She's the culinary expert whose calm cooking style inspired the character of Chef Colette in the hit animated film Ratatouille and now Hélène Darroze has been immortalized again, named as the world's best female chef. The French phenom, who is head chef of her namesake restaurant at The Connaught hotel in London and her eponymous eaterie in Paris, is also one of only a few women who have earned one of the culinary world's highest honors, the Michelin star, multiple times over.
The French chef is one of the few women who have earned multiple Michelin stars, the culinary world's highest honor Photo: Getty Images
What makes the fourth-generation chef's success even more phenomenal is that Hélene, who has two daughters Charlotte, 8, and Quiterie, 6, adopted from an orphanage in Vietnam, has achieved it while juggling home life as a single parent.
In fact, elder daughter Charlotte was just six months old when The Connaught “started chasing” Hélene to take over. “I said no, because I just wanted to be a mom,” Hélene, who splits her time between England and France, tells HELLO! from her 19th century apartment in Paris. “But a day after, I knew I had made a big mistake, so I changed my mind.”
Just a year later, at the top of her restaurant game, she applied to adopt Quiterie.
The next generation: Quiterie, 6, and Charlotte, 8, help mommy in the kitchen Photo: Gavin Smith / HELLO!
The 48-year-old says that, while it might not usually be a recipe for success, it was a broken relationship that jumpstarted her stellar career in the kitchen more than 15 years ago. Her heart, not her career ambition, first led her to move to the French capital, where she started her first restaurant single-handedly in 1999.
“I fell in love with a guy who lived here, so if I’m honest, that’s why I went,” she admits. “The love affair failed completely, but it gave me the opportunity to create my own restaurant." Within 3 months of opening the establishment, her instinctive and inventive style of cooking had earned her her first Michelin star.
Hélene inspired the character of Chef Colette in the hit animated film Ratatouillie Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
Her modern French cooking also infuses her more recent influences, reads her Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award winner’s profile. "Darroze’s cooking is French at heart but over recent years she has also embraced British produce," it says. Among her acclaimed dishes are poached lobster in seaweed butter with white asparagus and bottarga breadcrumbs served in her London restaurant; in Paris, diners can enjoy foie gras from her home region of Landes served with cocoa, calamansi fruit and gingerbread.
Taking home the prize is the latest spectacular achievement by a woman whose cuisine has been sampled by famous names from Gwyneth Paltrow to Prince Charles. Though she has a host of accolades on her resumé, Hélène doesn’t miss a beat when asked about her proudest moment. “Being a mother,” she says. “My biggest challenge is making the girls balanced and happy.”
Hélene takes home the Best Female Chef trophy Photo: The World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Hélene won the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award 2015, part of The World’s Best Restaurants Awards, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna
To read more about Hélène, and see more pictures of her family life in Paris, pick up HELLO! Issue 1382, currently available at all Barnes & Nobles stores!