New Orleans Female Chefs Moving the Restaurant & Hospitality Scene Forward
In honor of International Women's Day, the LRA spotlights female chefs who have risen the ranks with the male cohort, and cemented their names into New Orleans culinary history.
Chef Zoe Chase
Chef Zoe Chase has been in the kitchen her entire life, that of her family, Dooky Chase's Restaurant. She grew up earnestly watching and learning from her great grandmother, Executive Chef Emeritus Chef Leah Chase. The passion for food & hospitality led Chase to enroll in culinary school at New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. Under the guidance of her Uncle Edgar "Dook" Chase IV (Executive Chef and Leah's grandson), Zoe is currently a sous chef at Dooky Chase's Restaurant and is next in line to take the helm of their historied family restaurant. Tune into WYES-New Orleans on April 29 at 10 am to see her debut on their new series "The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah's Legacy."
Chef Bergen Carman
Meril is home to Chef de Cuisine Bergen Carman. Once the pastry chef at Emeril's Delmonico with nothing but her love of food and her new English degree from LSU, Bergen fell in love with the energy of the kitchen from day one. Her dedication to hospitality has moved her to the top of the ranks at Emeril's sister restaurant in the Warehouse District.
Chef Meg Bickford
Executive Chef Meg Bickford at Commander's Palace has carved herself into the idea of what diners know as "haute Creole cuisine." She landed at the Garden District restaurant after graduating from Chef John Folse Culinary Institute in 2008. For nearly a decade, she worked every position in the kitchen until she was named Executive Chef in 2020. Today, she's putting her own identity into Cajun & Creole dishes made classic by the late Chef Paul Prudhomme.
Chef Haley Bitterman
Corporate Executive Chef Haley Bitterman is stationed at Brennan's Restaurant on Royal Street, but her expert eye oversees the culinary program for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. A native of Cincinnati, she has called New Orleans home since the first moment working an externship at Mr.B's Bistro. Haley then helped open Ralph Brennan's BACCO, a Northern Italian restaurant in the French Quarter (since closed), and a few years after it's opening, landed the Executive Chef position there. Today, she has her hand in every kitchen of all the Ralph Brennan restaurants.
Chef Nina Compton
Chef Nina Compton at Compere Lapin was catapulted into the loving arms of New Orleanians after her stint on Bravo's Top Chef: New Orleans. The St. Lucia native had been in Miami as Executive Chef at Scarpetta, and then The Villa Casa Casuarina, when she decided to compete on the reality show. Taking home second place and the fan favorite award, Compton settled in the Warehouse District with the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery and Compère Lapin, responding to New Orleans' rich creole history that she identified with being from the Caribbean. Since, she has earned the James Beard Award for "Best Chef of the South," among other accolades. Compton's empire expanded with Bywater American Bistro, and continues with an upcoming fast-casual spot inside the soon-to-be Caesars Hotel.
Chef Aom Srisuk
Chef Aom Srisuk opened Pomelo last year on Magazine Street. Her boutique Thai restaurant honors her roots where she grew up in Thailand running her family's restaurants, and met the love her life--her husband Frankie who runs the business with her. Needless to say, Thailand holds a special place in chef's heart, and she loves sharing her authentic family recipes with New Orleans. Pomelo has since become a neighborhood fixture. She was working in the kitchen at Cho Thai, and then Saffron before opening a place of her own.
Chef Meg Forman
Executive Chef Meg Forman owns and operates Gracious Bakery. Her love for all things sweet inspired her to enroll at the New England Culinary Institute. She was the pastry chef at Bayona Restaurant for six years. Since 2012, Gracious Bakery has grown into multiple locations, and even entered the retail market with at-home kingcake kits.
Chef Martha Wiggins
Executive Chef Martha Wiggins at Cafe Reconcile is building hope and changing lives, one plate at a time. Wiggins helps 16 – 24 years old develop culinary & hospitality skills needed to be successful in today's fast-paced industry, while breathing new life into the dining experience of their cafe. The Washington D.C. native started in New Orleans nearly 20 years ago at the French Quarter spot Sylvain, under Executive Chef Alex Harrell. She soon took over, and then helped open The Hotel Peter & Paul and The Elysian Bar. Now, the Central City establishment is her home away from home.
By Nicole Koster