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LA’s Female Chefs Have Long Defined the City’s Dining Culture

Vogue checks in on the new faces of an old LA trend

n/naka niki nakayama carole iida
Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida
Wonho Frank Lee

Female chefs have for many, many decades been a dominating presence in the greater Los Angeles restaurant scene, with Vogue highlighting a few new faces to the city’s landscape recently. Among them are Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer of the popular Kismet in Los Feliz, co-owners and co-chefs who are not only helping to define a new generation of restaurant in LA — they’re trying to redefine what it means to work in a kitchen, period.

Kramer and Hymanson, two New York City expats who moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago to open Madcapra at Grand Central Market and now Kismet, don’t share the same “tough it out” mentality that has been pervasive in many kitchens over the years. They tell Vogue:

We don’t tell people to check their lives at the door. If you’re having a bad day, we don’t expect you to muscle through. We want you to bring reality to your job.

Writer Tamar Adler also talks to Niki Nakayama of n/naka. Along with partner Carole Iida, Nakayama is helping to transform the kaiseki restaurant perspective from a perennially sold-out Palms restaurant with almost no signage. Hers is a male-dominated subset of Japanese cooking, but the inclusive spin Nakayama and Iida put on their kitchen, their front of house staff, and the way they treat customers is helping to redefine the genre.

Kismet, Los Feliz
Wonho Frank Lee

The golden road to Los Angeles restaurant success is gilded along the way by other names like Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin, Zoe Nathan, Rocio Camacho, Suzanne Tracht, and recent Chef’s Table subject Nancy Silverton. In a recent episode of the Eater Upsell podcast, Susan Feniger discusses her nearly 40-year working relationship with Mary Sue Milliken, and what it means to use cooking and ownership as a tool to promote and fight for LGBTQ and women’s rights.

Of course, Vogue’s piece does not focus exclusively on Los Angeles. There are fantastic female chefs and owners running restaurants all over the world, including particularly popular places like Contramar in Mexico City, Atla in New York City, and of course the venerated Chez Panisse in Berkeley. But sometimes, when it comes to the fantastic females pushing the culinary scene forward, there’s no place like home.

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