While our top 50 list of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most influential and inspiring women in food and drink is a showcase for women who are very active within their current roles, there are, of course, many women who have been leaders and influencers and paved the way for all of us to build careers and continue their legacy. Some of these pioneers may now be supporting from the sidelines, but it’s undeniable that they have greatly influenced the way we look at food and drink.



A household face since the early days of television, Dame Alison has sold over 4.5 million copies of her vast range of cookbooks – we’ve managed to count 99 plus one memoir – and taught thousands of New Zealanders to cook family-friendly food. A former columnist, radio host, food stylist and celebrity chef, Dame Alison passionately promoted New Zealand ingredients by showcasing them on her programmes. Her influence was so effective that she was recruited by the Fishing, Dairy and Meat Boards to travel the world promoting the flavours of Aotearoa. Her service was recognised with several honours including being appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011. Her cookbook Meals with the Family is held at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand.


Katherine is the woman who is widely credited with singlehandedly turning the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council – an industry association that represents the manufacturers and suppliers behind New Zealand’s leading food, beverage and grocery brands – into a force and a voice to be listened to. After 13 years she stepped down as chief executive, saying it was time to pass the baton to someone else and to move onto new, and as yet unknown, ventures. With a long list of achievements during her tenure, one that will have a longstanding impact is the grocery code of conduct. We have no doubt that her influence will remain strong and we look forward to following her next steps.



Instantly recognisable as one of our most-loved New Zealand restaurateurs with a career spanning well over 40 years, Fleur has played a huge part in transforming two sleepy regional towns into international destinations. The journey of this magnificent woman has been inspiring: from wild culinary adventures across the pubs of the West Coast; the glamorous 1970s hospo life in Queenstown; the establishment of the much-acclaimed Olivers in Clyde; and, of course, the now-legendary Fleurs Place where she drew the eyes of the world to the tiny town of Moeraki. Hers is the story of her deep connection to the landscape around her, that of a charismatic woman steeped in unshakeable southern spirit – Fleur is what great hospitality is all about.


Julie introduced Cuisine in 1987 as a publication for those whose greatest delight is a table full of friends, enticing food, luscious wine and good conversation. In doing so, the first New Zealand magazine dedicated to food and wine initiated a serious conversation about our evolving food culture and also provided unique career opportunities within the world of food and drink. Many of our top food and travel writers, authors, celebrity chefs, stylists, photographers and recipe developers cut their teeth at Cuisine and the publication has contributed hugely to the development of our national food-and-drink story. A recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Magazine Publishers Association in 2011, Julie continues to consult with and mentor those in the industry.


As an apprentice chef at the Logan Park hotel in Auckland in 1977, Judith began what was then considered to be a highly unusual career for a woman. Long hours, extreme pressure and inexcusable sexist behaviour across the years did not deter her and she went on to become one of New Zealand’s most highly respected chefs and restaurateurs. At 26 she opened the groundbreaking restaurant Ramses which became the must-be-seen-at restaurant in Auckland and was a training ground for many of our (now) most-accomplished chefs. She opened Soul Bar in 2000 and it has remained, to this day, a tribute to her incredible smarts. She was last seen on our screens in 2019 as one of two celebrity judges on My Restaurant Rules. What will be next?


Recognised for her much-loved food column in The Listener for 25 years, Lois became a pioneer for female restaurateurs at a time when Wellington was emerging as one of New Zealand’s key food destinations. In the 80s her first restaurant was Number 9 in Bowen Street, then Mt Cook Café and Brooklyn Café and Grill and she was ground-breaking in serving simple seasonal food at a time when fancy French haute cuisine was the fashion. Lois is the author of several food books and has influenced generations of amateur and professional cooks. A founding member of the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers – now known as Food Writers New Zealand – Lois has contributed much to the evolving New Zealand food story. In 1997, she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.