An open cookbook on a kitchen counter.

Cookbooks Written by Female Chefs

In honor of Women’s History Month, get librarian Rose Kernochan's cookbook recommendations

ICE New York's resident culinary librarian, Rose Kernochan, weighs in on her top recommendations for cookbooks, memoirs and behind-the-scenes tell-alls.

Women in the kitchen is not a new phenomenon. In fact, you’ll find interviews with chefs across the world, in all types of cuisine and at all levels of sophistication stating they learned to cook from their mother, their grandmother or their auntie.

We asked ICE New York’s head librarian Rose Kernochan to recommend what she considers essential reading for Women’s History Month. Below you’ll find her top picks of cookbooks, memoirs and compiled interviews by and about the women who shape kitchens near and far, whether that’s the grandmothers of Africa or chef-owners right here in the US.

Read on to get inspiration from some of the women who help the world of food continue to turn.

“The Korean Vegan: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen”

By Joanne Lee Molinaro

The blogger and Tiktok chef (@thekoreanvegan) takes the stories and passion that made her an internet star and translates them onto the page. Weaving narratives about her family with reimagined takes on traditional Korean dishes, all prepared with exclusively vegan ingredients, Chef Molinaro’s book is an example of how to incorporate a plant-based diet into your life while still enjoying the meals that bring you comfort. Though this is Chef Molinaro’s first book, it's a runaway success, shooting to the top of the New York Times' best-sellers list and earning her a James Beard Award​​.

"Love Korean spices — but hate eating all that meat?," asks Rose. "This cookbook has been enormously popular in the ICE library, and not just with the Plant-Based crowd."

“In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean”

By Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen

"'In Bibi’s Kitchen' is a gorgeous read, and it’s one of the first books I purchased for the ever-growing Africa section in ICE’s library," Rose says. "It makes a great introduction to this popular cuisine."

Grandmas, or “bibis” from eight different countries have lent their lifetimes of knowledge to Somali Chef Hawa Hassan and food writer Julia Turshen for this James Beard Award-winning collection. 

Composed of 75 recipes from various countries touching the Indian Ocean — including Mozambique, Eritrea, Madagascar, South Africa and more — this colorful look into the cuisines of Africa highlights the rich union of local produce with the now-ubiquitous spices that made these countries invaluable stops in the international spice trade. Along with the traditional recipes come stories of wars, migrations and colonizations and the grandmothers that used food to nourish the bodies and souls of their loved ones through it all.

“Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen”

By Charlotte Druckman

It’s been over a decade since journalist Charlotte Druckman set out to document the experiences of women in professional kitchens, but these stories are no less relevant today than they were then. Legendary chefs like Alice Waters and Christina Tosi share their experiences of being women in this traditionally male-dominated industry, and the pressures, egos and stresses that come along with navigating grueling kitchen life, as well as the ever-present social expectations of what it means to be a woman.

"The chef memoir — one of my favorite types of books to read — is essentially a hero’s story, in which a young cook threads his way through a path of thorny obstacles to culinary triumph," Rose says. "With a few exceptions, like Gabrielle Hamilton’s 'Blood, Bones and Butter,' women chefs have been too busy hacking their way through the undergrowth to sit down and write their own story. I’m waiting for some meaty female chef memoirs to hit the bookstore shelves soon — in the meantime, this reportage from Charlotte Druckman is a good placeholder."

“Black, White and the Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Beloved Restaurant”

By Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano

ICE alumna and James Beard Award-winning Chef Mashama Bailey, along with her business partner John O. Moisano, chronicles the life-changing experience of turning a run-down bus station into one of the country’s most revered restaurants in this compelling memoir. Bailey and Morisano bring the reader along on the tribulations and triumphs that come with bringing a vision to life, and what they learned about business and biases along the way.

"Before beginning their culinary careers, students need to know what could lie ahead," Rose says. "Books of practical advice — David Boulud’s 'Letters to a Young Chef,' for instance — are helpful, but so are accounts from chefs working on the front line, like Jacques Pépin’s 'The Apprentice,' Marcus Samuelsson’s 'Yes, Chef' — or this moving story of partners collaborating to make a restaurant work."

“Momofuku Milk Bar”

By Christina Tosi

When Christina Tosi showed up to help David Chang produce a food safety plan for his much-beloved Momofuku restaurant, it’s hard to believe either of them knew the incredible dessert empire it would launch. With a foreword from Chang himself, this debut cookbook by Tosi became an instant classic, and the universally beloved recipes it contains make it clear why this two-time James Beard Award-winning pastry chef inspired an entire generation of women bakers to copy Tosi’s signature Rosie-the-riveter style while hoping too also follow in the footsteps of her meteoric rise.

"This one was really popular with students at the French Culinary Institute when I was the librarian there," Rose says. "Doubly so because Tosi, like her fellow Momofuku chef David Chang, was an FCI grad!"

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