French 'Ratatouille' chef named world's best

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French 'Ratatouille' chef named world's best
French chef Helene Darroze in 2008. Photo: Shaun Curry/AFP

A French chef who inspired a tough kitchen character in the hit animated film "Ratatouille" was named the world's best female chef on Wednesday.


Helene Darroze, 48, has an eponymous restaurant in Paris and another in the Connaught hotel in London, which has two Michelin stars.

Darroze was named the world's best female chef by Britain's Restaurant magazine, and is to collect her prize at "The World's 50 Best Restaurants" awards in London in June.

"It is an honour to win the award because there are talented female chefs all over the world and I imagine it's hard to choose just one," Darroze said in a statement.

"My hope is that the winners of this award inspire young women, including my daughters, to follow their passion and work hard to hone their skill regardless of their profession."

Well known in the restaurant world, Darroze built her career as a single mum with two adopted daughters and inspired the character Colette in Disney Pixar's 2007 "Ratatouille", a tale of a rat who can cook and begins helping at a prestigious French restaurant.

"Haute cuisine is an antiquated hierarchy built upon rules written by stupid old men, rules designed to make it impossible for women to enter this world," Colette says in the film.

"But still I am here. How did this happen? Because I am the toughest cook in this kitchen."

Restaurant magazine said that Darroze was "loved and admired" across the industry and said the chef was far sweeter than her feisty cartoon counterpart.

"The character's aggressive kitchen style is far from a reflection of Darroze," the magazine said. "The big heart she reveals towards the end of the movie is more fitting."

A fourth-generation chef who was cooking dessert for her parents' dinner parties by age 12, Darroze trained under top chef Alain Ducasse, took over her father's restaurant in 1995 and opened her own in 1999.

Darroze credits her grandfather with inspiring her seasonal and ingredient-led cooking style, which has infused British produce such as Cornish crab into classic French cuisine.

Her signature dishes include poached lobster in seaweed butter with white asparagus and bottarga breadcrumbs; and foie gras from her home region of Landes in south-western France with cocoa, calamansi fruit and gingerbread.

The inspiration for her dishes comes from anything from her travels to her daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and Quiterie, 6.

Darroze succeeds Brazilian-born Helena Rizzo of Mani restaurant in Sao Paulo, who was crowned in the 2014 edition of the awards, which also nominate the world's best restaurant, an accolade currently held by Denmark's Noma.


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