Waitrose names 10 most influential women in food

Waitrose has named the ten most influential women in food today, ahead of International Women’s Day 2023 on 8 March.

Despite women being the main purchasers and cooks of food at home, they are still vastly underrepresented in the food and hospitality industry. Only 17% of all chefs, and 8% of Michelin-starred chefs in the UK are women, while across the food sector in 2021, female representation at board level was only 30%.

The reasons for the disparity are complex, including structural shortcomings, discrimination and inhospitable workplace cultures, but it’s clear there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the food world.

For International Women’s Day, Waitrose Food magazine has brought together a panel of expert judges, all pioneers in their own right, to find and spotlight Britain’s 10 Most Influential Women in Food in 2023. These women are opening up the industry and using their position, time and expertise in food and drink as a force for social, cultural and environmental progress.

The list features:
Andi Oliver (pictured) - musician, cook, restaurateur, writer, broadcaster and TV presenter

Minette Batters - first female president of the National Farmers’ Union of England & Wales

Asma Khan - former lawyer, author and owner of Darjeeling Express. The kitchen is run by an all-female team. Asma is also founder of non-profit Second Daughters Fund, which celebrates and educates second-born daughters in her Indian birthplace

Nicole Pisani & Naomi Duncan - co-founders, executive chef and CEO of non-profit Chefs in Schools, transforming school food and education and reaching 20k children a day

Helen Browning OBE - organic farmer and CEO of the Soil Association

Mary Quicke MBE - cheesemaker and founder of the Academy of Cheese, making fine British cheese something to celebrate

Claudia Roden CBE - cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist who, over decades, has transformed Western attitudes to Middle Eastern cuisine

Olia Hercules – Ukrainian-born chef, food stylist and writer, founder of #CookForUkraine, which has raised £800k to support people suffering as a result of the war

Ravneet Gill - pastry chef, author and activist founder of Countertalk, which connects chefs and hospitality professionals, educates and encourages healthier workplaces

Jaega Wise - head brewer, co-founder of London-based Wild Card Brewery, broadcaster and a campaigner against gender stereotypes and discrimination in brewing

The all-female judging panel included leading food producers, commentators and restaurateurs with decades of experience between them, and included Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers, food and culture commentator Mallika Basu, and cheesemaker Stacey Hedges, as well as Jessica Gunn, Editor of Waitrose Food.

Andi Oliver, winner, said: “It is such a joyful and unexpected honour to be listed alongside women I’ve long admired and who are changing the way we grow, cook, think and feel about food and its role in society. I am glowing.”

Jessica Gunn, Editor of Waitrose Food, said: “These women have truly changed the paradigm when it comes to food. What unites them is their ability to think differently and forge a new path. We have seen them harness their creativity, passion and expertise to create networks that ultimately nourish society. From helping refugees to raising funds and educating, they have used food as a means of uniting people for the greater good. We created this list as it’s essential that we take the time to celebrate these women so that they in turn can inspire the next generation to continue challenging the status quo.”