Women chefs in Marseille

Legend has it that Marseille was founded by a woman, Gyptis, who chose to marry a foreign sailor, Protis. So the place of women in Marseille is an important subject. From the ‘cagole'(crude girl) to the ‘Nana'(chick) on the Vieux-Port, from the trendy entrepreneur to the stay-at-home mother, from the grandmother who cooks pistou soup to the Michelin-starred chef, we are all the women of Marseille who make this city live and breathe. We should all be feminists, and Marseille is no exception. For this article, I’ve chosen to highlight the women Chefs in Marseille, who delight your taste buds every day of the week and make Marseille’s gastronomic culture shine beyond our borders, as well as some fine, committed initiatives.

Published on 7 March 2023
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Estelle Desrutins
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Sarah Chougnet Studel at Regain

If you’re not already familiar with the delicious cuisine of Chef Sarah Chougnet Studel at Regain, now’s the time to go and discover it in the Camas district! After a classic course at cookery school in Paris, and several trips, notably to Singapore (where she lived for 8 months), then to London where she worked for the famous Chefs Hélène Darroze and Anne-Sophie Pic, Sarah decided to open her first restaurant in Marseille. ‘I felt that there was a lot going on in this city, that there was a particular energy in the gastronomic world’. The most important thing at Regain is the produce, ‘all of which comes from Marseille or nearby like Arles or Aix-en-Provence. All the meat is sourced by someone in Frontignan (La Boucherie Viande Éthique) who works directly with the farmers. The dishes and menus are based on the products we source, so they change several times a week! We respect the work of the producers and try not to distort the product. Some customers also say that my cooking is quite spicy, an influence from my experience in Singapore no doubt!

Today, the catering industry is beginning to see its shortcomings and to move in the right direction, particularly with regard to sexism and working conditions. Is a revolution underway? ‘Today things are moving in the right direction, there are more and more women in positions of responsibility, which wasn’t the case before. What’s also good is that people are coming into the gastronomy industry to retrain, they know what the world of work is like and they know how to say no. There are more and more women coming into the industry. There are more and more initiatives, and in particular I’m taking part with the ‘Bondir.e’ association in talks with young people, at the Bonneveine hotel school for example, to raise their awareness of harassment in the workplace and teach them that it’s not normal or legal, whatever the environment. In Marseilles today, we’re seeing a big increase in the number of restaurants, grocery shops and cafés opened by women, so what does it mean to be a woman chef in Marseilles in 2023? ‘It’s pretty crazy, in this city I wasn’t aware of it but it’s a city where there are a lot of women chefs who own restaurants. There’s a real community! Most of the CVs I receive for the restaurant are from women, and in fact my team is 100% female. I think we’re very well represented in Marseille and we need to keep it that way – we’ve got a great dynamic!

Marie Dijon at Chez Caterine

Let’s stay in the 6th arrondissement with Marie Dijon, Chef at the Chez Caterine restaurant on rue Fontange. This 100% all-female Mediterranean canteen has made a name for itself on the Cours Ju’ gastronomic scene! ‘I was originally a law graduate, but at the age of 20 I started a sandwich course at the Lycée hôtelier de Bonneveine with the restaurant Une Table au Sud, then I worked with my mentor Pierre Gianetti at Grain de Sel. At the age of 28, I opened my own restaurant with my second, Eugénie Cénatiempo, who has a long history in Bonneveine. We run the restaurant and the kitchen, and we’re both Marseillaises – we wouldn’t leave this city for anything in the world!‘ For Marie, cooking at Chez Caterine is all about having fun: ‘It’s local, healthy and fun! I try to have fun creating the dishes and I like to think that people feel that when they eat. There are lots of textures and tastes that come together thanks to the ideas and the no-waste approach.

On the positive evolution of the culinary world, thanks in particular to women, ‘tongues are gradually being loosened, women are daring more than before and are completely emancipating themselves by creating their own places, so there’s no longer any risk of someone above them abusing their power! That’s what we’ve done at Caterine’. For Marie, being a woman chef in Marseilles in 2023 means saying and showing that anything is possible, “there’s a natural mutual support that exists with the women chefs in the city. It’s a question of gender, but also of generation and mindset: eating locally, well done, by beautiful people. There are so many of us here now, it’s really great’.

Delphine Roux at Chez Madie les Galinettes

Head for the Vieux-Port, to Chez Madie les Galinettes, a Marseille institution for Provençal cuisine run by Delphine Roux since 1995. ‘Buying this restaurant was my dream as a little girl, but unfortunately I wasn’t accepted into hotel school! After a diversion to law school, I found a training course for adults to obtain a CAP (NVQ) in cookery, and I met a lot of chefs who inspired me’.

For all these years, it’s been her father, a former wholesale butcher, who brings her produce direct from the MIN (producers market) des Arnavaux, ‘he’s there from 4 o’clock in the morning selecting seasonal produce! I always take great pleasure in reproducing traditional dishes or more original ones, and I’ve got a great team in the kitchen, some of whom have been there for over 20 years! I love talking to customers. Our cuisine is traditional Provençal; like artichokes en barigoule, daube, pieds et paquets, headless larks and of course bouillabaisse.’
Delphine has witnessed the evolution of cooking and the positive changes taking place in this field: ‘I think it’s really moving in the right direction, women Chefs in Marseille are very present! I think we’re even the city with the most women chefs? I know a bit about them, even though I’m the oldest of them all! There’s a really good atmosphere between us.’

Noémie Lebocey at Chez les Eaux de Mars

Let’s move on to Rue Consolat, where the cuisine of Chef Noémie Lebocey of the restaurant Les Eaux de Mars is delighting the whole neighbourhood and then some! “I’m from Normandy and I’ve travelled a lot. Marseille inspired me, so I opened my restaurant here!’ In the restaurant, she pays close attention to the sourcing of her produce: ‘We have a seasonal bistro style of cooking, and what drives us is using the finest produce, chosen from our local producers. We have the Ecotable label, and that’s very important to us, essential even’.

The chef herself is trying to be an agent of change in the restaurant world, ‘I sacrifice 100% for my restaurant, so I don’t know how things are elsewhere, but I’m trying to get things moving as a woman and as a cook for my in-house brigade. Today we’re talking about it, it’s at the heart of our concerns, but we need to see what concrete action will result. In my opinion, it may take several generations, but there’s hope!’ For her, being a woman chef in Marseilles in 2023 is above all about helping others: ‘I’ve never thought about it as such, I just do it on a daily basis, but what’s great is that we’re not alone, there’s a huge amount of exchange and solidarity. I have lots of friends who are chefs and entrepreneurs, and we’re in contact all the time, which is great’.

Laetitia Visse at La Femme du Boucher

Head to Rue de Village, to Laetitia Visse‘s restaurant La Femme du Boucher, which opened in 2020. ‘I studied a lot in gastronomic kitchens, but then I preferred to work in more bistro-style kitchens. That’s where I learned all about the world of meat. I started at La Relève when I arrived in Marseille, and the bosses introduced me to their Marseilles suppliers. When I wanted to open my own restaurant, I came across this premises, a former butcher’s shop, and I knew it would be a restaurant where I would work with meat’. The adventure was launched, with a lot of research into the recipes, ‘it’s not just a nice piece of meat with potatoes, I also do a lot of work on the vegetables. They all come from local producers. My aim isn’t to get people to eat more meat, I want to highlight products that are less well known because they are less valued. Today, because of a lack of knowledge about offal and charcuterie, we throw away far too much. I spend a lot of time researching these forgotten recipes. As a result, my clientele is made up of both an older generation who are very happy to rediscover these dishes and a new generation who come to discover other flavours!’

When it comes to changes in the world of gastronomy, Laetitia sees improvement, particularly for young people: ‘It’s a step in the right direction compared to when I started, when chefs could tell you that you weren’t going to make it because of your gender. There are a lot more women Chefs, which sets an example for the younger generation, the apprentices who are arriving. And they’re getting a great reception! It’s great that the bad practices of some chefs are being denounced, and that they’re getting fewer customers as a result – since Covid there’s been a real rethink’. For her, being a woman chef in Marseille in 2023 is all about exchanges and events: ‘We do a lot of things thanks to Marseille Provence Gastronomie and Gourméditerrannée, so we meet each other and naturally we talk, we exchange recipes, there are no barriers‘.

Coline Faulquier at Signature

In the 8th arrondissement, chef Coline Faulquier‘s Signature restaurant is putting the Rue du Rouet on the map! Her passion for cooking was passed on to her by her mother and grandmother, and after studying at the Avignon hotel school and internships with Christian Etienne and Eric Frechon, she took part in season 7 of Top Chef in 2015. After her first restaurant, ‘La Pergola’ in Marseille, she opened ‘Signature’ in 2019, following a complete renovation of the premises. She was awarded a Michelin star and the ‘Young Chef Award’ in 2021. She describes her cooking at Signature as sunny, Mediterranean, I use a lot of seafood and fruit and vegetables. I also use a lot of wild herbs and flowers from the region. In my cooking, customers like to remember what they’ve eaten, to put the product first’.

She has obviously noticed a change in the world of cooking: ‘We’ve been a bit snubbed for years, but now that’s changing, we’re almost on a pedestal! I’ve always liked to be considered for my work, but I wouldn’t presume to say that I save lives. In the kitchen I have an almost exclusively female team and in the dining room it’s the other way round. But I’m very well surrounded. I’m the young mother of my 2nd child and the Head Chef of my Michelin-starred restaurant, so I’ve always given myself the means to have it all’. As for the role of women chefs in Marseille, she notes a real sense of solidarity: ‘There weren’t many women chefs in Marseille before! Today, when I see the number of women setting up their own businesses, I think it’s great. I’m happy to be able to recommend some very good addresses that have been opened by men, but by women today too!’

Des Etoiles et des Femmes and Meet My Mama

In Marseille, Des Etoiles et des Femmes (Stars and Women) is a scheme that has been assisting 12 women who are far from the world of employment each year since 2015 to obtain a CAP (NVQ) in cookery at the Bonneveine hotel school. The association Festin, which founded the project, is working on the various obstacles to qualification for these women, such as mobility, childcare, access to rights and self-confidence. They work in 12 restaurants chosen for their friendliness and inclusiveness.

Meet my Mama is a committed catering start-up and an association that helps women to develop their catering business and become entrepreneurs. After Paris, they opened a branch in Marseille and Meet my Mama now has 6 women of all origins (Moroccan, Algerian, Comorian, Indonesian). Meet my Mama offers them year-round coaching in technical and business management skills. Via the catering start-up, the mamas also work by offering culinary tours for corporate events.