International Women’s Day 2022: Hong Kong’s Top Female Chefs Share Their Secrets to Success

Tatler Asia

7 Mar 2022

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, we asked some of Hong Kong’s most successful female chefs to share their words of wisdom, the challenges they overcome in their culinary careers, and more importantly, their hopes for the future of the local F&B industry

For a very long time, it was rare to find a restaurant kitchen run or owned by a woman. Often seen as a tough environment where a big part of earning your stripes in the kitchen is proving that you can withstand the physically demanding work, unsociable hours, and possibly even a macho culture filled with many gender stereotypes, the restaurant industry has long been considered as a male-dominated field that hasn’t had many women in leadership roles.

But today’s culinary world is newer and braver. Over the years, we’ve seen a shift in attitudes demanding more diversity and equity in the restaurant industry, with more and more female talents being acknowledged for their hard work and culinary creativity.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we spoke to some of Hong Kong's most influential female chefs who have been making waves and are set to make bigger impacts on the culinary scene. Read on to know more about their own experiences as women in the kitchen, their advice to the next generation of female chefs, as well as inspiring thoughts they shared about the future of the local F&B industry.

3. Chan Kai Ying, Chilli Fagara

Born in Chong Qing and coming from a family of restaurant owners and F&B professionals, Chan Kai Ying brings over 50 years of culinary experience to Sichuan restaurant, Chilli Fagara.

When I first started my career in the F&B industry, there were only a few female chefs around. Even though plenty of women was cooking in the kitchens, hardly any of them received formal training to become a professional chef.

Moreover, one of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the F&B industry is that I—quite literally—have a lot on my plate as a chef as well as a mother. Helming a restaurant in the heart of Hong Kong—one of the most expensive places with an endless variety of restaurants—for more than 17 years is a daily challenge, but also a privilege, for me and my team.

Being a working mother in a male-dominated industry was tough. As a chef, you are required to work at times when others reunite with their families, so finding a work-life balance was a challenge. At Chilli Fagara, I have the continuous support and love of my daughter, Tracy. Throughout her childhood she watched me run kitchens, and now she works by my side managing Chilli Fagara. As a mother-daughter duo, we have learned that communication is key and that we always have to work in sync. Every day is a new challenge, but also a great opportunity.

Her motto and career tips...
“Always walk the extra mile—it’s never crowded”—this is the motto I live by, as my philosophy of cooking is the same as our attitude towards life. I must take time and patience to ensure things are perfect. I believe we should always put in extra effort and never give up going above and beyond our guests’ expectations.

Her hopes...
I believe that in the past few years, the number of female chefs has risen. However, to further encourage women to work in restaurants as chefs, I also consider consistent gender equity in the kitchen on all levels as key to ensuring women are given the best chances to succeed. This is what I would truly love to see in the future F&B industry.