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Best Up & Coming Female Chefs In Los Angeles

female chef 610
(credit: shutterstock)

It's an amazing time to be a food­loving Los Angeleno. Not only has the city been undergoing a revolution for several years with an exciting reinvention of classic and traditional foods, blended across cultures, but there is also a new generation of female chefs who aren't afraid to be bold and experimental. The following is a list of some of the most important newcomers, who are running some of LA's top kitchens across the city.

Stephanie Boswell
(credit: The Peninsula Hotel)

Stephanie Boswell
The Belvedere
The Peninsula Hotel Beverly Hills
9882 S Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 788-2306

A Los Angeles native, Stephanie is back representing LA after stints at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Tru and Naha in Chicago, and Sage and Rose.Rabbit.Lie in Las Vegas. Starting her career with an interest in butchering, Executive Chef Fredric Moreau (Big Canyon Country Club) saw something sweet in her and encouraged Stephanie to experiment with pastry. Originally against the idea, her resistance to the idea changed though when she realized pastry is a perfect combination of art and science. Since the decision, Chef Boswell's life has been pretty sweet ever since. Today, she is Executive Pastry Chef at Belvedere Restaurant, at the Peninsula Hotel. With training in fine­dining pastry, modern styles artistic presentation, and international cuisines, Stephanie has found the perfect place ­an internationally renowned, luxury hotel ­to put her sugared skills on display.

rachel carr
(credit: T​

​Rachel Carr
1358 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 871-8099

Rachel Carr is here to change the minds of anyone who insists vegan food has no flavor. As an award-winning chef, health coach, flood blogger and restauranteur, Carr has opened Cru in Los Angeles and Six Main in Connecticut. And, she's done it all with no animal byproducts. Chavela isn't the kind of place you're going to find soy burgers and chick'n stir fry either. Carr is obsessed with locally sourced, organic plants, and believes these pack enough flavor to star as the main course, not as filler for fake meat. By creating recipes that highlight everything a vegetable is instead of masking them as something they're not, Rachel's food appeals to even the most red­blooded carnivore. To demonstrate this, there's even beer, wine and namesake Chavela cocktails ­ a type of Peruvian sangria ­ on the menu. Look to her to change the way L.A. does vegan in the future. In the meantime, when she's not in the kitchen, she's sharing her recipes and observations as a vegetarian of 20 years, on her website,

​hloe Dahl & Nikki Booth
(credit: Knuckle & Claw)

C​hloe Dahl & Nikki Booth
Knuckle & Claw
3112 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 407-6142

The famed chef Julia Child once said "​Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." Chloe Dahl and Nikki Booth seem to be living this guidance, as it was their zestful love of all things lobster that inspired them to create the best lobster roll on the West Coast. In the summer of 2014, following this dream, the fiancés picked up their old lives in New York City and planted new roots in L.A. Chloe, (granddaughter of venerated author Roald Dahl), is so enthusiastic about lobster, she could eat it morning, noon and night, five meals a day. Their minimalist, meaty sandwiches earned them a cult following, which quickly became their own seafood "shack" on Sunset Boulevard. The menu is sparse, but fresh enough to taste the ocean in every bite.

(credit: DYLAN + JENI)

​Sara Kramer & Sarah Hymanson
317 North Broadway
Los Angeles 9​0013

At the hands of Madcapra's Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, the traditional falafel has been transformed, reinvented and refined to something simply delicious. The two chefs opened their Grand Central Market stand in 2015, but had already earned a name for themselves back home in Brooklyn, most recently at the modern Mediterranean restaurant, Glasserie. Although it was hard to leave the success and ties they had in New York, Sara and Sarah were drawn to Los Angeles' year­round abundance of fresh and diverse produce. They were also excited to be part of the L.A. food culture as it comes into its own. That consistent harvest drives what goes into the salads and sandwiches and pickled vegetables the women make in ­house. Sarah and Sara plan to open a Middle Eastern ­inspired restaurant soon.

Rebecca Merhej
(credit: Love & Salt)

​Rebecca Merhej
Love & Salt
317 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-5252

"To make great food, all you need is love and salt." Such is the philosophy behind the new Italian­-style Manhattan Beach restaurant where Rebecca Merhej is chef de cuisine and pastry chef. Rebecca's earliest memories involve cooking and eating with her family, so food has always represented family for her. That's the feeling she hopes imbues every meal at Love & Salt. Rebecca was 19 when she enrolled at the Kitchen Academy in Los Angeles (now Le Cordon Bleu), and quickly got a job at Kerry Simon's S​imon LA.​ It's there that she met Chef de Cuisine Michael Fiorelli (now the Executive Chef at Love & Salt). In 2009, Merhej joined Fiorelli at m​ar'sel,​the award ­winning restaurant at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Rebecca began to receive some attention there, especially for her breads and pastries. At the age of 24, she was promoted to Chef de Cuisine, a position she held for two years before leaving to open Love & Salt with Fiorelli and its owners, Guy & Sylvie Gabrielle.

Ali Ohta
(credit: Tender Greens)

​Ali Ohta
Tender Greens / West Hollywood
8759 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 358-1919

Ali Ohta, like all Tender Green's chefs, has a background in fine dining. But when Tender Green's offered Ali the opportunity to use her knowledge, experience and creativity to run a kitchen, ­without the grueling hours standard in the industry, it was an offer she couldn't refuse. Once a wandering music industry floater with a Swiss boarding school education, Chef Ali transitioned to food and began her culinary career working with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Leibfried, garnering a keen understanding of the necessity for perfect attention to detail, impeccable technique and shameless passion. After stints with Los Angeles' famed Nobu and Westside Tavern, Ali was recruited to the Tender Greens team, fully utilizing her interest local, sustainable, slow ­food­ done­ fast. Ali has even been known to go on local foraging expeditions, finding ingredients for her menus of salads, sandwiches, hot plates, soups and house­made pastries.

Nicole Rucker
(credit: Cofax Coffee)

​Nicole Rucker
Colfax Coffee
440 N Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 424-7485

Nicole Rucker had no interest in becoming a chef. In fact, she was 18 before she made her first scratch ­cake and described it as "the worst cake ever." Determined to understand why her cake had failed, Nicole began a self­-guided exploration of the scientific side of baking, learning from Jacques Pepin, Jamie Oliver and Julia Child on public television. With aspirations of becoming an artist, she attended San Francisco's Art Institute, where she majored in visual art. In fact, she attributes her training there for her win as a National Pie Championship Blue Ribbon winner. In the apple pie category, c​ontestants' pies had to be 70% apple, accompanied by an essay about how it was made and what made it a perfect pie. Nicole says, "I did so much critical theory in art school, I ended up writing an MFT­ level essay about this pie. I think that's how I won the competition." It was that type of a​analytical creativity that brought her to the art world, and the same kind of thinking that lead her to baking. During art school, Nicole realized she cared more about cooking and baking than art. After graduation, she honed her skills in bakeries and cafés along the West Coast, building up enough experience to hold her own against her peers who had gone to culinary school. After a year of training from the bottom to the top in San Diego kitchens, Nicole eventually landed in Los Angeles working with Chef Jason Travi, Pastry Chef Miho Travi and working alongside Travis Lett for the creation of Gjelina Take Away and Gjusta in Venice, CA. Now Chef and co­-owner of Cofax Coffee, Nicole creates new dishes and pastries by combining research, experimentation, and the same self-­guided courage that brought her to that first scratch ­cake years ago, topped off with a passion for not only making food ­ but for raising that food to the level of edible art.

D​iana Stavaridis
(credit: Manhattan House)

D​iana Stavaridis
Manhattan House
1019 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 574-­2277

A Massachusetts native, Diana moved to Los Angeles to attend the L.A. Trade Tech Culinary School, and worked with chefs Joe Miller and Neal Fraser while pursuing her education. Working with Neal Fraser at Grace Restaurant opened the kinds of doors culinary dreams are made of. In 2006, Diana was selected to help open the acclaimed BLD Restaurant on Beverly Blvd, as sous chef. By 2008, she was running the kitchen as chef de cuisine, and after four years at BLD, Diana took some time off to learn cheese ­making and oil­pressing in the French countryside. At Frenchie's, she was mentored by renowned Chef Gregory Marchand. When Diana returned to the States, she traveled from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, mastering sustainability and nose­ to­ tail cooking, mushroom foraging, soft and hard cheese preparations, and the smoking of game, along the way. In Los Angeles, Diana was tapped to helm Manhattan Beach's Manhattan House, using her accumulated knowledge of everything from fine dining to local farming. Diana is also deeply involved with the community garden program, Growing Great, where she spends her free time helping local children learn the benefits of eating what you grow. She received the Rising Star Chef of Los Angeles award from StarChefs, and has appeared on several television shows such as Food Networks "The Best Thing I Ever Ate", as a guest judge on "The Next Food Network Star."

Giselle wellman
(credit: Petrossian Restaurant and Boutique)

G​iselle Wellman
321 N Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 271­-6300

Giselle Wellman, it seems, was literally born to cook. In her Jewish­ Mexican family, two of her aunts are chefs, and it was her mother's infectious love of cooking that lured Giselle away from medical aspirations into a life she loves in food. In fact, her mother recognized Giselle's innate passion, and brought Giselle a brochure for culinary school, signally her full support. Giselle left her hometown of San Diego to attend Le Cordon Bleu Academie d'Art Culinaire in Mexico City, partly so she could live closer to her relatives, who had originally settled in the city after fleeing Europe during World War II. After graduating in 2004, Giselle returned to San Diego, getting a job at Star of the Sea, where she trained in basic kitchen work. When she moved on to Jack's La Jolla, two years later, she learned pasta under Tony diSalvo ­ and learned she loved it, too. In 2009, she landed a dream job working with Mario Batali, at Del Posto, in New York, as chef de partie. The opportunity to work with Thomas Keller, at Bouchon Beverly Hills, brought her out to Los Angeles. From there, she was hired as Executive Chef at Petrossian to share her wealth of experience in the restaurants dishes.

ria wilson

​Ria Wilson
Wild at Canele
3219 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 666­7133

Wild at Canelé has been extremely popular since Ria and Matt Wilson started their lunch service in November 2014. If you've heard Ria's name before, it might be in association with a past stint at Canelé, or more recently at Sqirl (where she worked as Chef de Cuisine, and he served as Sous). Ria grew up in Atwater Village, so Wild at Canelé is a sort of homecoming. It has also been an opportunity to play with style and flavor, without culinary boundaries, except what's dictated by the seasons. Born in the Philippines, Ria has given particular attention to her native fare, reimagining Filipino cuisine in fun, local, California ways. They're hoping for a place of their own one day, but in the meantime, Wild at Canelé is open for lunch on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Article by Arianna Armstrong.
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