There was a time when people believed that women belonged in the kitchen, but historically, being a chef has always been a male-dominated field. 

According to the United States Census, only 22% of chefs and head cooks in the country are women. One chef in Wilmington however, gave up everything to begin her culinary journey, despite those statistics.

     What You Need To Know

  • According to the U.S. Census, 22% of executive chefs are women and 78% are men

  • Olivero opened in Wilmington in September and features male and female co-executive chefs

  • Chef Lauren Krall Ivey says that gender shouldn’t matter in the kitchen and that it’s all about talent and drive

Chef Lauren Krall Ivey wasn’t always sure she wanted to be a chef. In fact, before working in the kitchen, she was working in an office. Eventually, she found her calling.

Chef Lauren Krall Ivey cooking over the fire. (Natalie Mooney/Spectrum News 1)

“Spent most of my time off like reading cooking magazines and calling my dad and asking him what he was cooking, throwing dinner parties,” said Krall Ivey. “And realized that sitting in an office wasn’t for me.”

She quit her 9-to-5 job and completed a six-month culinary school program. Krall Ivey then took the next step and went on to work under renowned chefs in Colorado and Raleigh, learning about different flavors, cooking techniques and how to compassionately run a restaurant.

In 2023, she moved to the coast, opening the Spanish-Italian restaurant Olivero with James Beard-nominated, Chef Sunny Gerhart.

“If you’re a female, and you’re working as hard or harder as a male, and you have skill, and you have the talent to do it,” said Krall Ivey, “There’s no reason the gender thing should deter people.”

Krall Ivey says having more diversity in the kitchen only makes for more diverse dishes.

Chef Lauren Krall Ivey prepared a beautiful pork shoulder. (Natalie Mooney/Spectrum News 1)

“Kind of having a softer palate and a little bit more of like a feminine touches to some dishes,” explained Krall Ivey. “Keeps it from being real, you know, heavy and masculine.”

At Olivero — a place with both men and women executive chefs — what matters isn’t who’s doing the cooking, but how that food makes you feel.

“Watching guests get excited about the food and just watching people smile really, whether it’s guests or staff,” said Krall Ivey. “Yeah that’s the best part.”

Chef Lauren Krall Ivey prepared Olivero's delicious take on spaghetti. (Natalie Mooney/Spectrum News 1.)

Olivero opened in Wilmington in September and has been really well received by the Wilmington community. Chef Krall Ivey is there nightly and guests are able to see her and her team cooking in the restaurant’s open kitchen — perhaps even inspiring some girls to enter the culinary world in the process.