For Chef Johanne Siy, Diversity is Key to Uplifting the Culinary Industry

Courtesy of Chef Johanne Siy

The winner of Asia’s Best Female Chef Award for 2023 talks gender equality, Filipino references in her cooking, and the future of heritage Asian cuisine

When Chef Johanne Siy found out she had won the Asia’s Best Female Chef Award for 2023 it took her awhile to process.

“It didn’t really sink in immediately. At the moment, I am filled with profound gratitude. But at first, I vacillated from disbelief, to elation, to fear and back again,” Siy shares. “Winning this award is like walking on eggshells. You are worried that you might say the wrong things and people will take it the wrong way and get offended.”

The Asia’s Best Female Chef Award is voted for by over 300 members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. It celebrates women in gastronomy who “push the boundaries of excellence with their skills, techniques and craft.”

The Singapore–based chef shares how the gendered name of her award might be misconstrued. “It is not about putting down either gender, but rather, the opposite. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing; we want to elevate our industry and our craft, and the surest way to do that is by promoting diversity,” she adds.

Siy has served as the head chef of Lolla since 2020, which has since ranked 75th in Asia’s Best Restaurants list for 2022. Her food is lauded for its “considered emphasis on produce, seasonality and intentional simplicity,” a combination of modern European cuisine with Asian influences, particularly nods to her Filipino heritage.

Siy follows Margarita Forés, who won the distinction in 2016, and is the first Singapore-based chef to win the award. Her Asia’s Best Female Chef nod this year is the latest feather on Siy’s cap, having previously been named Chef of the Year by the World Gourmet Awards in 2021.

In an official release, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ director of content William Drew lauds Siy: “Johanne’s understanding of the provenance of ingredients and her flair for presenting cuisine that is produce-driven, alongside mindful inclusions of the culinary traditions she grew up with, make her a worthy recipient of this award.”

“This is great validation for the hard work my team and I do to better our craft. I am grateful for this platform that enables me to inspire young chefs,” Siy says in the same release. “I want to shine a spotlight on the remarkable women in our industry, in the hopes that we can thrive by leveraging the symbiosis that a truly egalitarian workforce brings.”

Inherently Filipino

The Dagupan, Philippines native studied at The Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed under chefs Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin and Daniel Boulud of Café Boulud. Her experiences include a four-year tenure at Restaurant André in Singapore and stints at Noma and Relae in Copenhagen and Fäviken in Sweden, where she honed her skills in Nordic kitchens, focusing on farm–to–table cuisine.

“My food is simpler now. When I was younger, I cooked to wow with techniques. But these days, my ego takes a back seat and I just cook to let the produce shine,” she shared about how her style has evolved through the years.

Siy often finds herself returning to her roots in the kitchen, with her style reflecting her Filipino heritage. “My upbringing in the Philippines manifests in my food a lot, sometimes even unconsciously,” she says. “The way I use a lot of aromatics, especially garlic; the bold flavor profiles; the predisposition to use certain ingredients.”

The Future of Asian Cuisines

“I think heritage Asian cuisines are really coming into their own in the global arena. It used to be that the world looked up to Western techniques at the highest echelons of fine dining or top-level cooking. But not anymore,” she shares in our interview. “Young cooks before would go all over Europe to ‘stage’ and learn French technique. These days you see the flip side, where young western apprentices are coming into Asian kitchens to learn our techniques.”

“Young chefs embracing their Asian heritage are really breaking down barriers and challenging long-held perceptions across the globe. For certain, the next few decades will be a very exciting time for our region,” she adds.

An in-person award ceremony will be held on March 28, 2023 in Singapore.

More From Vogue

Share now on:
FacebookXEmailCopy Link