Latina chef Daniela Soto-Innes is youngest to be named 'World's Best Female Chef'

“I grew up with a line of really strong women that love to cook,” the 28-year-old said. "I knew it was the thing that made me the happiest."
Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By Coca-Cola - A Dinner with Rick Bayless and Daniela Soto-Innespart of the Bank of America Dinner series curated by Chefs Club
Chef Daniela Soto- Innes prepares food at Hotel Plaza Athenee on Oct. 14, 2016 in New York.Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images for NYCWFF file

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By Gwen Aviles

Mexican-American chef Daniela Soto-Innes has become the youngest honoree to be named the World's Best Female Chef by The World's Best 50 Restaurants.

The award, which was announced Wednesday, recognizes the culinary achievements of one woman every year. Past winners include British chef Clare Smyth of London’s Core and Dominique Crenn, who leads San Francisco’s Michelin-three-star Atelier Crenn.

Though she is known for running Cosme and Atla, two popular modern Mexican restaurants in New York City, Soto-Innes, 28, didn't always plan on becoming a chef, according to the award announcement. She was a competitive swimmer during her young adulthood in Texas, where she moved from Mexico City when she was 12.

Yet the culinary arts were almost an inevitability for Soto-Innes, who was surrounded by a grandmother, mother and aunts who instilled a passion for cooking in her at a young age.

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“I grew up with a line of really strong women that love to cook,” Soto-Innes told The World's Best 50 Restaurants. “When I was born, my mother was a lawyer with my father, but she wanted to be a chef because my grandma had a bakery and my great grandma went to school for cooking. Everything was about who made the best cake, who made the best ceviche, who made the best mole. I just knew that it was the thing that made me the happiest."

It's not only the flavorful food that appeals to Soto-Innes, but also the people who make it. Most of the staff at Cosme are Latin American immigrants, while a few hail from Russia and other countries, as well. It's this fusion of people, ideas and recipes that makes the restaurant so successful, she said.

That shared knowledge has led to some of Cosme's most famous dishes, including its fluffy fried tortillas called infladitas (which means inflated).

"An infladita is the mistake when you fry a tortilla and it's the most beautiful mistake," Soto-Innes said.

In 2017, she opened Atla, a causal Mexican eatery in New York's NoHo district, with fellow chef Enrique Olvera. Later this year, they plan to expand their culinary operations to the West Coast and open Damian, a Japanese-influenced Mexican restaurant, and Ditroit, a taquería, both in Los Angeles.

In addition to opening up two new restaurants, Soto-Innes will also have her hands full with wedding planning. The 2016 James Beard Rising Chef award honoree recently became engaged to Blaine Wetzel, head chef of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island in Washington.

“Mexican food for me has to have happiness and spice and it has to be fun," Soto-Innes said. "You have to be happy when you’re making a mole or tamales — otherwise they won’t turn out."

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