Kristin Butterworth broke the glass ceiling five years ago to become the only female chef de cuisine to hold the AAA Five Diamond rating and a Forbes Travel Guide Five Star status, and remains one of the few women chefs to maintain the high ratings.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured Kristin Butterworth, the chef de cuisine at the fine dining restaurant Lautrec at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., in a recent profile.
At age 29, Butterworth became the world’s only female chef de cuisine to hold the AAA Five Diamond rating and a Forbes Travel Guide Five Star status for her work at Lautrec. Five years later, she holds the honor as one of the few women chefs to maintain the high ratings, the Post-Gazette reported.
Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions in prestigious restaurants. This issue came to the fore when Time in November 2013 published a roundup of the “masters of haute cuisine” in its “Gods of Food” article that included no women—not even Alice Waters, the pioneer in farm-to-table cooking, the Post-Gazette reported.
For Butterworth, now 33, being a woman in the kitchen has meant being one of the guys. “I realized I had to do it to be perceived as an equal,” she said, acknowledging that navigating restaurant kitchens as she was building her reputation was sometimes tricky. It involved “working harder to prove myself,” she said.
A Western Pennsylvania native, she attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, followed by an internship at the award-winning, but now closed, Latilla restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. From there, she earned a certificate at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in the Piedmont region of Italy. Afterward, Butterworth joined Nemacolin Woodlands Resort to work at what was then the Golden Trout, now called Autumn, a less formal restaurant. In 2005, she went to Sea Island Resort in Georgia to open the Cloister Hotel and the Georgian Room restaurant. Four years later, she went to work for chef O’Connell, the Post-Gazette reported.
When the chef de cuisine position opened at Lautrec upon the departure of David Racicot about a year after she started at the Inn, she was torn about seeking the job. But, she realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Lautrec was just creating a name for itself,” Butterworth said. “I wanted the opportunity to make a mark there.”
Women who succeed in the restaurant industry “are not the ones wearing pink chef coats,” Butterworth said. “These women are a little rough around the edges.”
The Post-Gazette describes dining at Lautrec as quite the culinary experience. It starts at a meticulously dressed table with a view of an open kitchen, where diners can walk in and walk around to ask questions as the five cooks work. The dominant design element in the kitchen is the red domed lights on black spiral cords that hang in a row over the counters. Servers dressed in black suits and white gloves pick up dishes in unison, like a dance, at a table parallel to the pass.
The sommelier wheels out a $25,000 champagne cart to accompany the caviar menu, followed by a parade of 11 courses marked by the arrival of an amuse bouche. Truffled potato chips spill out of a paper cone next to a fine dining version of dip: a veneer of liver mousse garnished with caviar and served in a caviar tin, the Post-Gazette reported.
The dishes continue as diners’ appetites set the pace, from buttermilk pancakes with peaches and pecans and a bourbon maple glaze—an early meal tribute to Butterworth’s name—followed by an intricate Caesar salad; an elegant vichyssoise garnished with nasturtium and flowers; truffled tagliatelle; and what appears to be a casserole of escargot, the Post-Gazette reported.
Seafood agnolotti makes way for the meats, a plating of five renditions of local ingredients: an egg fried in chili oil, a slice of pork loin with white asparagus, pate on toast, a variation on barbecue and a Reuben with spatzle and the best sauerkraut you’ve had in your life. To mark the final savory course, very pink Australian wagyu ribeye sits atop tiny wedged heirloom potatoes. The dish is adorned with pickled, charred red onion and a velvety port reduction, the Post-Gazette reported.
To transition to dessert, she serves a mini soda bottle filled with berry sorbet slush. Corn and tomato ice cream follows, along with peach granita and a cobbler. The journey is complete with the arrival of the candy cart, filled with dozens of temptations from chocolate-covered Oreos to macarons to Swedish fish to non pareils, the Post-Gazette reported.
“Lautrec offers good food prepared by good people who are passionate about cooking. They could work at an award-winning restaurant in New York or San Francisco,” Butterworth said, “but here they are in Western Pennsylvania.”