Meet the Women Behind Some of Our Favorite Restaurants in San Francisco

|April 14, 2017

If by “world” you mean the San Francisco restaurant scene, then we have your answer.

It’s no secret that executive chef and restaurateur positions all over the globe have been male-dominated careers for decades. In recent years, you could count the total number of Michelin awarded female chefs on just one hand — and that’s out of more than 2,500 restaurants worldwide. But, in 2014, the number nearly doubled.

Our city is home to some of the most critically-acclaimed chefs and restaurants in the world, and today, we’re celebrating the females behind some of our favorites. Meet them here then share your favorite chefs, restaurants and businesses headed by the impressive females of the Bay!

Traci Des Jardins

Traci des Jardins Female Chefs San Francisco

Photos courtesy of Henrik Kam and Kimberley Hasselbrink

Jardinière + Arguello + The Commissary + Mijita + Public House + TRANSIT

Before opening Jardinière in 1997 Traci Des Jardins worked in some of the highly acclaimed kitchens of Los Angeles, France and New York City, was trained in French cuisine by some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world, and is constantly influenced by her Mexican and French-Acadian grandparents who taught her how to cook. Over the course of her career, she and her restaurants have been awarded more than ten of the highest honors in the business — including Rising Star Chef of the Year and Best Chef: Pacific from the James Beard Foundation.

Chef Traci Des Jardins owns and operates Jardinière, featured on our list of the most romantic restaurants in the city. She’s also behind five other SF favorites. Be sure to stop by Arguello to taste her famous handmade tortillas!

Nancy Oakes

Boulevard + Prospect

In everything she does, Chef Nancy Oakes is inspired by her Northern California roots, and her passion for restaurant culture and food that was born when she started as a hostess at the Carnelian Room. She began her career in the kitchen on the San Francisco waterfront at The Barnacle then commanded the kitchen at Pat O’Shea’s for the next decade. Among other nominations and honors, her first establishment, Boulevard Restaurant, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant in the United States 2012.

Nancy Oakes is the executive chef and owner at Boulevard, highlighted on our list of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco.

Pamela Mazzola

Pamela Mazzola

Photos courtesy of Prospect


Pamela Mazzola began her career in Denver working in some of the city’s top kitchens. After she moved to the Bay Area, she joined Chef Nancy Oakes at San Francisco’s L’Avenue in 1988 where they developed a partnership that eventually continued into Oakes’ Boulevard Restaurant.

Today, she is chef and partner at Prospect with Nancy Oakes and Kathy King. Their collaborative menu is driven by top-quality seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors which results in some of the finest plates in the city!

Jennifer Puccio

Marlowe, Park Tavern, The Cavalier + Leo’s Oyster Bar

Chef Jennifer Puccio grew up in New Hampshire, went to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, and worked under Ana Sortun of Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the Bay Area, she has worked in the kitchens of Cortez, Ramblas, Rivoli and Ubuntu before opening and operating four of the most-renowned restaurants in the area.

Jennifer Puccio is executive chef at Marlowe, chosen as one of our top brunch locations in the city. She is also executive chef at Leo’s Oyster Bar, The Cavalier and Park Tavern.

Melissa Perello

Melissa Perello

Photos courtesy of Frances and Michael Sugrue

Frances + Octavia

From a local country club to Aqua to Fifth Floor and eventually to her very own restaurant, Chef Melissa Perello has stunned in Bay Area kitchens year after year. She was awarded Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chef in 2004, held a Michelin star as executive chef at Fifth Floor, and held a Michelin star at Frances, which opened in 2009. Today, her second restaurant Octavia holds a Michelin star and she is one of a small number of female chefs to continually hold one.

Stop by her restaurants, Frances and Octavia, famous for their subtle blend of neighborhood cafe and fine dining.

Belinda Leong

Belinda Leong

Photos courtesy of B. Pâtisserie and Vanessa Yip-Einbund

B. Pâtisserie

Belinda Leong began her career as a pastry chef at SF’s famous Restaurant Gary Danko in 1999. Afterward, she spent two years in Europe where she staged at some of the most esteemed restaurants and patisseries in Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen. With international experience under her belt, she returned to the Bay Area and became pastry chef at Manresa Restaurant, a two star Michelin Restaurant before opening B. Pâtisserie with Michel Suas, a native of France.

The menu at B. Pâtisserie features breads, cakes, pastries and open-faced toasts that will bring you back day after day.

Melissa Perfit

Bar Crudo

Melissa Perfit joined Bar Crudo in its fledgling years when she was fresh out of culinary school. After taking some time off to learn from other chefs, she joined the restaurant again just in time to celebrate a decade of modern seafood and raw cuisine. But growing up in Florida, Melissa dreamed of becoming a cinematographer and never thought she would end up in the kitchen. Needless to say, we’re happy she did!

Melissa Perfit is executive chef at Bar Crudo, featured on our list of the best seafood restaurants in the Bay Area.

Gayle Pirie

Gayle Pirie

Photo courtesy of Foreign Cinema + Nader Khouri

Foreign Cinema + Laszlo

Gayle Pirie is a San Francisco native who has been in kitchens, influenced restaurants and developed menus all over the world. She and her partner, John Clarke, have been a duo ever since their time together at the former Vicolo Pizza. They moved on together to the infamous Zuni Cafe and developed a restaurant consulting practice before taking over the kitchen of Foreign Cinema. Today, they have two cookbooks under their belts and live in Berkeley with their kids, Magnus and Pearl.

Foreign Cinema has been featured on our list of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco and their cocktail lounge, Laszlo, made it on our round-up of the best places to get a cocktail in the Bay Area.

Brenda Buenviaje + Libby Truesdell

Brenda B

Photos courtesy of Brenda’s French Soul Food and Orange Photography

Brenda’s French Soul Food + Libby Jane + Brenda’s Meat & Three

Chef Brenda Buenviaje grew up on the West bank of New Orleans, Louisiana in a little town called Harvey where she developed her passion and talents for French soul food. Inspired by her Sicilian, French and Filipino ascendants, her unique cuisine can’t be found or duplicated anywhere outside her three critically-acclaimed restaurants. Throughout her career she has been Executive Chef at Oritalia, Head Chef of Sumi and Café Claude, Consulting Chef of Snooze in Denver and Executive Chef of DeLessio Market and Bakery, garnering awards and accolades at every stop along the way.

Libby Truesdell is Brenda’s wife and the co-owner of Brenda’s French Soul Food. With the successful opening of two additional restaurants and the wonderful family they’ve created together, Libby considers herself to be one of the luckiest restaurateurs in San Francisco.

Nicole Krasinski

Nicole Krasinski

Photos courtesy of State Bird Provisions, Freda Banks and Ed Anderson

State Bird Provisions + The Progress

Nicole Krasinski began making breads and pastries for her friends and family as a hobby while studying photography at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. She eventually went on to the Art Institute of Chicago for photography, but soon discovered she wanted to be in the kitchen. After developing baking skills in the kitchens of Chicago and Michigan, she moved back to the Bay Area where she became the Pastry Chef at Rubicon.

Today, she and Chef Stuart Brioza run State Bird Provisions and The Progress and they have both been awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: West”.

Gabriela Cámara

Gabriela Camara San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Cala and Yvonne Venegas


Gabriela Cámara is the executive chef and owner of the beloved Contramar in Mexico City and now Cala in San Francisco. Her mother was born in Italy, her father in Mexico and she grew up in the small town of Tepoztlán. With Gabriela’s extensive experience in the cuisine and culture of the region, Cala brings the tastes of Mexico City seafood to American soil, but uses locally and sustainably sourced ingredients.

Pim Techamuanvivit

Pim San Francisco

Photos courtesy of Kin Khao and Eric Wolfinger

Kin Khao

Pim Techamuanvivit has a fascinating history in the food industry. Before traveling to other places all over the world and eventually landing in the Bay Area, she grew up in Bangkok, learning and loving everything about Thai food. In 2005, she quit her job in Silicon Valley to explore that passion and quickly became one of the most notable food bloggers in the region.

When she tasted the Thai food available in the states, she was inspired to open her own restaurant with chef Michael Gaines at the helm, featuring the recipes of her childhood. Now, she can add restaurateur and chef to the long list of accomplishments throughout her life and her time in the Bay.

Dominique Crenn

Atelier Crenn + Petit Crenn

Dominique Crenn credits her appreciation of the subtle nuances and unique flavors of great cuisine to her childhood in Versailles, France. She grew up with a mother who introduced her to the culinary arts early on and a politician father who brought her along to the region’s best restaurants with his best friend, a well-respected French food critic.

When she moved to San Francisco in 1988, she began her formal training as a chef at restaurants such as Campton Place, 2223 Market, the Park Hyatt Grill and eventually the Yoyo Bistro in the Miyako Hotel. After garnering awards, living in Indonesia, and commanding kitchens all over the world, she opened Atelier Crenn — now one of San Francisco’s most popular destinations.

Let’s celebrate Bay Area women!

We highlighted the chefs and owners of our favorite San Francisco restaurants, but now we want you to share your favorites from all over the Bay! Let us know who you think stands out as one of the region’s most impressive female restaurateurs.

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