New York City chef and restaurateur Leah Cohen is much more than the name on her chef’s coat.
With a little inspiration from her family's Filipino heritage, she's setting a place at the table for future generations of women in the traditionally male-dominated profession.
"Good Morning America" spoke with Cohen, along with six other fierce female chefs who rose to the top of their games despite setbacks both inside and outside the kitchen.
"It's about time that women are getting appreciated for the hard work that they do and the amazing food that they cook," she said. "I think it's just going to get better and better."
Cohen found her path in life through her family's roots and from taking trips through Southeast Asia since she was just 4 years old, and from that she's developed recipes for industry success.
The former "Top Chef" contestant -- who's thankful her hectic, quick-fire days are behind her -- still brings the heat in her NYC restaurant, Pig and Khao, and her sister restaurant in New Jersey, The Piggyback Bar.
Cohen's signature dish -- a Thai curry soup she said is seared in her memory and could make blindfolded -- combines bold colors and flavors of red curry, coconut milk, chicken, egg noodles, pickled mustard greens and red onions for the perfect bowl of Khao Soi.
"When I first started working as a chef over 15 years ago, it was a time when there weren't a lot of women in professional kitchens," she said.
"I had a lot to prove as a cook, but I don't think that had anything to do with my gender," Cohen said about her start in fine dining. "I wanted to stand out from everyone else and I worked my a-- off to prove to everyone -- chef, sous chef, line cook -- that I was a talented chef."
Cohen took her fine dining culinary skills and tapped into her Filipino roots to create her distinct food perspective.
I'm a Jewish Filipino girl cooking Asian food, focusing on pork.
"I think staying true to who I am really set me apart as a female chef," Cohen said. "I'm a tomboy at heart, but love to get dressed up. I'm a Jewish Filipino girl cooking Asian food, focusing on pork. I started my restaurant at a time when this type of cuisine wasn't super popular."
The Lower East Side staple of Southeast Asian cuisine has been a hotspot ever since it opened in 2012. She has since opened a sister concept restaurant called Piggyback Bar in New Jersey.
"It is a great time to be a chef," Cohen said. "I have been a strong woman my whole adult life, but only recently started feeling like a strong woman in the culinary industry."
Cohen believes "having a good work ethic" helped her get where she is today.
Don't let anyone treat you differently because you are a woman. Make them treat you differently because you are great at what you do.
"Everyone needs to pay their dues," she insisted. "Do not think that you are the exception to the rule. Be humble, don't think you know everything -- there is always something to learn, whether it's positive or negative."
But as for young aspiring female chefs, Cohen said: "Don't let anyone treat you differently because you are a woman. Make them treat you differently because you are great at what you do."