In honor of March 8th, International Women's Day, I wanted to create a list of 16 memoirs/food books written by females from all across the globe! If you have any recommendations or builds to the list, let me know in the comments!
I have covered only a few books below, but you can get my full ever-evolving list here on Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/lists/international-women-s-day-female-chefs
*The links above are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission, should you make a purchase. But more importantly, Bookshop dot Org donates 10% of all proceeds to supporting independent bookstores. I've chosen Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago for my purchases (a black female-owned store)!
Books I Read and Really Recommend!
All quoted material is sourced directly from the descriptions on Bookshop.Org
Killing It by Camas Davis
"Camas Davis was at an unhappy crossroads. A longtime magazine editor, she had left New York City to pursue a simpler life in her home state of Oregon, with the man she wanted to marry, and taken an appealing job at a Portland magazine. But neither job nor man delivered on her dreams, and in the span of a year, Camas was unemployed, on her own, with nothing to fall back on." - She then buys a plane ticket to France and there she starts her journey to become a female butcher.
This is one of my favorite all time books, I mean of all time and I own over 300+ books. Camas' journey to self-discovery and rebirth was touching. Her memoir is what connected me to the Chicago Meat Collective and my own love of butchery and locally sourcing my meats.
Coming to My Senses by Alice Waters
"When Alice Waters opened the doors of her little French restaurant in Berkeley, California in 1971 at the age of 27, no one ever anticipated the indelible mark it would leave on the culinary landscape--Alice least of all. Fueled in equal parts by naivet and a relentless pursuit of beauty and pure flavor, she turned her passion project into an iconic institution that redefined American cuisine for generations of chefs and food lovers."
Alice Waters is also the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project and a major contributed to the Slow Food Movement! I'm actually a member of the Slow Food Movement Chicago. I actually listened to this as an audiobook and found it to be a pleasurable experience and Alice Waters narrates the book herself.
Black, White, and the Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Beloved Restaurant by John O. Morisano and Mashama Bailey
"In this dual memoir, Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano take turns telling how they went from tentative business partners to dear friends while turning a dilapidated formerly segregated Greyhound bus station into The Grey, now one of the most celebrated restaurants in the country. Recounting the trying process of building their restaurant business, they examine their most painful and joyous times, revealing how they came to understand their differences, recognize their biases, and continuously challenge themselves and each other to be better.
Confession, I'm actually buddy reading this book in April with another Booktuber! If you want, you can read along with me! I first learned about The Grey on an episode of Chef's Table . So once I saw the episode and then learned this book was coming out I immediately preordered it.
Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn
"By the time Dominique Crenn decided to become a chef, at the age of twenty-one, she knew it was a near impossible dream in France where almost all restaurant kitchens were run by men. So, she left her home and everything she knew to move to San Francisco, where she would train under the legendary Jeremiah Tower. Almost thirty years later, Crenn was awarded three Michelin Stars in 2018 for her influential restaurant Atelier Crenn, and became the first female chef in the United States to receive this honor - no small feat for someone who hadn't gone to culinary school or been formally trained."
I reviewed this book and Burn the Place, below, in a Book Duos video on my Youtube Channel. So I won't say too much here but I'll tell you I really had to love both books to make an entire video about them!
Burn the Place by Ilana Regan
"Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery, and told with uncommon emotional power."
Please see fan-girl moment above
My Soul Looks Back by Dr. Jessica Harris
"In the Technicolor glow of the early seventies, Jessica B. Harris debated, celebrated, and danced her way from the jazz clubs of the Manhattan's West Side to the restaurants of Greenwich Village, living out her buoyant youth alongside the great minds of the day--luminaries like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. My Soul Looks Back is her tribute to that fascinating social circle and their shared commitment to activism, intellectual engagement, and each other."
I love Dr. Jessica Harris and now own two of her books. I learned about her and sat in on a panel in 2020 at the Brooklyn Book Festival (virtually) as was blown away by her poise and her rich knowledge. She is an expert of African American cuisine and it's spread through the US. I also recommend you listen to this book because Dr. Harris narrates her own book. I love it!
Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
"Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home--and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother's kitchen in South India."
I, like many, learned about Padma from Top Chef. When she made her first cookbook, I was wary, thinking she was simply a celebrity pretending to cook. I was so wrong. Padma has proven time and time again not only her food knowledge but the depth of her compassion for people. Heartbreaking and extraordinary, read it or listen to it, but Padma does narrate the book herself so I vote listen!
Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire by Barbara Lynch
"Celebrated chef Barbara Lynch--named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2017--credits the defiant spirit of her upbringing in tough, poor "Southie," a neighborhood ruled by the notorious Whitey Bulger gang, with helping her bluff her way into her first professional cooking jobs; develop a distinct culinary style through instinct and sheer moxie; then dare to found an empire of restaurants ranging from a casual but elegant "clam shack" to Boston's epitome of modern haute cuisine. As award-winning chef Ana Sortun raves, "Her heroic story inspires us to remain true to who we are and honor our dreams with conviction."
I learned about Barbara Lynch from Top Chef and her loyalty to Boston. I loved her rough and tough voice within this book. Her tenacity is truly astounding and her book really made me appreciate the regionality of New England cuisine.
I Hear She’s a Real Bitch by Jen Agg
"From the moment she opened her first bar, Jen Agg knew she could only be her own boss from then on. I Hear She's a Real Bitch tells the story of how she fought her way through the patriarchal service industry and made it happen, from getting her first job pouring drinks all the way to starting Toronto's culinary revival and running some of Canada's most famous restaurants. And she shares what she discovered through years of hard work and learning from her mistakes: how to run a great restaurant that's also a great business."
When I saw Anthony Bourdain on the front of this book with a quote, I knew I was in. I've never heard of a restaurateur who build an empire around charcuterie, but who doesn't love charcuterie! This is a really wonderful book and I really empathize with the struggles of being ambitious and called a bitch for it. Really great read and one of my favorites from my 2020 reading list!
Books I Still Need to Read But Am Excited About
Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain
From the moment Nadiya Hussain was born, she has been questioning her role in life. But the irony is, she never wanted to be a trailblazer. She just wanted to follow a 'normal' path. But life kept telling her 'you can't'.
And so she found her own way, beyond anything she dared to dream . . .
In this wise, witty, open-hearted book, Nadiya lets us into her life and, for the first time, shares the memories and experiences that have shaped her into the woman and role-model that she is today, alongside her personal recipes and the stories they tell.
'We all have a voice. Yours might be loud and strong, or quiet yet insistent. I have always tried to use mine for the right reasons.'
Climbing the Mango Tree: A Memoir of Child in India by Madhur Jaffrey
The enchanting autobiography of the seven-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and acclaimed actress who taught America how to cook Indian food.
Whether climbing the mango trees in her grandparents' orchard in Delhi or picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint, tucked into freshly baked spiced pooris, Madhur Jaffrey's life has been marked by food, and today these childhood pleasures evoke for her the tastes and textures of growing up. Following Jaffrey from India to Britain, this memoir is both an enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood and a testament to the power of food to prompt memory, vividly bringing to life a lost time and place. Also included here are recipes for more than thirty delicious dishes from Jaffrey's childhood.
Mango and Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food by Tung Nguyen
"Through powerful narrative, archival imagery, and 20 Vietnamese recipes that mirror their story, Mango & Peppercorns is a unique contribution to culinary literature.
In 1975, after narrowly escaping the fall of Saigon, pregnant refugee and gifted cook Tung Nguyen ended up in the Miami home of Kathy Manning, a graduate student and waitress who was taking in displaced Vietnamese refugees. This serendipitous meeting evolved into a decades-long partnership, one that eventually turned strangers into family and a tiny, no-frills eatery into one of the most lauded restaurants in the country."
Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Ricardi
Two years out of college and with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Victoria Riccardi left a boyfriend, a rent-controlled New York City apartment, and a plum job in advertising to move to Kyoto to study kaiseki, the exquisitely refined form of cooking that accompanies the formal Japanese tea ceremony. She arrived in Kyoto, a city she had dreamed about but never seen, with two bags, an open-ended plane ticket, and the ability to speak only sushi-bar Japanese. She left a year later, having learned the language, the art of kaiseki, and what was truly important to her.
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer B Lee
If you think McDonald's is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese). In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, and weaves a personal narrative about her own relationship with Chinese food.
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles speaks to the immigrant experience as a whole, and the way it has shaped our country.
Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original by multiple authors (essays)
Edna Lewis (1916-2006) wrote some of America's most resonant, lyrical, and significant cookbooks, including the now classic The Taste of Country Cooking. Lewis cooked and wrote as a means to explore her memories of childhood on a farm in Freetown, Virginia, a community first founded by black families freed from slavery. With such observations as we would gather wild honey from the hollow of oak trees to go with the hot biscuits and pick wild strawberries to go with the heavy cream, she commemorated the seasonal richness of southern food. After living many years in New York City, where she became a chef and a political activist, she returned to the South and continued to write. Her reputation as a trailblazer in the revival of regional cooking and as a progenitor of the farm-to-table movement continues to grow. In this first-ever critical appreciation of Lewis's work, food-world stars gather to reveal their own encounters with Edna Lewis. Together they penetrate the mythology around Lewis and illuminate her legacy for a new generation.'
My Life in France by Julia Child
I mean - you could read ANY Julia Child book, but this is the book used to create the movie Julie & Julia!
"Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia Child was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself.
But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching."