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Village Power-House Female Chefs: 2011 Village Awardee

Here at GVSHP we love successful women (4 out of 6 of our staff members are such women!) and we love food (who doesn’t?).  So, we were delighted that West Village  restaurant Annisa is one of our 2011 Village Awardees!  Power-chef Anita Lo rides her bike each morning to her highly popular Barrow Street restaurant which serves up dishes that pay homage to her Chinese-American heritage and French-culinary training.  Since 2000, this Michelin-star rated restaurant has been buzzed about all over the New York culinary scene.  Anita made it to the final four on Top Chef Season 1 and beat Mario Batali on Iron Chef, further confirming that Village ladies can do just about anything!

Left: Anita Lo, with her two dogs, patronizes fellow Village business Murray's Cheese; Right: the interior of Annisa

Lo is among a group of unstoppable female celebrity chefs in the East and West Villages, which is not at all surprising considering that this is the area where the James Beard House resides.  On West 11th Street, April Bloomfield has been running the kitchen in New York City’s first official gastropub, The Spotted Pig, since 2002.  Her char-grilled burger and smoked haddock chowder have attracted the likes of Jay-Z and Gwyneth Paltrow.  She even has two Michelin Stars under her belt- one for the Spotted Pig and one for the Pig’s sister Midtown restaurant the Breslin.  Roasting pigs’ feet and pouring stout ales has, historically, been a man’s forte.  Bloomfield, though, is considered to do this British fare better than anyone else in the city.  Another interesting tid bit- April had planned to become a police officer in her hometown of Birmingham, England.  We love female officers, but we’re certainly glad she chose to take the food route!

The Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield, and her famous burger with rosemary fries

The Central Village boasts its own celebrity chef.  Lafayette Street is home to new-American hotspot Butter where lead-chef Alex Guarnaschelli has been doling out eclectic greenmarket delicacies since 2003.  Having cooked at some of the world’s most impressive Michelin-starred restaurants, Guarnaschelli hosted the Food Network’s the Cooking Loft and currently hosts Alex’s Day Off and regularly appears as a judge on Chopped.  She also is a Chef-Instructor at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education and opened a second restaurant, The Darby, on West 14th Street.  Talk about a multi-tasker!

The interior of Butter and Alex Guarnaschelli

Over on East 1st Street we come to Prune, whose owner and executive chef Gabrielle Hamilton recently won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York City!  When Prune opened its doors in 1999, Hamilton envisioned it as a comfortable spot where she could “cook for [her] neighbors.”  Twelve years later Prune is still quite comfortable with its home-cooked-like comfort food, but it has now soared to international fame as has she.  Despite this success, however, Hamilton remains true to her roots and even shops at the local East Village Key Foods.  In addition to her gastronomic success, Gabrielle boasts a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, which she put to good use in her recently released memoir, Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.

Left: the exterior of Prune; Center: Gabrielle Hamilton glows while holding her James Beard Award; Right: the interior of Prune as staff gets ready for dinner

Another East Village newbie that has taken the neighborhood by storm is Sara Jenkins, who first brought rustic Italian cooking to the neighborhood with her runaway hit Porchetta (East 7th Street) in 2008.  The eight-itemed, pork-centered menu is considered brilliant in its simplicity and is not a drain on the wallet.  Following Porchetta’s success Sara opened  Porsena, one block west on East 7th, a tribute in pasta to her Tuscan upbringing.  The final installment to her East Village Italian trifecta is Veloce Pizzeria, the Sicilian pizza and wine establishment on 1st Avenue and, you guessed it, East 7th Street.  We love that Jenkins has brought unpretentious, affordable, Italian to the East Village and definitely would not be opposed to a fourth installment!

Left: Porchetta was designed as a take-out establishment (photo courtesy of NY Magazine); Center: Sara Jenkins with some of her famous porchetta; Right: Porsena

Now, we know there are many, many amazing female chefs in the Village that we’re leaving out (our fingers can only type so much!) so please fill us in on who your favorite is!  And don’t leave out your favorite dish- our stomachs are grumbling here at the office!


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