Perhaps we're beyond the stage at which we need to gawk at women who have achieved success as chefs and restaurateurs. But only just: basically, this business remains a male-dominated sphere like too many others.
So, if you are interested in food and are going to be in London between March 11 and 13, you may want to spend an evening (and £200 -- a little over $300 -- including all wine) at Girls' Night Out. In fact, the "girls" involved in this series of three five-course dinners will not be having a night out at all. The six prominent chefs, three from the UK and one each from Brazil, South Africa and the US, will be sweating over a hot stove all evening, gulping ice water out of plastic takeout containers. I may be exaggerating here: once you've risen to the high level that all these woman have attained, you earn the right, at the very least, to drink out of a glass. And even, occasionally, not to sweat over a hot anything.
My good friend Angela Hartnett, chef-owner of London's Murano restaurant, is one of those chefs and, along with British food writer Fiona Sims, has organized the dinners, for which she has paired the women in teams: on Sunday March 11, she and Gabrielle Hamilton (Prune, New York City) will alternate courses; on the 12th, Clare Smyth (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London's Chelsea) will join Helena Rizzo (Mani in Sao Paulo, Brazil); and on the final night, March 13, the meal will be by Anna Hansen (The Modern Pantry, London) and Margot Janse (Le Quartier Francais, Franschhoek, South Africa).
Click on those links: most likely, the websites will tell you enough about the chefs and their cooking to make you want to get in on one of these dinners. The thing is that American Express is behind this promotion, and its card-holders are being given first dibs on tables. Still, the events will be held at the restaurant/brasserie 1 Lombard Street, right near the Bank of England, which is a pretty big place. So, if you're interested and not an Amex client, get in touch with Elena Leva, the restaurant's events manager: email@example.com. The wines, too, will all be from woman-operated properties, and there will be pre-dessert Q&A for Hartnett and the evening's chefs.
For my part, I'd be eager to see how chefs from places like Brazil and South Africa deal with late-winter British ingredients and with possibly unfamiliar fish and meat. Will they adapt or will they seek out products they know well? And how will the UK chefs' dishes mesh with the visitors' contributions? All six girls have been around the block, so I can't imagine they'll be fazed.