the business. This year the company led the PR effort for Arcade’s Bebek! Bebek! and Plaza Khao Gaeng, as well as Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
After leaving the test kitchen at Ottolenghi – and co-writing Yotam Ottolenghi’s bestselling cookbook Flavour in 2020 – Belfrage has turned to the Italian, Mexican, and Brazilian influences of her upbringing for inspiration to write her own book, MEZCLA: Recipes to Excite, a recipe collection based on the cultural and historical fusions that define her cooking and life experiences.
The Begging Bowl in Peckham has been serving phenomenal Thai food since opening in 2012, but too often slips under the radar when it comes to recognition. Alty, the head chef, runs the restaurant while raising her young daughter, and her kitchen has been a training ground for chefs who have gone on to open their own successful Thai houses: Sebby Homes of Farang and Andy Oliver of Som Saa.
Pearson is a visible, outspoken leader in hospitality, and has been for a while. She heads up creative development at Ennismore, last year spearheading the opening of Rondo La Cave and curating its changing roster of residencies. Plus, she’s co-founder of London On The Inside, an online hub for news about the city’s goings on, from art exhibitions to restaurant openings.
Ratcharoen left Thailand to study economics at the University of Sussex, but her passion for food never left her. After spending time working under chef Michael Bremner at Brighton’s 64 Degrees, she joined Restaurant Gordon Ramsay as an apprentice. Now, she’s the restaurant’s head chef, a Great British Menu alum, and a beacon of inspiration to budding female chefs.
Goodwin-Allen has led the kitchen at Northcote since the age of 23, to much acclaim. This year, she helped bring together 18 of the UK and Ireland’s top chefs for Obsession, a prestigious 15-night food festival held at Northcote. Goodwin-Allen continues to be a familiar face on our screens and oversees the Stafford London’s Game Bird restaurant.
McNee has achieved a lot over the past few years. Just five months into her role as head chef at Glasgow’s Cail Bruich, she was awarded a Michelin star – the first for Glasgow in 18 years, and the only held by a woman in Scotland. McNee’s cooking elevates local Scottish and British produce and has drawn attention to Glasgow’s fine-dining scene once more.
As founder of creative agency M Peach + Co, McLaughlin’s influence on the industry has been seen and felt widely. She’s worked on branding for clients as varied as Osip, the Bruton farm-to-table restaurant, and modern London fast casual restaurants Mr Ji and Snackbar.
Rita’s gained a reputation for being one of London’s coolest restaurants, from its origins as a pop-up in an east London nightclub toilet to its current incarnation in Soho’s Lexington Street. Its charm is all Flynn, who conjures the magic of New York dive bars through inventive small plates and a surprising drinks list.
Behind the scenes at Russell Norman’s Trattoria Brutto, Sierra runs the show. She was previously group general manager at Polpo and put together Brutto’s front of house team during the pandemic, helping to orchestrate one of the most exciting restaurant openings of the last year.
Mam Sham, Butler and Georgiou’s events company, blends comedy, performance, and food in a way that no one else is currently doing. The proudly feminist duo throws immersive dinners where drinks flow freely to the sound of stand-up comedy – through them remaking the concept of a ‘dinner out’ for their generation.
Sabor continues to be a favourite for the industry, and the general public alike. Barragán Mohacho leads the food offering at the Heddon Street restaurant, while somehow finding time to be a regular at industry events and a prolific supporter of industry-related charities. Beyond being a champion of hospitality, Barragán Mohacho is also an outspoken supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Dishoom still attracts long queues of hungry diners 12 years after its first opening. Panayiodou started with the group as general manager of the King’s Cross site, and now, as operations director, is an indispensable part of Dishoom’s success. She helped steer the company through the pandemic and had a hand in delivering meals to 100,000 NHS workers.
Chef Majozi’s path has been anything but common. It’s taken her from culinary school in South Africa to working in Miami and Disney World, and now, to holding the joint positions of sous chef at The Rosewood Hotel and senior pie maker at The Pie Room in the Holborn Dining Room. There, she leads the kitchen brigade’s production of more than 300 pies a day, while making time to teach children how to bake in her popular masterclasses.
Bahraini-born Murad trained at the competitive Culinary Institute of America, working in New York for a time before crossing the Atlantic to London. As head of the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, she has co-authored two of its books: Shelf Love, and OTK Extra Good Things.
Fitzherbert and her team have overseen the PR for two international hotel openings in Los Angeles and the south of France, despite travel restrictions. As well as being one of the most recognisable figures in her hotels, Fitzherbert continues to be one of the best-known names across the hospitality industry, as well as the fashion and lifestyle worlds. She has continued to be at the forefront of the hotel offerings with Cédric Grolet at the Berkeley, the Red Room and cigar lounge at the Connaught, and the new Painters Room bar at Claridge’s. A mentor to many in the industry.
Hall-McCarron brings hot competition to the male-dominated Great British Menu, showcasing brilliant female talent to a national TV audience. Her two Edinburgh restaurants – The Little Chartroom, and Eleanore – are some of Scotland’s best examples of hospitality.
Ruth Rogers CBE needs no introduction, but to her industry icon status she can now add the title of podcaster. River Café Table 4 pulls in one of the most glamorous guest line-ups in podcasting history – from Steve McQueen and Paul McCartney to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. All have graced the tables of The River Café over the years and take a trip with Ruthie down memory lane.
When Sherwood-French opened Jöro with husband Luke French, it was a breath of fresh air to the Sheffield hospitality scene and has ushered in a more exciting era of dining in the city. She’s been vocal about being underestimated as a female operator but with growing confidence has thrived as a leader. Her nomination describes her as ‘an absolute force of nature’.
Berg is, without qualification, one of the best bartenders in the world. She has pioneered the use of seasonal, often unconventional ingredients in cocktails, while sticking to her ‘one sip’ philosophy: the idea that a drink’s full flavour must be tasted and experienced in a single sip. At Tayēr + Elementary, the bar she founded with Alex Kratena in 2019, staff collaborate on a daily changing menu, making use of whatever produce is freshest and available. It’s currently ranked second in The World’s 50 Best Bars. This year, Berg was named creative director at the Campari Academy, and continues work with the educational non-profit P(OUR).
All eyes will be on Turford’s next move when she and Alisdair Brooke-Taylor depart The Moorcock Inn early next year. In her role of sommelier, she has created a game-changing drinks list, abundant in originality and likeability, with a wealth of interesting options for non-drinkers and designated drivers.
Bar Crispin has solidified its reputation as a top tier natural wine and small bites spot in London, and that’s in large part due to Price’s cleverly curated wine lists. And she’s been democratic with her wisdom: last year Price made headlines for recommending a pairing of Grand Cru Chablis with a Big Mac.
Working in the drinks business as a woman can mean making your way in a male-dominated field within a male-dominated industry. With Celebrate Her, a charity and community set up to celebrate female bartenders, Sebastian uses her influence and know-how to champion the women in her field – and to draw more in.
Club Soda is a community built to provide a space where no one feels uncomfortable being sober. In an industry like hospitality, that is both desperately needed and hard to find. Willoughby’s passion for providing fun, engaging alternatives to heavy drinking led her to open the UK’s first alcohol-free off-licence pop up in London last year, which proved so popular it’s twice returned. Willoughby is also author of How to Be a Mindful Drinker and sits on the board of The Drinks Trust.
A real life ‘influencer’, Wong is all about bringing accessibility and inclusivity to the world of wine and is a brilliant champion of fellow women in the UK trade. Through her platform Curious Vines, she organises women in wine get togethers, runs blind tastings for those taking the Master of Wine exams and dedicated her time connecting people and opening doors into the industry.
In the heavily male-dominated world of wine, Spencer is a breath of fresh air with her jargon-free, down-to-earth approach. Not only is she an excellent sommelier in her own right but is running a progressive drinks programme across multiple high-performing sites for the Paskins’ restaurant group.
After two decades in high-powered hospitality roles, Copes founded Be Inclusive Hospitality, a social enterprise built to address the lack of diversity she saw in positions of influence within the industry. Through it, Copes has mentored people of colour, coached businesses, and ignited conversations about how to make hospitality more inclusive and reflective of society. This year, Copes was named Food & Drink Innovator of the year by GQ, and as her influence grows, so does the supportive, interconnected community of people of colour that she’s helping to build.
Home cook-turned-chef and restaurateur Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare has had a year of well-deserved recognition. Her Brixton restaurant Chishuru, which she opened mid-pandemic, was named Time Out’s best London restaurant of 2022, and continues to draw an overdue spotlight onto West African cuisine.
Corbin and her husband Patrick Williams put South London neighbourhood Peckham on the mainstream culinary map with their four-venue restaurant group. The duo now runs Kudu, Smokey Kudu, Kudu Grill, and Curious Kudu, with Corbin overseeing the interior design and front of house, and Williams heading up the kitchen. With two young daughters and an Instagram famous dog, Bear, Corbin is a great role model for working mothers in the industry. Rumour has it her father, Chris, now curates the artwork at their private event-cum-gallery space Curious Kudu.
Haugh’s effervescent personality has translated into a beautiful hub of Irish hospitality at her Chelsea restaurant Myrtle. It was a long road to opening, but perseverance paid off and she now runs a tight ship with a dedicated team. This year, Haugh stepped into the shoes of Monica Galetti as a judge on MasterChef: The Professionals, where her warmth and passion for hospitality can be shared even more widely.
Menzies, a former ballerina, has been at the forefront of restaurant PR in London for the past two decades with her business Bacchus. She has represented some of the leading chefs of the world including Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire and Giorgio Locatelli. Headquartered in Notting Hill, London Bacchus now has offices in New York and the GCC, with clients including Diageo, Rosewood Hotels and One&Only.
Working behind the scenes to make some of London’s best-loved restaurants run smoothly – from Smokestak to the brilliant new opening, Toklas – Wright is one of the industry’s most talented operations managers, and a mentor to hospitality’s rising stars.
In 2011, Reynolds co-founded Tonkotsu with her friend Ken Yamada. Their mission? To bring affordable and authentic ramen to London. What began as a Saturday night pop-up has now grown into a multi-city restaurant group under Reynolds’ leadership, with locations in Brighton, Birmingham, and London.
Building on the brand’s enduring success, the two female co-founders of BAO have overseen the opening of two new restaurants over the pandemic: BAO King’s Cross, home to their BAO Bakery Goods counter; and BAO Noodle Shop, inspired by the beef noodle shops of Taiwan. As creative director, Chang leaves her artistic mark on everything BAO does, from the online supermarket Convni, to Rice Error, the brand’s home delivery meal kit. Chung’s positive influence is felt throughout the company – as head of people, she has been instrumental in building a diverse team that is 61 per cent women.
With a UK-wide footprint and mid-market offering, Côte was an early casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic, rescued from administration in late 2020. Charged with leading the turnaround, Holbrook has been instrumental in giving the brand a fresh vision and direction to secure and reinvent Côte’s presence on the high street. Holbrook is no stranger to the task at hand, having been an influential figure in the rise of Wagamama.
Eleven years of hard graft have preceded the Flygerians taking over a cafe in the Peckham Palms arcade. Sisters Joanna and Jessica spent years on the street food circuit perfecting their Nigerian dishes, which judge Jimi Famurewa called ‘generous and jubilant’.
Searley has been with JKS Restaurants for more than seven years, this year overseeing the company’s operations during its largest and most logistically complicated opening to date: the ambitious, multi-restaurant Arcade Food Hall. She’s been in the industry since she was 16, working for D&D London and the ETM Group previously, and knows how to encourage and push the women around her into fulfilling their potential. It’s safe to say she’s been pivotal in JKS’s success and will continue to bring women with her as she grows.
Jones has been a true giant in the industry for decades, founding Café Rouge in 1989 and subsequently holding a long list of top positions in the business – including her current job as chair of the Hawksmoor group, and of Mowgli, and as non-executive director of Deliveroo. This year, her work was recognised by the Queen, who awarded her with a DBE for services to business and the hospitality industry.
Homayoonfar’s Bab Haus in Cardiff creatively blends Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Texan cuisines, blurring the lines between restaurant dining and street food. She is chef-owner and has started a catering and events business on the side, and her cooking continues to have a positive impact on the South Wales food scene.
Now gracing our screens on the Great British Menu, when not in front of the cameras the eloquent Katona is still overseeing her expanding empire of Mowgli restaurants across the UK. She launched her first London site on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia at the end of last year and has Bristol, Edinburgh, and Brighton in the pipeline. She chairs the Mowgli Trust, which donates over £300,000 to charity every year, is the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, and sits on the Hospitality Council.
Folkestone is sharpening its act on the dining scene, in no small part thanks to the influence of The Folkstone Wine Company. Due credit must go to Polly Pleasence, who is responsible for the warmth and charm that, along with partner Dave Hart’s cooking, woos the national critics and industry veterans alike.
Greene may well be the coolest operator you hadn’t heard of. Owner of Ronnie Scott’s since 2005, her stewardship has seen the iconic jazz club flourish, drawing in music legends the world over. As a trustee of Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation, she’s been a keen supporter of nurturing the next generation of music talent.
Mayfair has changed a lot over the past decade and it’s refreshing to have a restaurateur other than a certain rag-trade billionaire who is opening restaurants all over W1. Nair, whose family are behind the Leela hotels in India, is a Mayfair resident and is in walking distance of her restaurants Jamavar, Bombay Bustle and MiMi Mei Fair. Later this year she will open Koyn and Socca nearby.
Northumberland’s hottest restaurant, Pine, is as good as you’ve been led to believe. Not only in its food, rooted in its surroundings, but in the warm hospitality from a tight-knit team led by Buchan. Where 16 courses could feel dull and drawn out, Buchan delivers the experience with heart and soul and – importantly – a natural informality.
Along with her two brothers, Sethi is co-founder of JKS, one of the most prominent restaurant groups in London, with restaurants such as Gymkhana, Hoppers, and BAO. Sethi, a mother of two children, oversees the people strategy across the group.
Nicholson’s career has taken her to some of the country’s most respected kitchens – The Savoy and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley among them. Now, following the success of her Covent Garden restaurant Tredwells, Nicholson is running things her own way. At Apricity, her new restaurant in Mayfair, she places sustainability and a love for the planet at the very core of the menu and its practices. Her book, Planted, champions seasonal veg-forward cooking.
Tobias is the chef responsible for getting #beigefood its deserved time in the sun. But all trends aside, the influence of her steadying, seasonal cooking is not to be underestimated. Her own influence comes from industry stalwarts such as Margot Henderson, Ruth Rogers, and Jeremy Lee but in the home of her debut restaurant, Café Deco, her European-inspired cooking is making an impact of its own accord.
Besley-Gould is having a massive impact on sustainability, ethics, and purpose in the hospitality industry. She is head of sustainability and purpose at Hawksmoor, overseeing the brand’s achievement of carbon neutral status and its switch to green energy. Besley-Gould has also founded The Greenish, a sustainability and purpose consultancy, and worked with, among others, Prezzo, Lucky Voice, The Pig Group, and JKS.
Through her commitment to supporting resilient agricultural practices, regenerative farming methods, and millers that share her love for fresh, tasty flour, Evans has made Flor one of the most sought-after bakeries in London. Its new location in Bermondsey’s Spa Terminus delivers nationwide and is overseen by Evans, whose career has taken her to bakeries everywhere from Paris to Melbourne and Lima.
Native at Browns is a shining example of earth-conscious, zero-waste food that maintains a focus on flavour. Along with chef Ivan Tisdall-Downes, Davis and her team forage and grow their ingredients, creating seasonal menus of small plates that are both ethical and delicious.
If you can’t find Lovell at her restaurant, it’s probably because she’s foraging for what to cook. She’s the chef-founder of Versa, an environmentally conscious restaurant on the Isle of Man, and Artea, a community arts gallery, café, and supper club. Anything she can’t forage for she sources from trusted local suppliers – a model that serves as an example for how to be uncompromising about both quality and sustainability.
Gyngell has been leading the way in reducing the environmental impact of running her restaurant, Spring, and has been an important influence in other chefs following suit. Her close partnership with biodynamic farm Fern Verrow is a progressive example of how hospitality can support farmers in building sustainable regenerative businesses.
SongSoo Kim left the professional kitchen to travel up the supply chain and delve into regenerative growing at Flourish Produce in Cambridgeshire. She has since brought this knowledge back to Super 8 restaurants, where she drives forward the connection with pioneering producers across the UK, educating the Brat, Kiln, and Smoking Goat teams, and promotes a stellar example of sourcing practices to fellow operators in the industry.
Whatley Manor is one of the few luxury hotels with a serious consideration for sustainability. This is all down to the work of Williams, who has been working to remove single-use plastics, eliminate waste and reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint, all the while delivering the same five-star experience.
Miers continues to wield her influence in the most positive of ways. An outspoken voice in lobbying for more sustainable food production, she’s also driving generational change in accessing inexpensive and nutritious food through the wonderful Chefs in Schools charity.
Gill has been a regular feature of our 100 Most Influential Women list in recent years and as her profile gets bigger, so does the impact of her mentorship to the industry. Her platform Countertalk, which promotes positive workplace culture, is a vital resource for sharing advice, support and a sense of community at scale. Between TV filming, podcasting and running her online cookery school, Damson Jelly Academy, Gill is busy hosting networking events and running practical skills workshops on topics from financing to brand building. More recently she and her team have launched Countertalk Spaces – a much-needed tool to connect chefs and pop-up venues, opening doors to usher in a whole new wave of brilliant industry talent.
Since Thomas Kochs joined The Corinthia in London as managing director, the hotel off Whitehall has risen through the ranks to become one of the best places to stay in the capital. Exquisitely dressed and with her signature thick-rimmed eye wear, Jonsdottir Ferrier has been one of the driving forces behind this ascent. She now oversees the hotel group’s global communications and is working on new hotel openings in Rome and New York.
Believing that her all-female kitchen team deserves to be in the limelight, Khan made the decision to move her trailblazing restaurant Darjeeling Express from its Covent Garden location to somewhere with an open, rather than basement, kitchen. She is a high-profile speaker on hospitality and a respected voice, calling out inequality wherever she finds it.
Byrne is one of those rare talents that can balance running top quality fine dining restaurants with creating a truly brilliant workplace culture. Overseeing The Black Swan at Oldstead and Roots in York, she ensures her teams are inspired, motivated and properly looked after. Her colleagues describe her as a ‘force of nature’.
Heading up the award-winning front of house team at chef Sally Abé’s The Pem is far from all Underwood is known for. She advocated for the hospitality industry in her column for the Evening Standard during lockdowns, and is a respected voice within the industry, leading the effort to make it a welcoming place for women. Described as a ‘guiding light’ and a ‘pillar of support’, Underwood is recognised for her infectious love and passion for hospitality.
Saira Hospitality, the non-profit founded by Harsha L’Acqua, partners with hotels all over the world to create pop-up hospitality schools for local communities. Through this innovative approach to education, L’Acqua provides opportunities for often under-represented communities, equipping graduates with a strong foundation for a successful career in hospitality. Hotel partners include The Hoxton, Nobu, and Rosewood.
Plan B was founded in 2017 out of a desire to see more women on executive boards. Believing that the key to helping women break through barriers is encouragement and support, Addison, Causer, and Elliott devised a platform that would facilitate mentorship by providing a framework through which women in leadership roles could build relationships with one another. Though it started in the hospitality sector, Plan B now extends far beyond it.
Johnston has been running the chef-owner Stuart Ralston’s two restaurants Noto and Aizle in Edinburgh since 2019. She has been massively influential in leading the national discussion about staff retention and working conditions in hospitality, implementing a four-day work week at both restaurants and challenging others to do the same.
Moretti runs an exceptional front of house team at The Three Fishes, Nigel Haworth’s ‘farm-to-fork’ pub in Lancashire. She watches over everything from marketing and PR to staff training and quality control, while always championing her team and driving the business forward.
Mention Lucy’s name and everyone will concur with what an asset she is to Manchester and the UK hospitality scene. National operators from Soho House to Hawksmoor have relied on her expertise in bringing people together and making connections that root national newcomers to the city. She’s a generous mentor and in Pear Comms has cultivated a network of talent that she’s bringing up alongside her.
Formerly head of culture at Hawksmoor, which is consistently in The Sunday Times ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’, Geach now runs The Good Life, a leadership coaching programme for hospitality professionals. She offers one-on-one sessions and group courses that empower her clients to live meaningful lives – both in and outside of work. A part of that work is championing female leaders, often working in male dominated environments, to strengthen their confidence and impact and make sure their voices get heard.
Leaving behind a career as a successful corporate lawyer, Yin turned her hand to hospitality and, since opening her north London restaurant in 2018, has garnered a reputation for serving some of the UK’s best laksa. She brings a refreshing approach to her workplace culture, instilling key value pillars throughout the small team, which has enabled her to step back from the business during maternity leave and keep standards as high as ever.
Brunton came up in the infamously tough London kitchens in the ‘90s and early 2000s. It drove her out of the industry but into the path of two women, Kath Dalmeny and Jeanette Longfield, who had a powerful impact on her own leadership style. Now at her restaurant Inver on the banks of Loch Fyne, Brunton has translated her experience into building a positive, inclusive and supportive workplace culture that prioritises staff mental health and emphasises self-care and care for one another. She runs her kitchen team with empathy and respect while also training a roster of stagiaires – many of them new to hospitality – leaving an inspiring experience of the industry in her wake.
If you’re not on TikTok, you might have missed the influence O’Toole is enjoying on Gen Z’s favourite social media platform. After losing her job in the first lockdown, the former chef turned to posting short cooking videos, finding a niche with her potato-based recipes which can attract upward of 20m views. She’s recently been announced as a judge on the debut series of BBC Three’s Young MasterChef, which will see her inspire and mentor a new generation of chefs.
Having worked for some of the biggest names in the biz, Abé really made her name when she became head chef at the Harwood Arms in Fulham. In 2021, she changed postcodes and went to the Conrad St James’s hotel to oversee the food at both The Pem and The Blue Boar. Abé is a regular on Great British Menu and continues to champion women in hospitality.
Packer is one of the best loved operators in the industry, exuding warmth and generosity through her food and hospitality at Honey & Co and Honey & Smoke. After ten years running their tiny flagship restaurant on Warren Street, she and husband Itamar Srulovich have upped sticks to a snazzy new corner spot on Lambs Conduit Street, where their Middle Eastern magic has more space to thrive.
Madi runs a tight ship at the wonderful Parkers Arms in rural Lancashire. Despite the turmoil of the pandemic, she operates a robust business model which prioritises good remuneration and affords the hard job the respect it deserves. Her generosity of leadership and commitment to hands-on training has meant low staff turnover and a team that feels like family.
A regular fixture on Saturday Kitchen and Sunday Brunch and one of Ukraine’s most celebrated chefs and food writers, Olia Hercules has been at the forefront of British hospitality’s response to the Russian invasion of her homeland. Before the war, Hercules trained at Leith’s Food and Wine and went on to publish three popular cookbooks – with another imminent. She won the Observer rising star award in 2015, and the Fortnum & Mason Award for best debut cookbook a year later. Today, Hercules’ work is concentrated on raising vital funds for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia, most notably through the Cook for Ukraine campaign, as well as championing the nation’s cuisine and culture, across Europe and around the world.
While Olia Hercules has been the figurehead of the Cook for Ukraine campaign, Russian-born chef Timoshkina has been vital to the cause too. Her involvement is a voice of resistance for the Russian community who oppose the war and represents an important unity between the two countries.
Hui has been an important voice for the ESEA hospitality community, unafraid to call out operators that appropriate and homogenise vastly different cultures for marketable gain. Recently moving on from her post at Time Out, she has since published her memoir about growing up in and running a Chinese takeaway in rural Wales.
This industry can be demanding and all-consuming at any stage of life, especially while raising children. Parents in Hospitality is a networking and support group founded by Derrington and Kammerling for families who work in the sector. It provides a space for sharing resources, as well hosting wine tastings, lunches and coffees with on-hand childcare. Derrington is also head of wine at Manteca, while Kammerling runs Me, Myself in Mind, which offers mental health support to hospitality, and writes an advice column for Countertalk.
Tonic, founded in 2011 by Cottrell-Duffield, is one of the leading chef and restaurant PR companies in London, representing not only some of the city’s most exciting new restaurants (Decimo, Trivet, Acme Fire Cult) but also some of its most influential female chefs (she counts Saiphin Moore of Rosa’s Thai and Selin Kiazim of Oklava as clients). She’s also integrated generosity into her business: Tonic’s Pay It Forward campaign pays for a meal for someone in need every time a journalist or influencer dines at one of their clients’ restaurants.
Frankie Reddin and Anna Sulan Masing are a powerful duo in amplifying the lesser-known voices in the hospitality industry, representing the likes of Tatale, Akwasi Brenya-Mensa’s new Southwark restaurant, and Dumpling Shack. By exploring diverse cultures and narratives, they’re working together to change the PR and communications landscape from the inside. Masing also publishes Sourced Journeys, exploring the politics of food and drink provenance alongside Chloe-Rose Crabtree.
Since launching their beverage consultancy HANDS London in 2020, Sharman-Cox and Payne have kept busy. The pair are behind London Cocktail Week, and have this year founded The Pinnacle Guide, a ground-breaking new recognition system for the world’s best bars.
Through the persona of Celestial Peach, Lau writes and organises food-based events for the East and Southeast Asian community of London. Her new long-form writing project, Lost In Translation: An A-Z Of Chinese Food, is a deeply personal collection of essays and articles that interrogate the many facets of Chinese identity through food. She is an important voice, doing much to educate both the hospitality industry and the public about the food and culture of the Chinese diaspora.
Sakarah is a chef and food writer of Montserratian and Barbudan heritage. She has contributed to the UK’s Caribbean food scene by extensively researching geographically nuanced recipes, showcasing the breadth of flavours to be found in Caribbean dishes. In her writing, Sakarah comments on culture, identity, and the immigrant experience. After a successful pop-up restaurant in Brixton, she’s brought back her supper club, Baruru, which focuses on storytelling, as well as feeding and educating her guests.
StreetSmart has been mobilising restaurants to help the UK’s homeless population since 1998, funding shelters and community centres all over the country. This year, Coke led the charity’s communications strategy, helping to raise around £1.5 million.
A communications expert and cookbook author, Basu is an important commentator on cultural appropriation in the food world. Part of her work involves running diversity training for groups such as Jamie Oliver which she delivers with humour and easy-to-understand references.
As chef owner of Manjit’s Kitchen in Leeds, Kaur has made a mark on the city’s Punjabi food scene. She is also a support for women in her community – one that often expects women to stay at home – enter work.
McTague has led a multi-faceted career. She’s cooked under Heston Blumenthal, was chef patron of critically acclaimed Manchester restaurant Aumbry, and has written food columns for The Guardian. Over the past two years, she’s added a running a charity to that list. Eat Well MCR is a chef collective started by McTague that connects chefs to people in poverty, delivering up to 1000 meals every week.
Saiq’s commitment to amplifying the visibility of London’s immigrant community comes through in everything Cue Point does, from the food – an untamed blend of global barbecuing cultures – to its social impact arm, which exists to raise the generational wealth of refugees and immigrants within the hospitality industry.
Change starts from the ground up and Nicole Pisani’s work driving change through Chefs in Schools continues to inspire the next generation. ‘A one-woman force of nature’ is how she’s often described.
An impressive multitasker and natural mentor, Matsunaga has brought a blend of her Japanese heritage and German upbringing to her restaurant in the Yorkshire Dales market town of Sedbergh. She’s dedicated to training her team in butchery and baking but also works extensively with local schools – running mini open days and even developing curriculum activities – to feed local interest in culinary careers.
Chef and one half of catering company Butch Salads, Rumbol is an advocate of the collaborative, supportive nature of female-led kitchens. In 2021 she set up Queers in Food and Beverage (QFAB) to celebrate, support and connect those in the LGBTQIA+ community in hospitality.
Bhogal has a rare approach to running her restaurant, which extends far beyond the ordinary bounds of eating and drinking to encompass cultural conversation and connection. In celebration of Jikoni’s fifth birthday in November, Bhogal hosted The Samosa Sisterhood charity event, raising £16,000 to aid women and children who are victims of violence.
Ruth Hansom Rigby wields an unusual level of influence for her age. When she’s not turning out beautiful seasonal British cooking as head chef at The Princess of Shoreditch, she finds time to support new chef talent, running sessions for the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and working a chef ambassador for Baxter Storey. She’s also actively involved in The Springboard Charity, helping people of all ages and backgrounds with barriers into employment to thrive in hospitality careers.
‘A pure joy…striving to create an inclusive and joyful team’, said one of many people who nominated Mercieca for the list. As Happy Endings goes from strength to strength, the team flourishes and continues to be an important beacon for LGBTQIA+ people in hospitality.
Hospitality has never stigmatised people for their backgrounds and the Food Behind Bars team continues its tremendous work in sharing the meritocratic, open nature of the industry with the prison community. The work of the charity runs from food education and improving standards of cooking within the prison system to training in front and back of house for employment in hospitality.
After leaving behind her job as a corporate lawyer in New York, Kaufman became known for bringing some of the best burgers to the British dining scene. What some might not know is that after her brother – who also worked in hospitality – died from an overdose, she has raised more than £32,000 to offer Mental Health First Aid training to Bleecker staff and to the wider hospitality community. Brand director Liam O’Keefe describers her as a true leader ‘obsessed with making our food and culture better’.
These women have been at the forefront of hospitality for years, if not decades, continuously working to improve our industry and inspire generations after them. Moving beyond the list, they feature here, in our hall of fame.
Co-founder, Wadadli Kitchen & presenter, Great British Menu
Chef patron, CORE by Clare Smyth
Chef proprietor, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
Chef-owner, Rochelle Canteen
Founder, Network London PR
Co-owner, Elystan Street, Kitchen W8, Church Road & Home SW15
Chef & broadcaster