They are just "chefs!" That said, the city doesn't have very many culinary stars of the female persuasion. But the ones we do have are pretty awesome.
Prune was an original, and its whole aesthetic -- the no frills decor, the funky, unvarnished food, the cool music -- has been imitated endlessly. But there's something special that adhere's to the original, and the food has never declined (or gotten better). In its own way, Prune has become as much of a New York institution as Katz's across the street.
Anita Lo's critically lauded Asian food takes aim for, and hits, the sensibilities of serious gastronomes. The food is mature, delicate, elegant, and not that much fun. The cooking is calibrated to be just so perfect in every bite, to look beautiful, to make sense (foie gras soup dumplings = east / west, luxury / poverty). But it comes in tiny portions and doesn't deliver the kind of whallop a certain kind of vulgarian (i.e. me) likes most at dinner. But it's a great place to take a lady of a certain age, or a visiting chef or food writer.
The place that got the speakeasy trend started still has some of the best cocktails in town, along with a suprisingly original, Croatian-inflected menu courtesy of chef Julia Jaksic. The crowd gets oppressive though.
The departure of opening chef Andrew Carmellini was expected by nearly everyone to be the death knell for A Voce, an overpriced Italian restaurant in a city packed with equally fine rivals. His replacement by an out-of-town chef nobody had ever heard of didn't help. But Missy Robbins has done a great job of keeping the food fresh and interesting, keeping the pastas first rate while serving some of the most robust and interesting proteins in the $25 spaghetti sweepstakes.
The city's coolest vegetarian restaurant is wholly a product of Amanda Cohen, the spunky chef who redefined what meatless cooking could be like through her embrace of modern technique and the liberal use of butter and cream. (Don't ever mistake Dirt Candy for vegan.) It's small to the point of being cramped and by no means cheap, but if, like me, you have vegetarian food, come here and change your mind.
Though principally known for its exquisite tapas and first-rate sangria, the secret weapon of this chelsea snack bar is the magnificent El Doble, a double cheeseburger made with mouthwatering raw sheep's milk cheese and heritage beef.
April Bloomfield broke out of The Spotted Pig's gastropub mold in this equally robust but more ambitious eatery.
TV viewers may know chef Alex Guarnaschelli from The Food Network's "Chopped" but she's been a presence on the New York food scene for many years, and is held in great respect by the NYC chef community. Having made her bones at Guy Savoy in Paris and Daniel in New York, she brings polished French skills to cool downtown restaurants Butter and The Darby, the latter of which also features live music and a (too) lively atmosphere. Her lobster newburg is more than enough to make it worthwhile, even for a curmudgeon like myself.
April Bloomfield seafood sibling to The Breslin next door make for a potent one-two surf-and-turf punch, but they really have very different characters. Where The Breslin is dark and romantic, the John Dory is bright and buzzy, more a place to meet for drinks and oysters than for a romantic dinner for two. In fact, all the dishes are small plates, so as to keep the tables turning and accomodate diners who just want to stop in for some swanky shellfish.
Ex-socialite Emma Hearst got notice at this small trattoria for her looks and her skills rather than her famous name, but she's departed and the restaurant is still going strong. It's specialty is quirky Italian comfort food by way of the Piedmont. What that amounts to on the table is a large assortment of very delicious, and by no means light, small plates which tend to involve animal fats in elegant, gratifying ways. The wine list is well-curated and affordable; on the whole, a great place for a date on the Lower East Side.