#LIKEABOSS: An Epic History of Female Food Pioneers

The history of food in America is studded with badass women (Julia Child! Edna Lewis! Rachael Ray!) and this lady-packed culinary chronology is proof.
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Did you know the first cookbook in America was written by a woman? In case your school-age history lessons weren’t diligent enough to include the likes of Amelia Simmons or Alice Waters, we’ve put together a timeline of seriously impressive women who helped pioneer the world of food. From Michelin-starred chefs to master sommeliers, let’s give it up to her-story!

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1796

The first cookbook written by an American (male or female), American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, is published in Hartford, Connecticut.

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1866

Malinda Russell’s Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, the first-known cookbook by an African American woman in the United States, is published. It includes 200-plus recipes, from bread-dough cake to fricasseed catfish.

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1921

Happy birthday, Betty Crocker! The personality was created by the General Mills advertising department to answer consumers’ cooking and baking questions.

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1946

Frances Roth and Katharine Angell open the precursor to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), now one of the world’s top cooking schools, in New Haven, Connecticut. It has produced such famed alumni as Cat Cora and Anne Burrell. In the inaugural class of 50 students, only one is a woman.

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1961

Julia Child’s iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is published.

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1963

The French Chef debuts on public television and turns Julia Child into America’s most famous TV chef.

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1971

Alice Waters and her cohorts open Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, pioneering the California cuisine movement.

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1976

Mimi Sheraton is the first female restaurant critic at the New York Times, a prominent post that she will hold for eight years.

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1987

Madeline Triffon passes the Court of Master Sommeliers’ diploma exam, becoming the first American woman—and only the second woman ever—to achieve the designation.

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1992

Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters becomes the first woman ever to be awarded the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef.

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1997

On NBC’s juggernaut sitcom Friends, Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) is appointed head chef.

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1999

Edna Lewis is honored as a “living legend” by the James Beard Foundation for her contributions to southern cooking.

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2005

Under the George W. Bush administration, Cristeta Comerford becomes the first woman and the first Filipino American to be appointed White House executive chef.

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2008

In its fourth season, Bravo’s Top Chef names its first female winner, Stephanie Izard. Of the 14 winners to date, only four have been women.

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2012

Cat Cora is the first female chef to be inducted into the American Academy of Chefs Culinary Hall of Fame.

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2016

Dominique Crenn is named the World’s Best Female (our emphasis) Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. “I hope that award won’t exist in two years,” Crenn told the New York Times.

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2016

Enrollment at the Culinary Institute of America is majority-female for the first time ever.

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2017

With public allegations made against multiple high-profile men, 2017 becomes a tipping point for intolerance of sexual harassment in many industries, including food. 

More from our #LIKEABOSS March 2018 cover story:

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