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A Recipe for Change

Meet some of the female innovators who lead
Four Seasons restaurants and bars.

With artful menus and inventive cocktails, Four Seasons chefs and mixologists are reimagining dishes and drinks in a way that’s both creative and confident – and they’re winning prestigious honours, like Michelin stars (31 at last count).

Among those award-winning chefs are remarkable women eager to help Four Seasons introduce guests to new destinations through local flavours. They join a roster of inspiring women – adventure guides, hospitality directors, general managers and more – who help make Four Seasons shine.

Here, in honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, a handful of them share the ingredients for their success.

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Malyna Si may be the only female chef helming a Michelin star restaurant in Florida, but she is also an artist at heart. Si originally studied to become a glass sculptor, but it was during her time at art school that she took a job in a restaurant.

Her talent caught the eye of a senior cook who became her mentor. After working her way up in the kitchens of various restaurants all over Florida, Si made her way to Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort in 2017 and became Cook One at Capa, the Resort’s celebrated Spanish-style steakhouse. Two years later, she was promoted to chef de partie and then sous chef in 2020, working closely with Chef Gabriel Massip and Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi. Five years in and she’s now running the whole show.

Even though she didn’t initially set out to become a chef, her artist mindset serves her well in her role as restaurant chef. “From experimenting with concepts with my team in the kitchen, to creating surprise off-menu dishes for our frequent restaurant guests, I love having the exposure to ingredients I wouldn’t normally have access to,” says Si. “The necessity of eating is inspiring to me; I feel that I’m able to impact the most people through food as my medium.”

For Si, working in an industry that is still mostly male-dominated has pushed her to work twice as hard, be twice as fast and be twice as smart – a reality she believes results in excelling beyond those who don’t have the same added pressure. To other aspiring female chefs, she offers some wise words of encouragement: “Don’t allow your gender to define you, but rather, allow it to energize you to rise to the challenges of navigating this career. While this industry is not for the faint of heart, it’s an exciting and evolving space with ample opportunities to grow.”

Encouraging and uplifting other women along the way is also really important to Si, who knows the impact that support and mentorship can have. “Women make up 70% of my team. Together with the talented men on our team, we’ve established a real sense of synergy and collaboration,” she says. “Working at Four Seasons, especially at a larger property, affords me a unique opportunity to grow, adapt with different teams and strengthen my resolve as a leader. I’m really grateful for the support I receive.”

Enjoy dinner with a view in Orlando

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Anne-Sophie Pic didn’t plan on becoming a chef. Instead, she studied business at the Instituto Superior de Gestión in Paris, working with brands like Cartier and Moët & Chandon. But she couldn’t escape the pull of the kitchen. After all, it was in her blood – her family’s first restaurant was founded in 1889 as Auberge du Pin, and since then has been led by three generations of Pics. Her grandfather, Andre, was the first to earn the restaurant its three Michelin stars – an honour her father, Jacques, maintained.  

“I realized that the kitchen was in my DNA,” she says. “It became a passion. I suppose deep down, I had always had the instinct for flavour and scent, and when I finally came to the kitchen, I knew it was where I was meant to be.” 

Expand your palate in London

Today, she’s one of the most celebrated female chefs in the world – and one of the most decorated. Under her leadership, her family restaurant Maison Pic has maintained its three Michelin stars, and in partnership with Four Seasons, her restaurant La Dame de Pic London at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square has earned two. At La Dame de Pic, she takes pride in introducing guests to new flavours and sensations, using unexpected food pairings and a warm, inviting atmosphere to inspire powerful emotions.

And while in her family it’s been the men who cook, Pic thinks there’s more than enough room in restaurant kitchens for women. “Men, historically, hold the vast majority of chefs’ jobs, but women have an important place in the profession,” she says. “Women show tenacity, endurance and concentration, and also sensitivity and humility. I think a woman’s approach to the work is often different, but in the end, our strength comes from a balanced team.”

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This year, La Dame de Pic London is celebrating International Women’s Day with a one-night-only dining experience. Pic and chef de cuisine Evens Lopez designed a six-course menu that showcases Pic’s penchant for exploring new and unexpected flavour combinations. The second course, for example, is Les Berlingots ASP, an Anne-Sophie Pic signature featuring pasta parcels filled with Baron Bigod served atop watercress and ground ivy coulis along with smoked pine oil and seasonal truffles. But the food is only half the story.

The experience also includes the talents and creativity of Natsuki Kikuya, a Sake Samurai – the most prestigious title awarded to sake sommeliers – and Sooji Im, founder of the Korean tea shop Be-oom, for a premium beverage pairing featuring sakes and naturally sourced Korean tea brewed tableside in a tea ceremony. Head sommelier Élise Mérigaud has also selected special wine pairings with a focus on female-led producers to complement the evening.

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Growing up in a small Southern Thailand province, Sumalee Khunpet – fondly known as Chef Jeab – worked in her family’s bakery business learning to make home-made doughnuts and coconut roll wafers. “I loved seeing the joy on people’s faces when they’d take a bite,” she says. “I knew that this was what I wanted to do.”

After completing her secondary school education in Koh Samui, Khunpet joined the team at a small hotel in Chaweng, where she worked for 14 years before joining a local restaurant on the island. She credits her first supervisor, a female chef named Patcharee Smith, as the one who spurred her on – even though back then, female chefs were still rare in professional kitchens. “She taught me how to cook Thai food and French food,” Khunpet says, “but most importantly, she gave me the confidence to keep cooking.”

Thirty years later, Khunpet is still cooking – but now she’s leading the kitchen. As chef de cuisine at KOH Thai Kitchen at Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, her culinary style is relaxed yet authentic. It’s important to her to share the flavours of the destination with guests.

“Thai cuisine for me means home, and sharing that feeling with our guests,” she says. “I try to craft a story that’s relevant to our culture and that the guests will enjoy, like massaman nua, a curry of cardamom-scented Wagyu beef cheeks that originated from Malaysia but was adopted by Thailand in the 17th century. It’s how I stay connected to my culture, and how I can pass it on to others, too.”

“Meeting guests on a daily basis makes everything that much more meaningful to me,” she adds. “Four Seasons is where I began my journey on a truly people-centric path, and I’ve found it to be one that I love.”

Savour Thai cuisine in Koh Samui

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Maria Tampakis grew up watching women cook. She spent summers in Greece, where her grandmother prepared dish after dish to feed her large family. Back home in Brooklyn, her mother was a pastry chef and culinary instructor, creating works of art with puff pastry.

It’s no surprise, then, that Tampakis gravitated towards a culinary career.

“My grandmother has always been a rock star chef, cooking for the masses and making sure everyone was always well fed,” she says. “And my mother has been a constant support and inspiration.”

Explore the flavours of New York

Tampakis trained under Michelin-starred chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal, a molecular gastronomy pioneer. As she honed her strengths, she gained an appreciation for the perspective female chefs can bring to the table.

“Large kitchens can benefit from a female presence to achieve a balance,” she says. “Women are proving that when they are given the opportunity, they can not only excel but truly shine in their kitchens.”

She’s bringing that balance to Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, where she was recently named executive chef. Her menus highlight fresh and local ingredients, inspired by those languid summers in Kalamata, Greece. “Over the summer, we had Faroe Island salmon with Long Island corn, Jersey tomatoes, fresh herbs, Greek aged feta cheese, red wine vinegar and Greek olive oil,” she says. “It’s not unlike something that my grandmother would’ve made. I think she’d be quite pleased.”

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“My mother was a bartender and I really liked to see her in action behind the bar, always with a beautiful smile and so much charisma,” says Karen Arceyuth. “I think passed that down to me – that great passion.” Ask any guest who visits the bar at Nemare at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Pagagayo and they’ll likely agree. Not only is Arceyuth head mixologist at the sophisticated steakhouse, she’s also one of the most popular bartenders in the entire Resort.

A Costa Rica native, it was Arceyuth dream to reach the top of the hospitality world in her home country. For her, that meant working at one place: Four Seasons. “For anyone who studies and works in this field, being able to work at Four Seasons represents a great pride and therefore a great responsibility, too,” she says. “I am completely in love with Four Seasons culture and the golden rule that they teach us from day one – treat others as you wish to be treated.”

Another thing she loves about her job is being able to share her Costa Rican culture and history directly with guests, whether it’s talking about locally sourced cocktail ingredients or offering her suggestions for which beach or mountain trail to explore.

Arceyuth is grateful for having access to the best tools and resources to become better at the job she loves and works hard at. For other women looking to make their mark behind the bar, she emphasizes curiosity. “First, always give your best anywhere and anytime with a genuine smile,” she suggests. “Always be curious, always want to know more and never stop learning.”

Sip the flavours of Costa Rica

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Cornelia Sühr knew she wanted to become a chef by the time she was 8 years old. Growing up in a small town in northern Germany, it just seemed natural – her mother was a chef, her older brother was a chef, and her sister was a pastry chef. Her twin brother would become a baker.

“Being a ‘female chef’ was never something that stood out. You either knew how to cook or you didn’t,” she says. “Plus, I loved eating. It was something that we, as a family, always did together. I always connected food with being with others that I love.”

Try new dishes in Philadelphia

That connection is what drives her passion, she says. After working in the kitchens of several Michelin-starred chefs, including Alain Ducasse – whom she credits with influencing her classic, refined, ingredients-based cooking style – she is proud to lead her own kitchen at the helm of Jean-Georges Philadelphia at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center. Since it’s reopening in March 2022, the team has earned both a AAA Five Diamond designation and a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating. Her kitchen is celebrated locally as well, receiving the Reader’s Choice Award for Philadelphia Style’s Best of Fine Dining in 2022.

Like many chefs, inspiration comes from many places and many people. “As someone who values travelling the world and exploring different cultures, cities and culinary scenes, Four Seasons has facilitated doors opening to a network of culinary professionals across the industry,” says Sühr. “Having the opportunity to travel gives me exposure to global ingredients which are reflected in our menu. I am very grateful that the culture of Four Seasons encourages employees to be exactly who they are and trusts us to showcase our true selves and talents together.”

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A self-taught mixologist, Kendie Williams proves that when you have a passion for something, amazing things can happen. “My love for bartending was inspired not only by my love of food and beverage, but also the fact that I just love seeing people have a good time,” she says. And when Williams is behind the bar at Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies, you can be sure a good time will be had by all.

Known for her creative use of fresh ingredients, she uses her extensive knowledge of flavour combinations to craft her award-winning cocktails. “Local ingredients are a big deal for me because not only are they more fresh, but they tell a story,” says Williams. “I love having fresh fruits, vegetables and other ingredients at my fingertips and being able to freestyle at any time knowing that my cocktails are going to be unique, fresh, taste good on the palate and also look pretty.”

Williams’ devotion to local ingredients runs deep, with some of them sourced from her own backyard garden such as hot peppers, herbs, guava, tamarind and soursop. “Some of these fruits can only be grown in the Caribbean, so my guests are usually excited to try cocktails made with them.”

Another source of inspiration? The chance to meet a variety of different people from many different places and cultures. “Working at Four Seasons has helped me to understand the diversity of people from around the world, what they like and how to cater to them,” she notes. “I have also learned how to incorporate their favourite flavours with my Caribbean ingredients to give a mash-up feel to my cocktails. It makes people feel at home while also allowing them to get to know my culture through my cocktails.”

Go rum tasting in Nevis


Where will you explore next?

Brooklyn Bridge