by Emma Patterson
In recent years Belfast has developed quite a reputation for good food; from Michelin star restaurants to quirky pop-ups, the city cultivates culinary innovation.
However, just one in five professional chefs in Northern Ireland are female.
That makes Gemma Austin’s restaurant the exception to the rule.
The Carryduff chef, who starred on two seasons of the Great British Menu, is backed by a fully female kitchen; from the kitchen porter to the head chef.
Gemma knows all too well the difficulties of climbing to the top of a male dominated industry.
“Being a female chef is harder. It’s a boys club and I noticed that from day one.
"It’s harder to go through the ranks, it’s harder to prove yourself, and females tend to be pushed into the pastry section.
"But it’s like everything. I always think that, female or male, if you put your head down and you work hard you’re going to do well, and here is a prime example of that.
"We have a full female team here and we, in my opinion, put out some of the best food in Belfast.”
Gemma has worked in the food industry for the past eight years, and from her days as a trainee to owning her own restaurant, she’s seen the hospitality industry change for the better, becoming more inclusive and, well, hospitable.
“I had only worked with one female chef until I had my own kitchen.
"I do see a trend in more females coming into the kitchen.
"People are really starting to notice that chefs maybe aren’t getting the work life balance that they deserve, the money was never overly good, but there is a lot of movement towards chefs getting the proper treatment.
"Maybe that’s attracting more females, but it’s nice to see more females coming into the industry, and into the kitchen.”