Photo courtesy of Girl & The Goat

Women of FoodLos Angeles

Stephanie Izard on Labels, Leadership, and Advice to Young Female Cooks


Stephanie Izard was the first woman to win “Top Chef” and has since gone on to open an empire of restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles. On June 22, she will be at the Los Angeles outpost of her Girl & The Goat, cooking up a very special menu as part of Resy’s ongoing The Women of Food series (tickets here).

She spoke to Resy on a number of topics related to the event, from the things that make a beautiful restaurant experience to her advice for young women entering the restaurant industry. Her words follow.

Resy: OK, big question first: What do you love about restaurants?

Stephanie Izard: Going out to dinner, to me, is theater. It’s entertainment. My favorite thing to do — whether I’m in a new city going to an amazing, hot new restaurant, or I’m going to the simplest place down the block — is the act of sitting down and sharing a meal with friends, interacting with the people who are working at the restaurant, and just having fun. I love it. I love looking at the details of a restaurant — not in a critical way, but as inspiration.

And I love being able to create that kind of experience for diners at my restaurants. When people come into my restaurant, the thing I always ask them is if they had fun. That’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to give them.

What’s been your experience as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

I never think of myself as a female chef. I was on this show recently — “The Kelly Clarkson Show” — and the teleprompter was wanting her to describe me as one of the country’s top female chefs, and she asked me if she could say I’m one of the country’s greatest chefs, and I was like, “hell yeah.” Why do we have to be described as women, not just as great?

I think of it more that way, but I know that at the same time, it is important to talk about as a way to reach more women in the industry. For me, it’s a juggle, too. I happen to have waited longer in life to have a baby. I established a career, and I now have a six-year-old, so I’m trying to juggle family and work. It’s so nice to inspire others, and there is a way to balance both. It’s about surrounding yourself with people you trust.

On that note, how would you describe your leadership style?

I definitely lead from doing. My team knows I work every day of the week. Today, I’m here setting up a station on garde manger. They see that I work hard and I try to know everyone on the team. I always try to be accessible to everyone. I’ve worked in some restaurants that, when the chef comes in from out of town, it’s like some random famous person comes in the kitchen. But I just go in and say, ‘What’s up?’ I can’t be in all the restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles all the time, but I know it’s not a strange thing to see me come around.

What’s your advice to young women entering the industry?

Find the restaurants where there is the kind of environment that should be in all restaurants. You want to work in an inclusive restaurant that gives opportunity to everyone and anyone, with chefs who believe in teaching and growing the team — and helping find the right career paths for you.