JULIA SÉFEDJIAN – A MICHELIN-STARRED FEMALE CHEF AT 21
The catering business remains a professional sector in which the inequality between men and women is still very pronounced. Julia Séfedjian is one notable exception. According to current statistics, only 6% of chefs in France are women.
And if we consider the number of Michelin-starred female chefs, this percentage isn’t any better. In France, you can count them on a few fingers. We were eager to present one of these exceptions, and are delighted to introduce 23-year-old Julia Séfedjian, who made headlines two years ago as the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France. She joined the ranks of the truly great at the tender age of 21. As head chef at Les Fables de la Fontaine in Paris, she saved the Michelin star that had seemed at risk. Still there today, she is currently preparing to disembark the ship and open her own restaurant.
PROFESSIONAL CHEF JULIA SÉFEDJIAN
Julia Séfedjian tells us that she took an interest in the cooking profession from a young age. Unfortunately, nothing came of the little girl’s dreams of becoming a vet, which is why she turned to the culinary arts instead. Originally from Nice, a sprawling tourist hotspot, she found no shortage of opportunities and soon settled on the perfect place.
She trained under David Faures at the renowned restaurant Aphrodite. The restaurant was awarded a star in the Michelin Guide during the first year of her training. “David is my mentor. He taught me everything I know. I have extraordinary memories of the years I spent in Nice. When you’re 14 years old, you start a job you know nothing about. You have to find the right people and show commitment in order to gain as much experience as possible. The work never frightened me, and it was no problem for me to do the evening shift, even at the age of 15.”
JULIA SÉFEDJIAN – 3 YEARS TO LEARN EVERYTHING SHE KNOWS
With her diploma in her pocket, Julia moved to Paris to begin her professional career. She started out as a kitchen assistant in the Michelin-starred restaurant Les Fables de La Fontaine. “I was of course thrilled to be part of a Michelin-starred kitchen. That was one of my personal goals. I had cooked starred cuisine during my training and wanted to continue in the same direction. Through work and self-sacrifice, I was able to rise up quickly in the hierarchy, and found myself as a sous-chef at the age of 18 and head chef at the age of 20.”
But the challenge was anything but easy. The Michelin-starred restaurant had decided to radically change its menu in order to appeal to a wider audience. “Our idea was to offer menus for €55, which would make it difficult to hold onto a star. In fact, many people thought that Les Fables de la Fontaine would lose its star. But that was not the case.”
THE YOUNG JULIA SÉFEDJIAN
Aged just 21, Julia became the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France. This was the culmination of years of hard work and a recognition among colleagues. It was exceptional. “In my opinion, there is no discrimination between men and women in the kitchen. Of course, kitchens are not hen houses and nor are they places for doing your make-up or what have you. We need to accept that.”
Whether she likes it or not, the fact that she’s a woman has put Julia in the spotlight. She admits that she was surprised by the media interest. Even so, she is slowly getting used to it. “We’re not on stage in the kitchen. We’re not used to being in the spotlight.”
REACH FOR THE STARS – JULIA SÉFEDJIAN
After five years of good and loyal service, Julia will soon part ways with Les Fables de la Fontaine. “I am really happy to be able to dedicate myself entirely to implementing my own project.” For the time being, Julia is reluctant to disclose any information about her restaurant project, but one thing is very clear. “My goal is to get a Michelin star.” Julia doesn’t lack ambition. But her journey so far is proof enough that she’s right.
We also asked Julia one of the most important questions in the restaurant scene. Is it difficult to balance the commitments of a family life with your other responsibilities? “Yes, I know that a day will come when I will want to devote myself to my family plans. But remember: That doesn’t mean stopping for a year or two. We can combine working and family life very well, it’s just a question of wanting to do it.”