History of LDEI
Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) proudly carries the name of Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935), the most innovative chef in history. Known as “The Chef of Kings and The King of Chefs,” Escoffier’s philosophy, accomplishments and philanthropic deeds still serve as both a model and inspiration to culinary professionals today.
A group of epicures, many of them former pupils of Auguste Escoffier, gathered at the Waldorf Astoria in 1936 to form an all-male organization of dedicated gastronomes, Les Amis d'Escoffier Society of New York, Inc. Membership of the Society comprises chefs de cuisine, hotel executives, restaurateurs and business executives.
In the early ‘70s, Carol Brock, then the Sunday food editor at the New York Daily News, set about creating the first organization for professional culinary women. She was inspired by Boston’s Les Dames des Amis d’Escoffier, a dining and philanthropic society of women formed in 1959 in response to the all-male Les Amis d’Escoffier.
In 1973, Carol received a charter from the New York Les Amis d’Escoffier Society to form a “ladies' chapter." She wanted to raise the image and presence of women in the food, wine and hospitality industries, which were still largely dominated by men.
Three years later, the women's chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier New York was formed, comprising 50 culinary luminaries in the food and wine professions. By 1985, five chapters had taken shape — New York in 1976; Washington, D.C. in 1981; Chicago in 1982; Dallas and Philadelphia 1984. The presidents of each chapter met in New York to form LDEI. Boston’s Les Dames des Amis d’Escoffier joined LDEI in 1991 and became its Boston chapter.
As of September 2018, LDEI has 42 chapters in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, France and Mexico, with over 2,400 members in the culinary fields. From restaurants to journalism, winemaking to marketing, manufacturing to agriculture, all women’s voices are invited to the LDEI table.
The fast-growing Austin chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier was founded in October 2003 by Joan Wood and Johanna Brown, chapter members from San Antonio who had relocated to Austin. The two founders recruited a diverse but close-knit group of women that includes restaurant and private chefs, caterers, public-relations women, restaurateurs, recipe developers, artisan food producers, food and wine writers, cookbook authors, chef instructors, and winery owners. Since the beginning, this chapter has taken on personal and community projects with equal gusto and dedication.
We recognize that we would not be where we are today and would not have made the profound impact that we have without the work and support of our founding members. Many are still active in the industry, while others have retired but continue to support our work. To the following women, we thank you.
(Job titles were as of chapter incorporation in 2003)
Joan Wood – culinary educator, food writer, caterer, and member of San Antonio chapter
Cathy Cochran-Lewis – culinary consultant, food writer, marketing/promotions, cooking school consultant, and member of San Antonio chapter
Lisa Smith – chef, recipe development, product development, past member of Dallas chapter
Johanna Gordy Brown – caterer, product development, marketing and sales, and member of San Antonio chapter
Susan Auler – Owner Fall Creek Vineyard and member of Dallas chapter.
Lucinda Hutson – cookbook author, writer
Jill Lewis* – owner of Austin Slow Burn food products
Edna Lynn Porter – chef, chef instructor Texas Culinary Academy
Pamela Nevarez – personal chef
Diane Camille Tucker – chef, chef instructor Texas Culinary Academy
Michele Haram – pastry chef
Pat Sharpe – food writer and edits restaurant reviews for Texas Monthly Magazine
Cara Anam – pastry chef, chef instructor Texas Culinary Academy
Aimee Olson – pastry chef
Melissa Porter – marketing director for Central Market
Beth Pav – culinary instructor and chef
Jane King – food expert and culinary instructor
Shelley Grieshaber – chef and culinary educator, Central Market cooking school coordinator
Karen Farnsworth – Amuse Bouch Catering Company
Paula Biehler – public relations and marketing for restaurants and chefs
Abigail Bird Donovan – chef/owner, Culinary Travels, and culinary instructor
Mary Margaret Pack – food writer and chef
Kelly Ann Hargrove – cooking school manager
Madelyn Naber – Owner Flat Creek Vineyard
Maureen Hearn – promotions coordinator/special events, HEB Central Market
Sahar Arafat-Ray – manager, Central Market Cooking School