Chef Whitney Wood, Recess

Meet 40+ Women Chefs Leading the Culinary Scene in Atlanta 

Atlanta’s culinary scene has long been celebrated for its diversity, innovation, and vibrant flavors. While historically male-dominated, the food industry is rapidly evolving, with talented women chefs leading in some of the city’s most renowned kitchens. From pioneering modern soul food to redefining traditional pastry, Women Chefs are Redefining Culinary Excellence in Atlanta

Join us as we celebrate and spotlight 40+ incredible women chefs leading the charge, breaking barriers, and carving out their place at the forefront of Atlanta’s gastronomic landscape.

Chefs and Culinary Entrepreneurs

Anne Quatrano
Owner/Chef, Bacchanalia 

Pioneering a movement of local ingredients forward, chef Anne Quatrano has steered the trajectory of Atlanta’s food story for more than two decades. As chef/owner of Star Provisions, Floataway Café, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp and MICHELIN Star Restaurant Bacchanalia, she champions a commitment to locally sourced produce and products, many of which are harvested from her own Summerland Farm in Cartersville. A graduate of the University of Vermont and the California Culinary Academy, Anne’s culinary journey has taken her from the Bay Area to New York City before settling in Atlanta. Beyond her culinary ventures, Anne is deeply involved in culinary nonprofits, particularly those supporting women chefs. 

Deborah VanTrece
Owner/Executive Chef, VanTrece Hospitality Group

Chef/Owner Deborah VanTrece, Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours

Women chefs have been making history in Atlanta for many years. Chef Deborah VanTrece is a living example of that. As one of the South’s most recognized culinary personalities and renowned author, Vantrece explores the significant influence of the African diaspora and black food heritage on contemporary American cuisine through her dishes. Vantrece owns the MICHELIN Guide-Recommended Restaurant Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours and is the visionary behind the menu at the largest American Express Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. VanTrece’s culinary journey, influenced by her experiences as a flight attendant, marries traditional Southern flavors with global inspirations. Her commitment to social justice, sustainable agriculture, and community engagement underscores her status as a vocal advocate and mentor for chefs of color. 

Forough Vikili
Chef/Founder, Le Bon Nosh 

Chef/Founder Forough Vakili, Le Bon Nosh (Photo by Anthony Tahlier)

Raised in Iran amidst a community of nurturing women who instilled in her the art of culinary nourishment, chef Forough Vakili found a second life in the food industry. A Georgia Tech grad, Vakili pursued a career as a chemical engineer before moving back to France, her birth country, where she reconnected with her culinary passion and crafted her art at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. What started as an idea in France came to fruition in Atlanta, where Le Bon Nosh is the culmination of Vakili’s unique and diverse experiences. 

Hope Webb
Owner, Estrellita 

Hope Webb, Estrellita (Photo courtesy of Estrellita)

Growing up in a small southern beach town, Hope Webb unravels the deepest part of her that may have felt ashamed of her heritage. Now, she dedicates her life and career to telling the story of oppression, revolt, independence, and the ascension of her Filipino roots. MICHELIN Bib Gourmand Estrellita has become essential to the Filipino food movement in Atlanta over the last few years, and the city has welcomed it with open arms. “[Food] is a symbol of perseverance, the voice of representation, and the pride of culture and community. It reminds us of what binds us,” she says.

Jiyeon Lee
Chef/Owner, Heirloom Market BBQ

Chef/Owner Jiyeon Lee, Heirloom Market BBQ (Photo courtesy of Jiyeon Lee)

Chef Jiyeon Lee is a native of Seoul, South Korea, where she became a KPOP sensation in the 1980s with multiple hit albums. Following her singing career, she embarked on a culinary journey, focusing on blending Korean and Western cooking methods. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu and refined her skills at Hotel St. Regis Atlanta before co-founding the MICHELIN Bib Gourmand Heirloom BBQ restaurant in Atlanta alongside her partner, Chef Cody Taylor. Her innovative approach earned her nominations for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2020 and 2023, solidifying her reputation as a culinary trailblazer.

Kirsten Spencer
Owner, Grind Time Coffee Co.

Owner Kirsten Spencer, Grind Time Coffee Co. (Photo courtesy of Via Fallia PR)

Grind Time Coffee Co. emerged as a vibrant testament to creativity and heritage, crafted by Kirsten “A.Chic” Spencer, a dynamic songwriter, and music artist. Kirsten’s roots trace back to her great-grandmother, a coffee farmer in Jamaica, whose legacy instilled in her a deep-seated love for coffee. The No. 1, platinum-selling songwriter used to work in the hospitality industry to sustain her musical aspirations. Now, she will return as owner of her flagship café at Halidom Eatery on Moreland Avenue this spring. Teaming up with her sister, Chef Dana Rene, the menu pulses with innovation, giving a nod to Atlanta’s vibrant music scene and pop culture. 

Lis Hernandez 
Chef/Owner, Arepa Mia 

Chef Lis Hernandez, the visionary behind Arepa Mia, brings a rich heritage of Venezuelan cuisine and familial tradition to Atlanta. Growing up in Venezuela, chef Hernandez assisted her mother in crafting arepas, a beloved staple of their community, for over two decades. Immersed in the vibrant culinary scene of her homeland, she developed a deep appreciation for the artistry of cooking and set out to share the flavors of her upbringing with a broader audience. Her dedication to preserving tradition while embracing innovation has earned Arepa Mia a devoted following and accolades from patrons near and far, including a 2023 MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmand. 

Lucero Martinez Obregon 
Chef/Owner, Zocalo and Taqueria La Luz

Chef/Owner Lucero Martinez with her twin brother and business partner, Luis Martinez. (Photo courtesy of Via Fallia PR)

Chef Luz Martinez Obregon arrived in Atlanta with the intention of pursuing her career as a graphic designer. However, that quickly changed when she found her passion in the kitchen, working alongside her family. In the 1990s, her family set out to open a restaurant in Atlanta that explored the true flavors of Mexico, their home country. It was then that Zocalo in midtown opened its doors. Over the years, Martinez-Obregon and her twin brother expanded their culinary ventures. She headed out to New York City to hone her skills further, where she worked under Chef Richard Sandoval. She returned to Atlanta and now oversees Zocalo, Taqueria La Luz and the soon-to-open Luze Mexicano Cocina. 

Mia Oriño
Owner/Chef, KamayanATL 

Owner/Chef Mia Oriño, KamayanATL (Photo courtesy of KamayanATL)

After owning an environmental cleaning company focused on employing battered women in other states, chef Mia Oriño embarked on a culinary adventure to bring authentic Filipino flavors to Atlanta. She had never cooked before, but that didn’t stop her. In 2018, KamayanATL started as a pop-up. In 2023, her now-brick-and-mortar restaurant is listed on the MICHELIN Guide Recommended Restaurants. Atlanta fell in love with Filipino cuisine, and now it has become a movement. 

Pinky Cole 
Founder, Slutty Vegan 

Pinky Cole has redefined Atlanta’s culinary scene with her innovative approach to plant-based cuisine. Combining her passion for delicious food with a commitment to health and sustainability, Pinky has captivated taste buds and hearts with her mouthwatering vegan burgers and cheeky brand. What started as a humble food truck quickly became a sensation, drawing lines of eager customers and garnering nationwide attention. Beyond her culinary prowess, Pinky is a fierce advocate for animal rights and community empowerment. She uses her platform to inspire positive change and challenge perceptions about veganism. Pinky Cole continues to leave an indelible mark on Atlanta’s culinary landscape.

Suzanne Vizethann 
Owner/Executive Chef, Buttermilk Kitchen 

The founder/owner of one of Atlanta’s most beloved breakfast and brunch spots, Buttermilk Kitchen, started her journey working in high-end dining kitchens. Tired of working night shifts, the “breakfast designer” adventured to open her own restaurant, always leaning towards local and fresh ingredients. Aside from being known for her cookbooks and appearances on shows like CHOPPED and Guy’s Grocery Games, the Atlanta native Chef is also known for offering some of the best Southern breakfasts in the city. 

Taylor Davis 
Owner/Chef, Locale Island Eats 

Owner/Chef Taylur Davis, Locale Island Eats (Photo courtesy of Via Failla PR)

The dynamic owner of Locale Island Eats is celebrated for her innovative approach to island-inspired cuisine. Following the success of her first location at Politan Row in Colony Square, Davis set out to open her second location in East Atlanta. Specializing in chopped island meats such as chicken and oxtails, she masterfully crafts easy-to-eat bowls that transport guests to her childhood memories in a tropical paradise. 

Tal Baum
Owner, Oliva Restaurant Group

Owner Tal Baum, Oliva Restaurant Group (Photo courtesy of Oliva Restaurant Group)

Owner of Bellina Alimentari, Falafel Nation, Rina, Atrium, Aziza, and her latest addition, Carmel, Tal Baum, was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. Before her time as a restaurateur in Atlanta, she moved to Florence, Italy, where she spent seven years getting inspired by the food and culture. Eventually, that inspiration got her from an architect’s background to becoming one of the top restaurateurs in Atlanta. Each restaurant speaks to her travels and experiences, making each meal an intimate conversation with her during a different era in her life and time in Atlanta’s food scene evolution. 

Tracy Gates 
Owner/Chef, Busy Bee 

Owner/Chef Tracy Gates, Busy Bee

Owner and head chef of MICHELIN Bib Gourmand Busy Bee for more than three decades, chef Tracy Gates has been working, building, and leading at Busy Bee – the restaurant which was originally opened in 1947 by Lucy Jackson (“Momma Lucy”). Perfecting recipes, growing the community and leading the way through difficult times, Gates is a pioneer of Southern cuisine in Atlanta. 

Zainab Turay, 
Owner/Chef, Press Waffle Co.

With over two decades of operational expertise, Zainab Turay, a Sierra Leone immigrant, debuted in the restaurant scene with Press Waffle Co. in East Atlanta. Inspired to introduce a distinctive culinary offering to Atlanta, her Liege Belgian waffles delight the taste buds of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents, with savory and sweet options.


Angelina Espinoza 
Executive Chef, 5Church Buckhead 

Chef Angelina Espinoza, 5Church Buckhead (Photo courtesy of K5 Hospitality)

Chef Angelina Espinoza is a dynamic hospitality professional with a culinary excellence and operational leadership track record. She earned her degree from Le Cordon Bleu of Atlanta, laying the foundation for her career. In 2020, she joined K5 Hospitality at 5Church Midtown as a sous chef, quickly showcasing her talent by enhancing employee morale and streamlining operations. In 2022, Espinoza’s hard work paid off, taking her up the ranks as culinary team leader and operations at 5Church Buckhead. 

Brenda Ogando 
Executive Chef, Aziza 

Chef Brenda Ogando, Aziza (Photo Courtesy of Oliva Restaurant Group)

As Aziza’s executive chef, Ogando explores Israeli cuisine with influences from Moroccan, Lebanese and Persian kitchens, but not without missing the opportunity to explore the flavors of her travels around the world and her Puerto Rican roots. Brenda’s thirst for culinary knowledge extends beyond the kitchen as she immerses herself in global travel, exploring the techniques and flavors of different cuisines firsthand. With a culinary journey rooted in hospitality and innovation, Brenda’s expertise shines through in each meticulously crafted dish, reflecting her commitment to creating memorable dining experiences. 

Faye Poon
Executive Chef, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp 

Chef Faye Poon, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp (Photo courtesy of Grey Fox PR)

Chef Faye Poonsiripukdeekul, known affectionately as Poon, has carved a remarkable culinary journey from her beginnings as a legal associate in Thailand to her current role as executive chef at W.H. Stiles Fish Camp in Ponce City Market. After graduating from Bangkok University in 2004, Poon initially pursued law before discovering her passion for hospitality and enrolling at Bangkok’s Wandee Culinary Art School. After honing her skills at authentic Thai restaurants in Bangkok, she made the leap to the U.S., graduating from The Culinary Institute of America – Hyde Park. Joining Bacchanalia in Atlanta under the mentorship of James Beard award-winning chef Anne Quatrano, Poon found inspiration and guidance, eventually transitioning to W.H. Stiles Fish Camp.

Ivania Gutierrez 
Sous Chef, Punch Bowl 

Chef Ivania Gutierrez, Punch Social (Photo courtesy of Punch Social)

Born in Nicaragua and raised in Miami, chef Ivania Gutierrez found a place of belonging in Atlanta in 2018. She started cooking at a very young age, but it was in high school that it became a paying job. Since then, she has found joy in the kitchen, creating and bringing to life flavors that represent memories of her roots. “I know most say it is a passion. To me, it is more like the magic of interpreting my feelings and personality,” she says. 

Jennifer Velasco 
Kitchen Manager, Tacos & Tequilas Mexican Grill 

Chef Jennifer Velasco’s journey in the kitchen started early. When she was 9 years old, she was tasked with feeding breakfast to her family and more than 50 employees of her parents’ company in Jalisco, Mexico. The experience paid off; by 12, she realized that cooking was her calling. By age 19, she earned a culinary degree. She decided to travel to California to experience various cooking styles and seek new challenges before landing a job as a kitchen leader in Atlanta. 

Lorien Vilchez
Executive Chef, Humble Pie 

Chef Lorien Vilchez, Humble Pie (Photo courtesy of Humble Pie)

For Humble Pie’s Executive Chef Lorien Vilchez, the curiosity for flavors and cooking styles sparked when she visited her father’s family in Peru at age 9. That spark ignited, and she decided to attend culinary school at Johnson and Wales University, then start her career at Four Seasons Miami. What started as a prep cook, in 2023, Chef Vilchez was promoted to executive chef, becoming one of the few Latinas with that title (outside of pastry) in the male-dominated industry. “[Cooking] brings me close to my Father, and it allows me to bring joy to my family,” she says.

Mayra Vazquez
Head Chef, El Tesoro 

Chef Mayra Vazquez, El Tesoro (Photo courtesy of El Tesoro)

Chef Mayra Vazquez from El Tesoro grew up helping her mom in her culinary ventures. When in elementary school, Vazquez and her sisters would get home from school every Friday to help her mom make tamales. On Saturday mornings, they would deliver them, and by noon, they would help her sell tacos. Vazquez’s mom also served as a chef at El Tesoro for many years. Now, chef Mayra has taken over the kitchen at one of Atlanta’s most beloved Mexican restaurants. “[The food I cook] makes me appreciate my mom for what she did for my sisters and me,” she says. She is pursuing her passion for cooking and her love for seeing people enjoy the dishes that take her back to her childhood. 

Melissa “Missy” Bialoglow 
Execution Sous Chef, Bold Catering and Events

Skills from another life also came in handy for Melissa Bialoglow, execution sous chef at Bold Catering and Events. After 13 years working in real estate, she walked into Bold asking for an opportunity. More than 10 years later, she is having the time of her life seeing her culinary art bring joy and excitement to people. Born and raised in the South, Chef Bialoglow’s inspiration is shaped by growing up watching her grandmother fry chicken in her cast iron skillet, braising collard on the back eye and flipping cornbread out of the mold while her grandfather shook his iced sweet tea glass. Her mother prepared full suppers every night, with a traditional casserole at the end of the week – including a creamed corn chef Bialogow is still trying to match. “The creativity is endless; it’s an art. Just like painting or drawing, the empty canvas is my blank plate,” she says. 

Sahar Siddiqi 
Chef de Cuisine, Chai Pani Decatur 

Chef Sahar Siddiqi, Chai Pani (Photo by Mia Yakel)

Chef Sahar Siddiqi is helping rewrite the playbook on Indian street food in America. Hailing from a first-generation Pakistani-American family, Sahar’s culinary journey began outside the hustle and bustle of New York City and took her through the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Along the way, she honed her skills in top-notch kitchens like State Bird Provisions in San Francisco and MICHELIN Guide Restaurant Atlas in Atlanta before finding her home at Chai Pani in 2019. Siddiqi is cooking dishes that have earned her a James Beard Foundation nod for Best Chef: Southeast in 2023 and put Chai Pani Decatur on the map as a 2023 MICHELIN Guide Recommended Restaurant

Veronica Wandui
Executive Banquet Chef, St. Regis Atlanta 

Chef Veronica Wandui, St. Regis Atlanta (Photo courtesy of St. Regis Atlanta)

Joy, comfort, nostalgia, excitement and surprise are just a few of the emotions chef Veronica Wandui brings to her guests through her cooking. “I believe sharing meals makes bridging cultural divides simpler,” she said. Born and raised in Kenya, Waundi made Atlanta home in 1996. Her dishes as executive banquet chef at St. Regis Atlanta demonstrate a fusion of cultures, traditions, and flavors, including her own. For 28 years, Wandui has dedicated her career to bringing people together. 

Whitney Wood 
Culinary Director, Recess Concepts

Chef Whitney Wood, Recess

After growing up in Cartersville, Georgia, chef Whitney Wood enlisted in the Air Force and found herself waiting tables in Florida, where she discovered her interest in the food industry. It wasn’t long before she asked to be moved to the kitchen. In Atlanta, Wood has found opportunities to craft her art at local restaurants, including South City Kitchen and True Foods Kitchen. Today, she serves as Culinary Director for Recess Concepts with the Castellucci Hospitality Group. “Gorgeous fresh fish with some seasonal vegetables and a butter sauce is something I could prepare every day with a million different variations,” she says.

Pastry Chefs 

Ahisha Day 
Pastry Sous Chef, Signia by Hilton Atlanta 

Chef Ahisha Day brings flavors of nostalgia to Signia by Hilton Atlanta’s menu. As pastry sous chef under the leadership of Chef Daniella Lea Rada, Day shares her grandmother’s banana bread recipe with Atlanta, continuing the legacy of the dish that reminded an entire town of her grandmother’s baking. Day has been in the kitchen with her family for as long as she can remember, baking and creating in the kitchen with her dad and grandmother. The South’s old-fashioned baking inspires her throughout her career as she helps develop new recipes and techniques. 

Akeila Holloway 
Bakeshop Supervisor, Bold Catering & Events

Chef Akeila Holloway’s culinary journey began at an early age, surrounded by the aromas of Thanksgiving feasts. With a deep love for creating and savoring food, chef Holloway always knew that becoming a chef was her destiny. Specializing in diverse cuisines, from Caribbean delights like beef and chicken patties to Italian classics like chicken and shrimp carbonara, Holloway’s cooking style defies categorization, reflecting her eclectic tastes and culinary flair. A graduate of prestigious culinary institutions such as the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson and Wales University, Holloway has honed her skills perfectly, with a particular passion for baking and pastry decoration. With every dish she creates, Halloway aims to bring joy to her guests. 

Alex Hwang 
Executive Pastry Chef, Cherokee Country Club 

Chef Alex Awang uses Atlanta as her playground. In 1999, she moved to the United States from Seoul, South Korea, dreaming of becoming one of the best pastry chefs. After attending The Culinary Institute of America in New York, she headed to Atlanta to make her dreams come true. Other Atlanta chefs encouraged her to participate in pastry competitions where she stood out. Chef Hwang has found in Atlanta the support and the palates that encourage her success in the industry. 

Allison Poirier
Pastry Chef, Loews Atlanta 

Taking a cooking class in elementary school ignited the spark for chef Allison Poirier, who describes herself as a “big kid.” Her desserts are a fun and creative nod to her childhood. She has fun in the kitchen making a grown-up play-on dunk-a-roos with cinnamon cookies, grown-up play-on dunk-a-roos with cinnamon cookies, a vanilla cheesecake with a blood orange glaze that makes the entire plate taste like an elevated orange creamsicle and a pretzel bread pudding topped with butter pecan ice cream with a salted caramel that is a play on a Reese’s Take 5 candy bar. One thing that will never go missing from her menu is a gluten-free option and peanut butter & jelly bars, the very same dish that won the high school competition that started it all for her. 

Carla Tomasko
Executive Pastry Chef, Bacchanalia 

Chef Carla Tomasko, Bacchanalia (Photo courtesy of Grey Fox PR)

Chef Carla Tomasko’s culinary journey is deeply rooted in her upbringing on her father’s farm in Ecuador, where she cultivated a profound connection to food by raising chickens and harvesting corn with her family. This early immersion in farm life laid the foundation for her remarkable career as the executive pastry chef at the MICHELIN-starred Bacchanalia, where she has been for over a decade. Carla’s desserts reflect her belief that sweetness can be found in everyday moments, not just on special occasions. She takes pride in crafting treats that resonate with her guests’ memories, much like her quest to recreate her neighbor’s cherished hen soup from childhood.

Cecilia Miranda 
Pastry Chef, Pricci 

Chef Cecilia Miranda, Pricci (Photo Courtesy of Cecilia Miranda)

Chef Cecilia Miranda loved baking since she was a little girl and has always dreamed of making it her career. Her mother used to work at Pricci and one day shared that they were looking for a pastry assistant. Without hesitation, Miranda jumped at the opportunity. With little experience, the pastry chef at the time, Chef Christian Castillo, took her under his wing, giving her the opportunity to learn if she really wanted to do it. Today, Miranda is the pastry chef at Pricci and plays with flavors that speak to her Mexican roots, bridging notes of nostalgia to her guests. 

Charmain Ware-Jason
Executive Pastry Chef, Tiny Lou’s at Hotel Clermont

Chef Charmain Ware-Jason, Tiny Lou’s at Clermont Lounge (Photo courtesy of Oliver Hospitality)

After getting into a bad car accident, and spending hours and days bedridden watching Food Network, chef Charmain Ware-Jason found her happy place in cooking. After attending the culinary program at the City of Refuge, chef Ware-Jason has shared her talents throughout Atlanta in places such as Cirque Du Soleil, Brasserie Cafe at Parish, Porsche Experience Center, and now at Tiny Lou’s in the historic Hotel Clermont. Pastry to chef Ware-Jason is “what panting is to Picasso,” she says. “It brought me solace and gave me purpose.” Try the Le Salon on her menu, and share a piece of the chef’s nostalgia and the connection it has to the historic building where it stands.

Claudia Martinez 
Executive Pastry Chef, Miller Union 

Chef Claudia Martinez, Miller Union (Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee)

Award-winning chef Claudia Martinez discovered her love for cooking at an early age, spending time with her family in the kitchen cooking and eating. The executive pastry chef for MICHELIN Guide Recommended Restaurant Miller Union has worked at some of Atlanta’s most prestigious kitchens, making a name for herself by fusing natural flavors into her elegant and elevated desserts. Martinez is always finding ways to combine her talent for cooking with her passion for supporting Atlanta’s communities. 

Chrysta Poulos 
Executive Pastry Chef, Rocket Farm Restaurants 

Chef Chrysta Poulos, Rocket Farm Restaurants (Photo courtesy of Grey Fox PR)

When chef Chrysta Poulos realized that the precision and technicality of electrical work on B1B bombers in the U.S. Air Force was similar to the exactitude and science of baking, she transitioned into the kitchen after the military. Poulos earned a culinary degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta and dived into the city’s culinary scene, including roles working under the mentorship of Linton Hopkins at Restaurant Eugene. She played pivotal roles in the openings of Holeman & Finch and the H&F Bakery during her four-and-a-half years with Linton’s group. As executive pastry chef for Rocket Farm Restaurants, Poulos designs the dessert menu for the more than 25 restaurants in the Ford Fry collective.

Daniella Lea Rada 
Executive Pastry Chef, Signia by Hilton Atlanta 

Chef Daniella Lea Rada, Signia by Hilton Atlanta (Photo courtesy of Signia by Hilton Atlanta)

Chef Daniella Lea Rada has dedicated her nearly 20-year career to perfecting her art, taking classes at some of the world’s most prestigious culinary institutions under the guidance of renowned chefs like Thierry Bamas and Pierre Mimrgalet. As executive pastry chef of Signia by Hilton Atlanta, Lea Rada leads her team, meticulously crafting house-made desserts, pastries, and chocolates for all outlets within the hotel. Inspired by her maternal great-grandmother and raised in Venezuela, Lea Rada’s love for the culinary arts blossoms in the kitchen, where, aside from focusing on delivering the best products, she is on a mission to empower and open opportunities to those coming right behind her. 

Katrina Pagan 
Pastry Chef, The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta 

Chef Katrina Pagan, The Ritz Carlton, Atlanta (Photo courtesy of The Ritz Carlton, Atlanta)

Katrina Pagan, a creative force at The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, inspires her team with unmatched creativity and passion. Chef Pagan is known for her acclaimed’ Atlanta Peach dish,’ featuring compressed passion fruit mousse with mint anglaise sauce. She delights guests with her culinary prowess. Beyond the kitchen, Pagan is deeply involved in the hotel’s community footprint efforts, actively participating in off-site events and dedicating her time to various philanthropic initiatives.

LaShanta Smith 
Pastry Chef, St. Regis Atlanta 

Chef LaShanta Smith, St. Regis Atlanta (Photo courtesy of St. Regis Atlanta)

Born and raised in Atlanta, chef LaShanta Smith is what locals refer to as a “Grady Baby.” Her grandmother’s baking didn’t happen all the time, but it was very special when it did. Chef Smith has now found her inspiration in some of her classics, such as banana pudding, pecan pie, and peach cobbler. After finding herself in the kitchen, chef Smith decided to go to culinary school and give everything to her career as a chef. Her talent is palpable in her creative and beautifully decorated cakes and desserts. 

Taria Camerino 

Chef Taria Camerino (Photo courtesy of Taria Camerino)

Supporting the community is a priority for pioneer chef Taria Camerino, who has transferred her efforts from focusing on just one kitchen to becoming a vehicle of connection and network in the Atlanta food industry. With pastry being a crucial part of her career, Camerino’s journey has evolved into becoming a culinary coach, advocate and storyteller of Atlanta’s food story. She has become the backbone and support for others pursuing their dream to survive and succeed in the food industry in Atlanta. 

Yoon Choi
Sous Pastry Chef, Signia by Hilton Atlanta 

When she moved to the U.S. from South Korea at the age of 10, chef Yook Choi found her calling early on when she realized that she loved baking and wanted to do it her whole life. “Food is very important in Korean culture. We say ‘Did you eat?’ like how people in America say ‘How are you?’,” she says. With her parents’ full support, she attended the Culinary Institute of America and began her career in an Italian restaurant in New York City before making her way to Atlanta, where she has been able to take it to the next level. Throughout her journey, chef Choi finds ways to incorporate Asian flavors into her desserts, honoring her heritage. 

Zibaa Sammander 
Pastry Lead, THE CHASTAIN 

Chef Zibaa Sammander found her way to the kitchen at a young age. Pulling up a chair to the kitchen sink, she began to help her mom wash plates and prepare traditional Afghan dishes for potlucks and weekend parties. Twenty-two years later, Sammander has become essential in some of the most prestigious kitchens in Atlanta, always trying to add ingredients and spices from Afghan and Middle Eastern cuisine. “I love to make people happy. Food is the medium I am most fluent in,” she says. 

Check out women chefs on the cover of the spring issue of Discover Atlanta Now and see how Women Chefs are Redefining Culinary Excellence in Atlanta.

*Did we miss anyone? Please send your suggestions for women chefs in leadership positions in Atlanta to

Born and raised in Mexico, Daniela is a bilingual journalist living in Atlanta. She is passionate about telling stories that highlight the diversity and the blooming gastronomic scene in Atlanta.

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