Women Shaping Boston’s Food Scene

10 Chefs, Restaurateurs and Sommeliers Creating Memorable Dining Experiences in Boston

By Kim Foley MacKinnon on April 23, 2024

Greater Boston’s female chefs and food and beverage professionals are forging their own paths, transforming the local culinary scene, challenging the industry status quo and building upon the legacies of women who came before them. Here’s where to find these local movers and shakers.

Lydia Shire

If Boston had to name an O.G. female chef, it’s got to be the groundbreaking Lydia Shire, who has influenced legions of other chefs for decades. If there is a culinary award she hasn’t won, we don’t know what it is. Today, find her at Scampo at the Liberty Hotel, cooking up inspired Italian cuisine. 

Photo of Lydia Shire

Joanne Chang

With nine Flour bakeries scattered around the city, plus Myers+Chang, the “Asian-ish” restaurant she runs with her husband, you’re never far from one of this renowned and beloved chef’s offerings. She’s another award-winning chef, even beating Food Network chef Bobby Flay on his own show with her signature sticky buns.

Jody Adams

This James Beard award-winning chef has more accolades than we have room for here, but you can enjoy her innovative Mediterranean fare at Trade, Porto, Saloniki, and soon at La Padrona, located at Raffles Boston. When she isn’t managing her mini-restaurant empire, she’s probably working on one of the many philanthropic endeavors she is dedicated to.

Photo of Jody Adams, owner of Trade and Porto.

Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale

Head to the Koji Club to sample sake at Boston’s first (and only) sake bar. Owned by DiPasquale, who received an Advanced Sake Professional certification in Japan, a rare accomplishment for anyone in the United States, she made a huge splash with her unique concept, bursting onto the global stage.

Hayley Fortier

Head to Fortier’s two wine bars, haley.henry and nathálie, for carefully curated lists focused on natural, organic, small production and female-produced wines. Fortier has shaken up the wine scene by highlighting interesting, independent winemakers, all the while stacking up awards with her signature style.

Photo of Haley Fortier, owner of nathálie wine bar.

Tiffani Faison

At last count, this famous chef has five restaurants and bars, ranging in theme from Italian cuisine to BBQ to seafood. Try and catch her at Sweet Cheeks, Tenderoni’s (two locations), Fool’s Errand, Divebar or Bubble Bath, if you can. You can also spot her on different shows on the Food Network, both as a competitor and a judge.

Nia Grace

Savvy restaurateur and community leader, Grace’s three unique venues, Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, the Underground Café + Lounge, and Grace by Nia, are all dynamic, unique and welcoming places, with creative food, drinks and entertainment. Grace was instrumental in forming the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition to help support local Black-owned businesses.

Photo of Nia Grace

Tracy Chang

There isn’t exactly an abundance of Spanish/Japanese tapas restaurants around, but Chang’s innovative cuisine will make you wish there were. Happily, Pagu offers food kits you can take home when the craving strikes. Utterly original and creative, Chang has been showered with awards, yet is equally focused on community works.

Ana Sortun

Since 2001, when Sortun opened Oleana, she has been a force in the Boston (and global) food scene, garnering a James Beard award in 2005 and many, many others. Over the years, she also opened Sofra Bakery and Café and Sarma with partners and all three spots feature creative and delicious Middle Eastern cuisine.

Photo of Ana Sortun

Cassie Piuma

After working with some of Boston’s top chefs, including Ana Sortun at Oleana, Piuma opened Sarma in 2013, where she does her own riff on modern Middle Eastern fare. She quickly won acclaim for her food and has continued to impress her fans who love the large menu of small plates, meant to be shared and the warm atmosphere of her restaurant. 



Kim Foley MacKinnon is an award-winning travel and food writer, editor and author with several New England guidebooks to her credit. Her latest titles are 100 Things to Do on Cape Cod and the Islands Before You Die and Secret Boston. She is also the immediate past president of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers). Follow her on Instagram @escapewithkim.

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