A Dozen Doyennes: 12 Women Making a Difference in Boston’s Food Universe

Photo by Paul Child. © Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. W539721_12

Did it all start with Julia? Is she the reason Boston is home to so many women chefs and food entrepreneurs?

To a whole generation of women and girls, Julia was the brave, authentic woman cooking food on live television, making mistakes and brushing them aside, assuring her viewers that if she could do it, we could too. She taught us that not only could we “Master the Art of French Cooking,” but in so doing learn to love food, savor fine dining and reject the conventional wisdom that preparing a meal from scratch was drudgery, something to be avoided in favor of “modern” packaged and processed food. She changed home cooking forever. And she inspired other women to enter the then male-dominated restaurant business, to become leaders in their field, to mentor and support fellow female chefs, making Boston unique in America as a female-driven food town.

And it’s not just restaurants: Women are leading the charge in the region’s food access programs, cooking and nutrition education, food journalism, farming initiatives, food waste/recovery projects and behind the bar. There are so many inspirational women working with food in Boston we could fill a dozen magazines with their stories—and we’ve already featured hundreds—but in the interest of space we’ve asked three of our regular writers, all women themselves, to profile just 12. Some you’ll know on a first-name basis, while others are quietly working behind the scenes, helping people, feeding people, educating and nourishing us all toward the common good. Let’s raise a glass to them this holiday season and all year long.

ALISON, RAYNA and LESLEY are all regular contributors to Edible Boston. We couldn’t think of a better trio to tackle the task of profiling these Dozen Doyennes. Be sure to follow their writing wherever they’re printed.

ALISON ARNETT is a freelance writer, concentrating on food and agricultural topics. She was formerly the restaurant critic and food writer of the Boston Globe. She also teaches a Writing about Food class for Harvard Extension School.

RAYNA JHAVERI is a TV chef on the Emmy-nominated cooking show Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Television. She's also a standup comedian, improv musician and executive performance trainer. For more information and bookings, go to raynajhaveri.com.

LESLEY MAHONEY O’CONNELL is a South Dartmouth-based writer, editor and content strategist who loves a new food find, whether at a farmers market, restaurant or local purveyor. She can be reached at lesleyoconnell2@gmail.com.