Nominees for 'World's Best Female Chef' announced

There is an element deeper than the simple love of food that binds some of the finalists for the first World's Best Female Chef award.

In addition to being master chefs, all three candidates - which were announced Wednesday -  come from a long history of family chefs.

They include Elena Arzak of Arzak restaurant in Spain, Anne-Sophie Pic, from Maison Pic in France and Nadia Santini from Italy's Dal Pescatore restaurant.

The category, sponsored by champagne maker Veuve Clicquot,  is a new one in the annual S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, and will honor the female chef whose "cooking delights and excites the toughest of critics across the globe."

Arzak is a fourth-generation chef at Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian, which specializes in Basque cuisine. Growing up, she was surrounded by strong matriarchs in the kitchen that included her mother, grandmother and aunt. Arzak trained under classical chefs like Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adrià, but returned to her family's restaurant where she works with her father in a kitchen that straddles modernism and tradition.

The restaurant was ranked No. 9 in last year's World's 50 Best Restaurants.

Pic is the only three Michelin-starred female chef in France and also comes from a family rich in culinary history - 120 years of cooking that started with her great-grandmother. Pic also worked in foreign kitchens in the US and Japan before returning to continue her family's legacy at Maison Pic in the south-eastern French town of Valence. The restaurant specializes in fish.

For Santini, cooking is likewise all in the family as the restaurant, Dal Pescatore, which started in 1925, is now a family affair, staffed by herself and her two sons. The restaurant is noted for its outstanding reputation in seafood. Santini has been at the helm of this fourth-generation restaurant for the past 30 years.

The awards for Veuve Clicquot's World's Best Female Chef will be announced April 11. The winner will be recognized at The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards gala at London's Guidall, April 18.