The Devastating 2022 Death Of Chef Joyce Molyneux

After a life of precedents and numerous accomplishments, renowned British chef Joyce Molyneux passed away on October 27, as reported by The Guardian. The chef, primarily known for paving the way for British cuisine and female chefs at her restaurant The Carved Angel, was 91 years old. Neither place nor the cause of death has been reported. 

In a Facebook post about Molyneux's passing, The Dartmouth Food Festival remembers her as a legend in the food world. They say, "She spawned shoals of good cooks who went on to be culinary stars, and her food delights today as it did fifty years ago."

Molyneux was born on April 17, 1931, in Handsworth, England, near Birmingham, according to The New York Times. Food had an early impact on her life; she was first inspired by the bread and biscuit baking of the family she lived with when she was evacuated to the English countryside during World War II. She was later impressed by the imagination and resourcefulness of French cuisine when she spent some time living with friends in France after the war. She attended a domestic college in Birmingham to learn cooking before securing her first restaurant job in Stratford-upon-Avon. After 10 years she moved to Bath to work with George Perry-Smith at his restaurant, the Hole in the Wall.

The Carved Angel was one of the first of its kind

Despite a plethora of accomplishments, Molyneaux is probably best known for her restaurant The Carved Angel, which she opened in 1974 in Dartmouth, according to The New York Times. Through her innovativeness and local cooking, her unpretentious restaurant soon gained popularity as a place to enjoy delicious food in a welcoming, comfortable, and open atmosphere. 

Devon Live shared the reactions and tributes of many top chefs and food writers who remembered Molyneaux as "a pioneer of the UK food scene," and her restaurant as "one of the most exciting, but also reassuring, places you could ever wish to eat."

This admiration for Molyneaux is well deserved. At the time, Molyneaux was one of few women running her own restaurant and serving as the head chef, paving the way for women in the male-dominated industry of the time (via the Guardian and The New York Times). Her influence was only strengthened when the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 1978, making her restaurant one of the first woman-led kitchens to do so, according to Devon Live.

Further setting the restaurant apart, Molyneaux was also committed to locally grown and sourced ingredients before it was popular in U.K. restaurants. In an interview with The New York Times, Sophie Grigson — who published the popular cookbook "The Carved Angel Cookery Book" with Molyneaux in 1999 based on recipes from the restaurant — says Molyneux was "a champion of local growers and fishermen way before it became the fashionable thing to do."

Molyneux would implement local and seasonal produce in her restaurant menu by accepting salmon from local fishermen, game from local hunters, cheese from local farmers, and sometimes herbs she grew herself. "Looking back, I see now how revolutionary the restaurant was," Grigson says. 

A chef's lasting legacy

The Carved Angel and Molyneux continued to receive awards and notoriety until she retired and sold the restaurant in 2000 (per The New York Times). Molyneaux retired to Bath, but often returned to Dartmouth for the Dartmouth Food Festival, of which she was an honorary patron.

And while the Carved Angel, now known as The Angel, has changed ownership, and even names, several times over the years, it has remained a symbol of excellence and continues to thrive. In an email interview with The New York Times, current head chef Elly Wentworth described Molyneaux as an inspirational woman, calling her one of the best female chefs in the country. 

"It's an honor to be cooking in the same building," Wentworth says in the interview, "Joyce's legacy remains; everyone, particularly women in the hospitality industry, can achieve their goals through hard work and determination."