On season one of Chef's Table, Dan Barber, the mastermind behind the famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns, noted that we live in a time when chefs have become celebrities. Between shows like the aforementioned Chef's Table and Top Chef and food crazes brought on by creations like cronuts and sushi burritos, we are as familiar with names like Dominique Ansel and David Chang and Marcus Samuelsson as we are with those of celebrities that front our favorite magazines. And while I would willingly watch the now-thrice-mentioned Chef's Table (I may be a fan) over and over again until the next new season comes out, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that there are significantly fewer women chefs with the same degree of recognition or visibility.
It's a not-so-little-known fact that the food and liquor industries are still dominated by men. It's doubtlessly due in part to the gender bias that continues to prevail in many kitchens that there are considerably fewer April Bloomfields and Nancy Silvertons (who, by the way, gave Barber his first job—which she also quickly fired him from for his then-lack of baking skills) that dominate our screens and delight us with their presence. With this in mind, we wanted to highlight 30 incredible women who are behind some of our favorite restaurants, bottled beverages, and pastries. Some are well-known, some have started food trends (hello, poke and kombucha), and some you need to put on your radar ASAP. We love them, and we think you will too. Ahead, their stories.
Emily Hyland, co-founder and chief operating officer of Pizza Loves Emily restaurants, EMILY and Emmy Squared.
In a pizza-obsessed place like New York, it's not easy for pie newcomers to stand out. Not if you are Emily Hyland, who burst onto the food scene in 2014 from the most unlikely of backgrounds: vinyasa, yin, and restorative yoga teacher. Her two Brooklyn, New York, eateries, where her husband Matt serves as the executive chef, have achieved celebrity status, serving some of the best pizza and burgers (yes, burgers) that you will ever have.
How did you decide to enter the food industry after being a vinyasa, yin, and restorative yoga teacher?
Matt was at a point in his career where he was ready to take the leap and try to start something of his own. It so happens that having left my career in the public school system and transitioning into the yoga world left me with a lot of freedom and space in my life and my schedule to help him pursue this opportunity, so here we are.
Were you nervous about how New Yorkers would react to the pizza you were offering?
We were incredibly nervous and commented to each other many times about how high-stakes it felt to be opening a pizza restaurant in the middle of NYC. At the end of the day, we feel like pizza is supposed to be fun, and it is a food that really resonates with us, obviously—we love it as a communal, nostalgic, happy type of meal—and with that as the basis of our sentiment, we figured it was worth a try to put forth what we have to offer. We stand behind the product we make with love, care, and thoughtfulness, and we hoped that even in a pizza-rich city, guests would recognize the sentiment behind our food, and we are blessed that they have.
What were you hoping customers would get at your restaurants that they weren’t getting at other pizza joints?
When creating EMILY, we really wanted to fashion a space that felt like an extension of our home—a place where we could serve friends delicious food and drinks like we used to love to do more informally at our apartment before the restaurant days. That feeling of being in an environment that feels truly ours—genuinely a dining room and kitchen that has an energy sweet of home and no pretense—is what we really wanted to be able to offer to guests. I guess that we wanted the food and service experience to be professional and high quality, of course, but at its heart, just really warm.
You are known for making one mean burger. What’s the secret?
Love, for short. The real answer is Matt's incredible tenacity as a chef to keep pushing boundaries with his methods and his development of sauces—I can brag about him because I am his wife. I really feel like he excels in the land of making sauces and dressings, and he spent a lot of time being really precise and attentive to the making of Emmy Sauce. The other secret is one of our founding chefs, Tim Nguyen, who is the other genius behind the base of the Emmy sauce, which goes on our chicken wings and is known at the restaurant as Nguyen sauce.
What is your favorite part about working in the industry?
The sheer and immediate sense of camaraderie and community with other chefs and restauranteurs is far and away the nicest part about working in the industry. There is this inherent respect for each other and the hard work that everyone puts into their restaurants that feels great, supportive, and so necessary, as it is not an easy industry to be in!