Latin American cuisine is diverse and delicious so when it’s recognized and celebrated it’s a major win, especially when Latinas in the food industry are honored for their culinary expertise. In the Western-centric food and nutrition industry, our dishes are not always praised as those from European countries but there has been a shift in the way of thinking recently. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization recently announced that Mexican chef Elena Reygadas, who is based in Mexico City, is the best female chef in the world. The distinction is awarded annually by each region of the world and the best overall internationally. She was previously crowned by the organization as the best female chef in Latin America in 2014. She joins Peru’s Pía León and fellow Mexicana Daniela Soto-Innes, who were also named the world’s best female chef in 2021 and 2019, respectively.
Born in Mexico City, Reygadas has remained in the bustling capital of Mexico her whole life except for her stint at the French Culinary Institute in New York and studies of Italian cuisine in London. Upon her return, she opened her now-famous restaurant Rosetta in the historical neighborhood of Roma and later an accompanying bakery La Panadería de Rosetta, specializing in sourdough. In both ventures, she reimagines classic Mexican dishes like celeriac corn tamales, cabbage tacos, white mole, hoja santa tortellini, and sweet potato ravioli. Every dish is made with local seasonal ingredients from small farmers, maintaining a tight-knit food community and redefining not only the city’s food but also the culture at large. Rosetta has been recognized as one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants eight times and made its debut on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the first time last year. She’s since opened other restaurants in Mexico City and other areas around the country, published a cookbook, and started a scholarship to support women in the Mexican countryside to kick off their cooking careers.
“My home, Mexico City, is a place where many Mexicos coexist. The ancestral Mexico is still here, but there is also a contemporary Mexico. You can see the multiplicity of times and the passage of time in the present, and that is unique,” she told the publication. “Here, food is not only in the streets and people’s houses, but also in murals and in our culture. Old cultures remain, they haven’t gone away, and there are many things about Mexico that haven’t yet been talked about. I’m a cook in the middle of the world’s largest, most complex and most diverse metropolis, which has an incredible richness in its culture and gastronomy. As a chef, I feel that I’m a product of all that.”
We’re excited to see Latina jefas like Reygadas making their mark on the world stage. She’s helping to pave the way for other Latinas to foster a love of food and cooking, and to see the importance and value of our cuisine. Her emphasis on vegetable and ancestral foods is part of her signature approach evident in foods like her pipián, a sauce that reportedly dates back to Aztec/Mayan times and traditionally made with pumpkin seeds which she replaced with pistachios.
“I want to share this award with the women who cook on a daily basis,” she shared. “I don’t mean just chefs in professional kitchens. It’s for all the women who cook at home every day and who are also mothers and providers. I want to promote women’s leadership in restaurants. I’ve already started – but there’s more I want to do.”