Girls on the Grill: Meet the female chefs who tend to the hottest, heaviest part of the kitchen for the love of the fire

So remembers making a minor mistake once at one of her previous restaurants and being given a hard time by her male colleagues. “They started putting me down and saying, ‘You’re still young. Why don’t you just go be a hostess? You shouldn’t become a chef or work your way up the kitchen ladder. It’s better if you just choose an easy job, with a pretty face like that.

“I told them, ‘No. Just look at me.'”

So, who cut his teeth in pastry and went through all the stations from cold to hot kitchen, now finds himself on Gemma’s pass, leading a team of five (by the way, only one is a man). When on the grill, she prepares dishes like dry-aged Fiorentina steak and Spanish octopus served with spicy salmoriglio, romesco emulsion and feta cheese.

The Malaysian-born chef started out at the Tippling Club, then worked in New Zealand at Auckland’s three-hat Clooney restaurant before the pandemic brought her back to Singapore. She then worked at Meta before moving to Gemma. At this year’s World Gourmet Awards, she won Young Female Chef of the Year.

“I think throughout my career I’ve been looked down on by a lot of male chefs. So I think the only way was to go through that,” she said.

Standing at 159cm, “My physique is small, so there are definitely more challenges,” she pointed out, such as carrying large heavy objects. Additionally, as women, “we also have a different hormonal system” than men.

But mentally, she trained to be strong. She said, “I love being in the kitchen and I love pushing myself.”


As a grill chef, not only do you have to command the fire expertly, but your timing must be impeccable. Add to that the pressure of sending out perfectly prepared orders when the restaurant is packed with guests, and you have a job that really takes some courage. When you get home at night, you’re sweaty, smelly, and exhausted from all the smoke inhalation.

“First and foremost, it’s hot as hell,” Kaur said. “It goes up to around 450 degrees Celsius. The moment you touch or kiss any part of the grill, that’s it – it’ll score for life. The other challenge, of course, is keeping control of the fire at all times. “Just imagine something very untamed and wild,” she said.

About Keith Johnson

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