While the kitchen seems to be the woman’s domain in most Indian households, the number of female chefs from India is dismal. We might be considered great at the craft, but are not too ‘business savvy’ apparently. Not just the food space, women-led businesses are much lesser in any industry. Social media has definitely come to the aid of home chefs and aspiring cooking maestro by giving them a platform to flaunt their skills. But is it enough?
But all is really not lost. We do have some amazing women entrepreneurs who are simply setting commercial kitchens on fire. They could definitely be role-models for ones who aspire to be women entrepreneurs in the food space.
Anahita Dhondy, Chef Manager, SodaBottleOpenerWala
This chef believes in putting her action first, and we see very little of her on the typical social media scene. Perhaps, the first time chef Anahita stepped into the limelight was MasterChef India when she set one of the toughest challenges in the series’ history.
Indeed, managing a pan-India restaurant chain is no small feat, but a woman leader like chef Anahita makes it look effortless. After completing a Cordon Bleu Grand Diplome at London, she returned to India to partner with restauranteur A.D.Singh to launch SodaBottleOpenerWala.
Today, the restaurant chain has multiple branches in nearly every major Indian city, and seamlessly blends Parsi cuisine with every city’s cultural sensibilities. Anahita herself has won several awards and accolades including the Young Chef India award and the Times Food award.
Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, Theobroma Pattiserie
This chef has taken on the massive risk of opening up a food outlet in the middle of the pandemic. With the opening of their latest branch and the first one in south India, at Hyderabad, Theobroma is in the news for all the right reasons. However, Kainaz is not new to experiencing risk, and she’s been beating stress back with a good cake ever since she was 16.
Kainaz is a graduate of IHM and started Theobroma from the ground up. Her brownies are popular across the country, and it surely is the food for the Gods. If there is one person we would take advice on starting a bakery from, that would be Kainaz. Thankfully, she chronicles her Theobroma journey in a book called Baking A Dream, a must for every aspiring food entrepreneur.
Garima Arora, Gaa, Bangkok
Garima Arora needs no introduction, for she is the first Indian woman chef to have won a Michelin star, one of the highest accolades in the food space in the world. At barely the age of 34, Garima is cooking up a storm of Indian spices in Bangkok and winning accolades while she is at it.
She says that it doesn’t matter if a man is running a kitch or a woman, it is equally demanding and the constructs around long working often tend to prevent women, or at least the society around them, from letting them make their dreams come true.
Restaurant Gaa today ranks at number 15 on Asia’s fifty best restaurants, Chef Garima also runs a not-for-profit venture to feed those who most need a meal back in her home country, India.
Sonal Holland, Master Of Wine
The next achiever on our list is a woman in what is typically seen as a man’s domain – wine. Sonal Holland is India’s first master of wine, and it is also worth noting that she followed a path where she had no example to follow close to home, woman or man. This just goes to show that women-led ventures do not always need to be seen through the lens of ‘acceptable’ career choices.
Today, Sonal is a strategy advisor for several homegrown brands, and also serves as a consultant for international players looking to enter the Indian market. Not only does she have several awards in her bag, such as making it to the Top 15 most powerful women in Indian luxury list, and the Innovative Woman of Substance award, but she also has a wine academy where she encourages several aspiring wine enthusiasts to follow their passion.
Bani Nanda, Miam Pattiserie
It is time to wrap up our list on a sweet note. What makes Bani Nanda’s journey even more impressive is the fact that she studied physics before choosing to step into the world of food and pastry. Today, Miam patisserie has almost a cult following in Delhi, and some of the most well-known celebrities in India reach out to her for their sugar cravings.
Bani is a firm believer that life is the best teacher, and all of her skills have been amassed in kitchens and internships around the world. On a trip to Belgium, she, in fact, spent her time understanding how to design a dessert store’s layout!
We hope that the stories of these women-led food businesses inspire you to take the first step. You too could achieve stellar success and enjoy the work you do, as long as you follow your food dream.
(Edited by Neha Baid)