Chef Daniela Soto-Innes — who runs New York City’s top modern Mexican restaurants Cosme and Atla — has been named the World’s Best Female Chef, the award by the same group that names the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
It’s another win for the talented young chef, albeit one from a controversial organization that seems to think women chefs aren’t competitive with male ones. (There is, tellingly, no “world’s best male chef” award.)
But Soto-Innes, who has helmed chef Enrique Olvera’s NYC restaurants from the onset, has been recognized in non-gender-specific awards in the past, too: Her work in the kitchen helped Cosme win Eater NY’s Restaurant of the Year in 2015 and the James Beard Rising Star Chef award in 2016 — which she won at age 25.
Today the chef is 28, which makes her the youngest winner of the the “Best Female Chef” title in the history of the award. Aside from praising her achievements in the kitchen, the group also highlighted the work the chef has done in making her kitchen a welcoming space for everyone, especially immigrant cooks.
“She thrives on empowering her staff and treating every personality differently, and says her relative youth is something to embrace rather than feel ashamed of,” the group says. “In an industry dominated by men, she also runs a kitchen that is two-thirds made up by women.”
Soto-Innes, a Mexico City native, moved to the U.S. when she was 12, bringing with her a homegrown desire to work within the culinary world. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas, and traveled around Europe and New York to train. She helped open Cajun restaurant Brennan’s of Houston and spent time in other restaurants before joining Olvera’s star Mexico City restaurant Pujol. When Olvera decided to open a restaurant in New York, he tapped Soto-Innes as chef de cuisine.
She’s been involved in Cosme since it opened in 2014, a groundbreaking opening for Mexican cuisine in New York. In 2017, Soto-Innes and Olvera partnered up to open the more casual, all-day Atla. And later this year, the duo plan to make a splash on the West Coast with two new projects in L.A., Japanese-influenced Mexican restaurant Damian and taqueria Ditroit.
The award, announced today, is unnecessarily gender-specific, implying that women require a different category than men to be noticed within the culinary sphere. There is no “Best Male Chef” award, and the organization’s flagship “World’s Best” list historically lacks kitchens by people other than men, though it claims it’s trying to change that. As Eater editor in chief Amanda Kludt and several others have pointed out in the past, women are not curiosities — they are people, and people are chefs.