Mecca Ibrahim – Co-founder of Women In The Food Industry, Food writer and Marketing Expert

Mecca Ibrahim was formerly the Head of Marketing & Social Media at Great British Chefs – the UK’s fastest growing food website. After almost eight years in that role, Mecca (who everyone calls Mex) co-founded ‘Women In The Food Industry‘ – an initiative that shines a spotlight on the work of inspiring women in the industry.

Mex has also set up a freelance social media, marketing and content creation agency, and is a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Her expertise includes sustainability, food entrepreneurs, equality within the food industry and ethical eating.

What is your favourite dish to make?

I love making curries and one pot dishes. Usually I am a bit of a cheat when I cook, so I often use ready made pastes as a base. However, I make one dish from scratch now quite often which is hugely comforting. It’s Chicken Pho (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) from Thuy Diem Pham’s Little Viet Kitchen cookbook.

To do it authentically, you need a massive pot as the chicken is cooked whole in stock for an hour, and to keep the stock clear you need daikon radish and to skim it quite often. But it’s worth the effort & really is a hug in a bowl.

A white bowl is filled with a brown broth. There is a piece of chicken with lime slices, red chillies and coriander in the bowl.

Thuy Diem Pham is a Vietnamese Pho recipe

Which women inspire you?

This is very hard to answer as since I co-founded Women In The Food Industry, there really are so many women I find inspiring and who I know are a huge inspiration to many other women. My personal favourites are not classically trained but have had a personal impact on me in very different ways.

Nigella Lawson has been a food heroine for a long time. She was one of the first female food writers to write and speak passionately about food and not be afraid to describe it in an indulgent manner. She made every day cooking from scratch sound luxurious and also shared the joy of eating with other people.

Asma Khan who I’ve had the pleasure of working with has also transformed how people see women in professional kitchens. It is possible to have a kitchen run by women, and also run by women who are in their 40s and 50s. Asma represents some of the things I love most about London (its open-ness) and also the strength of women. She is a person who has used her platform through The Chefs Table to genuinely inspire and help other women and be a voice that speaks out against a number of biases.

What is your advice to women wanting to join the industry?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t feel that you are the only person who has experienced challenges. There are many networks around and groups on places like Facebook and LinkedIn which are full of people who have been in your shoes. Whether that is starting up a restaurant or a food business, the food and hospitality industry is one where people are keen to share good practice and help others, as it’s the best way for the industry to grow.

I would like to thank so many people who helped us at Women In The Food Industry when we started a year ago. We are still in the early stages of our initiative but my heart is always warmed by the generosity and time of others.

Helen Graham – Head Chef of Bubala

Picture by Enrico Policardo


Helen is an experienced Head Chef, having previously worked at some of London’s best Middle Eastern restaurants, including The Palomar, The Barbary, and The Good Egg.

Her expertise also covers recipe development, testing and food styling. Working in the Ottolenghi test kitchen she developed recipes that feature in the award-winning Simple, and for Ottolenghi’s weekly column in The Guardian.

Following a series of successful supper clubs and pop-ups, Helen is now the Head Chef of Bubala, where she leads a mainly female kitchen of the vegetarian restaurant which has a modern Israeli-influenced menu.

What is your favourite dish to make?

My favourite dish to cook at the moment is saffron braised fennel with Rose Harissa and yoghurt.

We braise the fennel in butter, sugar and saffron and then reduce it to a beautiful caramel. Fragrant, sweet, spicy – really lovely!

You can see Helen’s recipe for this dish on Great British Chefs.

A white plate holds two halves of a fennel bulb sat on top of yoghurt and harissa. It is drizzled with a vibrant red sauce and has sprigs of fennel over it.

Picture and recipe from Great British Chefs


Which women inspire you?

I would say the most inspirational women in food right now are actually my peers – most of my chefs are women and they are amazing! So hard working, such focus, precision and creativity – its what keeps me going. I really rate Katja Tausig who until recently headed up Koya – I am really excited to see where her career goes next.

What is your advice to women wanting to join the industry?

For women looking to join the industry, I would say: there are a lot of really intimidating kitchens that maintain the status quo at the moment – you shouldn’t feel like you need to join this kind of environment in order to get ahead, or put yourself through a harder time than you need to. Find kitchens which prioritise things like patience, kindness and loving support, and go flourish.

Anna Sebastian – Bar Manager at Artesian, The Langham London

Anna is currently the Bar Manager at Artesian at The Langham, London. At this historic bar, she oversees the operational side of the bar, and ensures customers are expertly looked after.

Prior to this she spent seven years working at The Savoy in London, with her last four spent as the Bar Manager of The Beaufort Bar. Under her leadership they gained several awards and accolades including Worlds Best International Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards 2015 and reentering the Top 50 bars in the world.

Alongside this, Anna is an advocate for Celebrate Her, an organisation that celebrates gender parity, diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry by creating a community, education and support network.

What is your favourite dish to make?

Probably a Sunday Roast but with really good organic meat. However I prefer to make cocktails as I have a lot of friends who are much better than me with the food side of things. I love being able to make drinks depending on the occasion and who is there. I usually start with something including champagne and end with a cocktail that focuses around fortified wines like port or dessert wines. I have found that applying wine subtleties to cocktails really allows a different take on drinks.

Which women inspire you?

It is so great to see more and more women in the food industry.  I really admire Helene Darroze for what she has done, especially at The Connaught. Also another great Chef is Cornelia Suhr who is currently based in NYC – her food is fantastic. At The Langham London we have Millie Simpson, who runs our cookery school, Sauce, and she is doing great things.

What is your advice to women wanting to join the industry?

If you have the chance to mentor other young talent coming through then do it. It has a knock on effect and inspires more women to help grow our community. Also think of yourself as a brand, align yourself with the things you believe in and tell your story through the various platforms that you have.


Louisa Mitchell – Head of Recipe Development at Mindful Chef

As Head of Recipe Development at healthy recipe box, Mindful Chef, I look after the weekly menu and work with our team of chefs to create exciting recipes for our customers to cook up at home.

I joined Mindful Chef back in 2015 when there were just 5 of us and we had 3 recipes on the menu each week – we now have 25 weekly changing recipes!

The role is fast-paced, challenging and constantly evolving, which is what makes it so enjoyable!

What is your favourite dish to cook?

At the weekends I often spend hours playing around with ingredients in the kitchen, but my go-to weeknight dinner is quick and easy comfort food – a bowl of fragrant coconut noodle soup topped with marinated tempeh or tofu and a spoonful of peanut butter stirred through. I love veggie food and using bold flavours to enhance fresh ingredients (often Belazu spice pastes!) – one of the things I love most about my job is showing our customers how easy and delicious vegan cooking can be.

Which women inspire you?

So many women continue to inspire me every day in the food industry, from Michelin-starred chefs to creative cookery writers like Anna Jones – I love her fresh approach to vegetarian cooking. As a development chef I am constantly inspired and influenced by others – it happens each week with the talented chefs I work alongside!


What is your advice to women who want to work in the food industry?

We are so lucky that there are so many incredible opportunities out there – from restaurant chef roles to development, styling and cookery writing. Take every opportunity possible, from cooking classes to work experience, you never know where it may lead. Find a mentor to help guide you or someone you admire to bounce ideas off and work hard to make your dreams a reality.

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