Top five women in food and drink

In aid of International Women's Day, we celebrate some of the most influential chefs, winemakers, entrepreneurs and writers in the world of epicure

Food and Drink 8 Mar 2019

Geeta Sidhu Robb launched her own business with a £2,000 overdraft and now attracts clients such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow

Geeta Sidhu-Robb

Sidhu-Robb is the founder and CEO of Nosh Detox – a delivery service of juice diets and meal plans favoured by high-profile clients such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. In 2009, the former corporate lawyer retrained as a nutritionist in a bid to cure her critically ill son who was in and out of hospital suffering from severe food allergies and asthma. With her new found knowledge, she developed her own solutions to his problems using nutritious, balanced meals, alternative therapies and natural supplements to reduce his asthma to an intermittent event, which she was told would be medically impossible. She spotted a gap in the market for her knowledge and, with just a £2,000 overdraft, managed to set up Nosh Detox from her kitchen, offering nutritional advice, life coaching and mindfulness tips as well as the delicious home-delivery service. Her story is an inspiring one for other women who may have faced similar struggles and hardships, and she now acts as a mentor empowering women to start their own businesses.


Cherie Spriggs

As the first woman to win Sparling Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge last year, Cherie Spriggs is clearly at the top of her game. Along with her husband Brad Greatrix, Spriggs came to the UK 12 years ago to work for Nyetimber where she managed to change the perceptions of English sparkling wine. ‘Thirty years ago, English wine was perceived as almost a joke but perceptions have changed quite dramatically,’ she says. ‘Now it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t heard of English sparking wine in the UK.’

Cherie Spriggs at the International Wine Challenge

Spriggs entered winemaking after studying biochemistry in her native Canada, and winemaking at Adelaide University in Australia. Soon after, her parents brought her a bottle of Nyetimber from a trip to England. ‘I remember thinking, “there is potential in this wine that I haven’t seen in a sparkling wine anywhere in the world”,’ she recalls. The 30 year old brand has won many accolades over the years but this is an industry first, beating 20 countries, 100 winemakers and more than 1,000 wines to come out on top.


Monica Galetti

‘I come from a family of strong women,’ says Galetti. ‘My mother was very tough and I have an aunt who was a colonel in the American army. When you have people around you like that they’re the ones that will tell you if you’re not being true to yourself or if you’re being a drama queen.’ With such strong female role models, it’s little wonder that as well as being one of the UK’s most well-known and successful chefs Galetti is also a mother, a MasterChef: Professionals judge and a television presenter.

Monica Galetti opened her first restaurant Mere in London’s Fitrovia in 2017

She opened her first restaurant, Mere, alongside her sommelier husband David in March 2017 after ten years in the kitchen at Le Gavroche and has released a cookbook Monica Galetti: The Skills. Despite her fame and incredible success, one of the most inspiring things about Galetti is her ability to work hard and stay true to herself: ‘You can get lost in what you do,’ she says. ‘Television will come and go, fame comes and goes but who you are, your roots, your culture, that will never go.’

Galetti has designed a pizza in aid of International Women’s Day as part of Hai Cenato’s montly Guest Chef series, which will be available throughout March;;

Clare Smyth

Officially the UK’s most successful chef, Smyth was the first woman to receive three Michelin stars as chef patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay before opening her first solo venture, Core in Notting Hill in 2017. A celebration of British cuisine, Core’s menu features unassuming ingredients and nostalgic dishes, and puts unexpected ingredients under the spotlight. ‘I love taking humble ingredients and elevating them, she says. ‘People are nostalgic and they understand that.’ After growing up on a farm, Smyth is keen to regain ownership of local cuisine by keeping everything at Core predominantly British. ‘We should support the people around us and maintain a sense of place and identity,’ she asserts.

Clare Smyth was awarded two Michelin stars for Core in Notting Hill

The restaurant itself is luxurious but unstuffy – where impeccable service and fine dining meet a relaxed and homely atmosphere. Her hard work has paid off: Core was honoured with two Michelin stars in the guide’s 2019 listing. Gaining two stars in its first year of eligibility is a remarkable feat but with Smyth’s incredible track record it’s no surprise. Smyth knows her food, she understands the industry inside and out and with an impressive 20 years in the industry she even earned the title of World’s Best Female Chef last April.

Elizabeth Haigh

After appearing on MasterChef in 2011, the Singaporean-British chef has demonstrated her talents not just in the kitchen but in the business world as well. As the founding head chef at Hackney restaurant Pidgin, Haigh gained a Michelin star less than a year after opening then went on to found Kaizen House – a platform for restaurant events, pop-ups, digital content and recipes – in 2016. Incorporating the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, Kaizen House (a name that comes from the Japanese word for improvement) is an opportunity to fine tune the industry, but Haigh says it’s more than just enhancing the food. ‘For me, it means to “change for the better”,’ she says. ‘That could mean finding a way to improve the kitchen environment or a way to improve the status quo.’

Chef Elizabeth Haigh is on a quest of constant improvement with Kaizen House

One of the first ventures at Kaizen House was Haigh’s restaurant Shibui – using wood fire to make the best of carefully sourced, sustainable ingredients – which perfectly showcased Haigh’s trademark bold and exciting flavours. Her innovative approach to business and food is rooted in a passion for the industry. ‘I want chefs of all ages and genders (mothers too!) to be inspired to continue practising the craft,’ she says. ‘That requires experimentation, to learn new things that support what we love and maybe also inspire others to achieve great things.’;