LDEI Cleveland Chapter Announces Winner
of the 2019 Culinary Scholarship

Meet Melissa Holden!
Winner of the 2019 Culinary Scholarship

Sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International

“A natural born leader.” “I trust her unconditionally.” “Consistently a team leader.” “Passionate.” “Truly deserving.” “Melissa doesn’t wait to be told who to help. She sees a need and takes action.” — excerpts from Melissa Holden’s 2019 letters of recommendation

Chef, community activist, mother of three college-aged children, and full-time student at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio – where she holds down a 3.85 GPA – Melissa Holden is winner of the 2019 Culinary Scholarship, sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International.

This scholarship is awarded by the Cleveland Chapter of LDEI to a woman student enrolled in an accredited culinary program, who has permanent Ohio residency. The award is based on academic accomplishments, career goals, culinary experience, professional and personal references, and financial need. Awarded scholarship money goes directly to the school or institution in which the recipient is enrolled and must be used for tuition only.

Melissa’s victory was announced on April 20, 2019. As winner, she will receive $2,000 from the Cleveland Chapter to help support her culinary studies at Hocking College, where she is enrolled in two associate degree programs. She’ll earn her Culinary Arts degree in May; in December, she will complete her studies for a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

Melissa is also deeply committed to grassroots programs that improve food access. Beyond volunteering at food banks, she has been involved in projects for Live Healthy Appalachia and Local Matters Columbus. And as founder of Community Share, a community-based volunteer group that comes to the aid of families facing food insecurity, Melissa has been consulting with renowned Columbus restaurateur Cameron Mitchell to transition her organization into an official nonprofit.

In the past, Community Share volunteers have done everything from delivering holiday meals to families in need to manning a series of pop-up kitchens in some of Columbus’ neediest neighborhoods. Once her studies are complete, and the organization has attained its nonprofit status, Melissa aims to become Community Share’s Executive Director and transition full-time into nonprofit food-related programming.

Meantime, Melissa says, she is honored to have been chosen for the award.

The 49-year-old chef, who has been working in professional kitchens since 2006, says the scholarship application process gave her a chance to take hard look at her career path. “It really motivated me think about what I want to do with my future,” she says. “I love being a chef, but I am also ready for a new culinary challenge. This process has catapulted me into examining my goals and to really understanding that this can be a new start.”

Plans are underway for Melissa to meet our chapter membership in person sometime over the summer, and to receive a certificate reflecting the scholarship honor. Please keep an eye on our website’s Events page for more information.


A Brand New Year – Take a Fresh Look at Your Brand

By Shara Bohach

The new year offers the perfect resolution opportunity to re-evaluate your brand. To take a look back on the past year and realign your efforts for the year ahead.

Personally, we visit hundreds of food and beverage establishments each and every year. Some are just opening and making their culinary mark, while others are well established and well known. They range from the local right down the road to treasured new finds discovered in our travels. As brand marketers, we cannot help noticing, evaluating, analyzing, and discussing brands everywhere we go. It’s just a hazard of the profession.

The most rewarding is when we encounter a brand that we feel has hit the mark and has been executed in all the right ways. No detail too small, everything considered and aligned to the brand. Some are extremely creative, while others are simple and elegant. But overall, there is no question that they know who they are. As customers we are immersed in their distinct message, design look, and interior space. In print and online the brand is defined. Language, tone and design cohesively communicate the same essence.

A successful brand is not the repetitive use of logo, graphics and message on everything. It is an evolving integration of elements that stay true to a defined feel and tonality. They uphold a consistent look and tone in every communication that makes them both recognizable and memorable.

Take a moment and resolve to evaluate your own brand.

The Brand
Many think their logo is their brand, and it undoubtably does a lot of the heavy lifting, however your brand consists of so much more. Every marketing impression creates it. Your brand is essentially what people think and feel about your company. Can you list a few meaningful words that represent your business. Are you about integrity, service, quality, reliability, simplicity? Think about what your business strives to do better than anyone else. Consider a farmers market known for always having the freshest, local produce; a modern, upscale restaurant with inspired preparations and impeccable service; a gourmet product with a reputation of only natural, organic ingredients. This is what you become known for. It's your brand promise to your customers.

Elevator Pitch
Now formulate those few words into a few sentences with a distinct tone and you'll have your “elevator pitch”. This is your answer to “What do you do?” It is not a tagline, positioning statement, or mission statement… although it does play into all of them. The pitch serves as the beginning to your unique story.

The Message
It is critical to stay in front of your customers. Put together a marketing calendar for the year. Plan out a healthy dose of creative, compelling promotions or events, and intriguing communications just to stay in touch and on their minds. The key is to stay visible. Be first after the holidays when nothing else is going on and cabin fever starts setting in. Understand the audience you want to reach and the language they speak when crafting your marketing communications. Don't talk young to an older audience and vice versa. Be succinct. You do not want to frustrate your audience with cryptic marketing messages.

Refresh When Needed
The best thing you can do for your brand is to define it and stay true to it. However, sometimes a brand starts to stale. It might look outdated, or the business focus may change. If you feel that's true, it may be time for a refresh. You might modernize the design elements and color palette or change up some language to better reflect the brand’s evolving personality.

Whether you have limited budget and time, or you have plenty of both, basic principles remain the same to making a lasting impression and cultivating a brand. Stay focused and true. Evolve and know your audience. Avoid adding conceptual noise – distracting elements everywhere to grab attention. These compete for attention, diluting your core message. Always have fun with the journey and stay creative.

Shara Bohach is Owner and Creative Director at Unity Design, Inc. a design firm that specializes in building brands for the culinary industry. In business since 2000, Unity Design has carried out every imaginable type of project from logos to packaging to websites to trade show graphics and all things in-between. Shara has been an active Les Dames d’Escoffier member for over 10 years. Unity Design, Inc. at 440-516-9688 | www.unitydesign.biz


Winter's Wonderful Wines

By Maggie Harrison

The cold winds of winter are upon us, but there’s always a bright side: Each season brings a fresh opportunity to find new wine varieties and explore new regions.

Here are six slightly outside-the-box wines to keep you warm and happy – with food or not!


Sparkling Wines

Not just for New Year’s Eve: The next time you roast a chicken or serve a root-based dish, try a Cremant. This is a sparkling wine from anywhere in France that isn’t Champagne. Made with a variety of grapes but in the same way that Champagnes are made, Cremants are almost always rich, creamy, and delicious, while costing 30- to 50-percent less than Champagne.

My pick: NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace, $19.99

Notes: 100-percent Pinot Blanc. Aromatics of lemon, grapefruit, and slight yeasty character. Ripe fruits on a gently, creamy palate balanced by crisp acidity and a long finish.


You can expect wines labeled as Rosé to be dry, and that’s what you should stick with. The darker pink ones will have more heft...some even show a little tannin. Lighter colored wines will be lighter in weight, but both styles work wonderfully as an aperitif; the higher acidity stimulates both an appetite and conversation. Rosé pairs perfectly with honey-baked ham and shrimp cocktail.

My pick: 2017 Chateau Campuget ‘Tradition’ Rosé, Costieres de Nimes, France, $10.99

Notes: 70-percent Syrah, 30-percent Grenache, this pale-pink rose is delicate in both aroma and flavor, offering perfumed cherry blossom and crisp red cherry and raspberry notes. Dry and full bodied, refreshingly mineral, brightened by juicy, lemony acidity.


Gamay is a light-bodied red wine, similar to Pinot Noir, from the Beaujolais region of France. You can expect a highly aromatic wine offering fresh-cut violets, red cherry, and plums. Medium bodied, dry, yet with loads of expressive fruit, usually silky smooth and mouthwatering. They are a bit fuller than Pinot Noir from Burgundy and they come at a nicer price. Yet much like Pinot Noir, they are friendly with a lot of foods. Their floral aromatics and snappy style make them a delicious counter to cold weather.

My pick: 2015 Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, $15.99

Notes: Fresh and silky with both the freshness and fruit remaining for quite a long time on the palate.


Expand your horizons beyond California. There are fantastic Cabernets coming from Chile, Italy and, of course, France, with Bordeaux. Domestically, Cabernet grows magnificently in Washington State, delivering classic flavors at extremely competitive prices. They lean toward an Old-World style, with leather, mint, herbs, and bell pepper under currant and cherry flavors. These score high on the quality-to-price ratio.

My pick: 2016 Boomtown Cabernet by Dusted Valley, Washington State, $16.99

Notes: Refined yet rugged, offering wonderful cherry fruit and balancing acid, while giving you the rustic complexity of freshly crushed herbs.

Cabernet Alternatives

Portugal has become the last, great wine frontier in Europe, offering an intriguing, affordable selection of wines. Two regions in particular seem to be easy to find: Alentejo and Douro. Alentejo, inland in the south of Portugal, is a hot region similar to California. Red wines from there are robust, powerful, and rich. Douro region wines are concentrated yet elegant.

My pick: 2016 Quinta do Crasto, Douro Tinto, $14.99

Notes: Excellent aroma expressiveness, showing notes of fresh red fruit and elegant florals reminiscent of violets. Seductive on the palate, evolving into a balanced wine of great volume and solid structure. The tannins are polished and well integrated.


Ninety-five percent of all Sherry is dry, with amazing amounts of flavor. Lighter Sherry offers raw almonds, herbs, a slight bitterness, and high acidity; the darker versions feature hazelnuts, caramel, oak, and raisins while remaining dry to slightly off-dry.

My pick: NV Lustau ‘Don Nuno’ Dry Oloroso, $27.99

This middle-of-the-road style offers a perceived sweetness of dark chocolate, walnuts, and roasted chestnuts. Very persistent on the palate, tempered with a slight acidity. Pairs deliciously with squash, root dishes, soups, hearty pastas, and roasted fowl. This is also an alternative to Whisky and a fun cocktail ingredient.

Maggie Harrison is a professional in the service industry, with more than 30 years of experience, with a specific focus on wine. She has experience in restaurants, retail, distribution, and training/education, and brings a broad and deep repertoire of skills to her clients and consumers. Contact her at m.harrison@vintwine.com.


What I Learned at Conference

By Elaine Cicora

Cannabis Cuisine Panelists (from left to right): Jodi Hall, Jessica Tonani, and Tamara Murphy

It took me nine years to catch on to the LDEI Conference. Over that time, I found plenty of reasons to ignore it: The late-October date seemed dreary. The cost seemed high. There would be flights to book. And how the heck was I supposed to figure out all the registration details?

But eventually, I started to come around. Sure, Dame Carol Hacker’s oft-repeated claim that, “You can’t turn around at Conference without somebody putting a plate of food or a glass of wine in your hands!” sounded tempting. But it wasn’t until last year that it finally hit me: Conference and commitment to our mission could go hand-in-hand.

Of course it is possible to be a leader within the chapter and never attend a Conference. But – and this is a big one – it is almost impossible to overstate the value of sharing your successes, your challenges and your questions, one-on-one, with Dames from around the world, who have already traveled down those roads before you. What you learn at Conference – and you will learn a lot – makes you a stronger, smarter and more effective member of your chapter, and makes your chapter better for it.

Sales pitch aside, here are four quick learnings I brought back from this year’s Seattle Conference. They got me thinking about “best practices.” Perhaps they will do the same for you.

LDEI membership is a privilege. Everyone who applies need not be accepted. Recruitment efforts should be strategic, aimed toward finding the types of members your chapter needs, and focused on women who are ready to lead.

Fundraising need not be limited to one blowout event per year. Some chapters hold one or more small, ticketed events throughout the year, i.e., dinners, speakers, panel discussions. And don’t forget silent auctions; in San Antonio, the silent auction associated with their main fundraiser brings in 50 percent of their profits!

Many chapters regularly engage in community work, doing things like teaching healthy cooking classes at food pantries, and gathering and donating farmers’ market leftovers to soup kitchens. The San Antonio chapter holds an annual on-site, catered Holiday Dinner for abused children that includes tree trimming, gingerbread-house decorating, and gifts. “It feels so good to make someone happy, and we Dames just get tighter and tighter,” chapter president Blanca Aldaco told us.

And finally, this – not from fellow Dames but from presenters at one of our concurrent sessions: Cannabis cuisine is the wave of the future. Among the speakers was Jody Hall, founder of The Goodship, producer of delicious, and strictly dosage controlled, marijuana-laced cookies and candies. Want to make “tons” of money? Cannabis cuisine could be your ticket. “Make it delicious, make it low dose, and make it easy for people to take to a concert or a party,” advised Jody. Currently, marijuana is an $800 million industry in Washington, we were told; the rest of the nation can’t be far behind.

The 2019 conference is in Nashville, Oct. 24 through 27. Maybe this is your year to attend?

For more on the 2018 Conference, go here, and be sure to grab the Winter Quarterly when it arrives: It will be full of Conference stories.

A Message From Our President

From Beth Davis-Noragon

Hello, Cleveland Dames!

I know I speak for the entire board in sharing with you how pumped up we got at the National Conference in Seattle last month. It’s all about the connections we make there. For one lucky Cleveland Dame, this was her first conference. Others of us are starting to approach double-digit attendance. And even though each conference is unique in programming and entertainment, common threads continue to surface. We make connections and discover that we are not alone in our struggles.

The perfect metaphor materialized in our last evening there, at Emerald City Trapeze. This 20,000-square-foot venue is housed in the former Canal Boiler Works building. Heavy hors d’oeuvres were expertly prepared, and we even had our own signature cocktail, the “Oui, Chef” (each garnished with its own wee chef). But the real fun began as the lights dimmed and the security nets were drawn: our own, close-up trapeze show. It was thrilling. There were a half-dozen daring flyers, spinning and flipping through the air to the catcher as he cried, “Hep!” (which is trapeze for “go”). We screamed and cheered them on, and they made every catch until the last one. Oh, we were disappointed! But the flyer was not deterred! He tried three more times to make the most complicated flip of the evening, eventually choosing to call it off. The troupe worked together to make their connections, and even when one of them stumbled, the rest of the troupe was there for support. Why? They have all fallen into the net.

I encourage each of you to start thinking about National Conference 2019 in Nashville now. Work toward the Chapter scholarship. Think about how you can get there otherwise. Put away $75 a month toward the fees. Make the connections and share the struggles. HEP!


A Path to Healing

By Elaine Cicora

As women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries, LDEI members understand the health benefits of seasonal, local, and natural foods. But this year’s Global Culinary Initiative Breakfast, during national conference in Seattle, emphasized the spiritual aspect of the story.

As its name suggests, LDEI’s Global Culinary Initiative embraces global communities through culinary connections. This year’s breakfast focused on Native American foods and traditions. In the process, it provided a valuable reminder of the wisdom that resides in traditional foodways – and how those foodways nurture both body and soul.

Valerie Segrest, Native Nutrition Educator, Tedx speaker, Kellogg Fellow at the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Food Sovereignty Project coordinator for the Muckleshoot Tribe, spoke first. Her message was simple: For the native peoples of the Northwest, a return to traditional foods equals a return to good health and abundance.

Prior to first contact, she explained, “the native tribes [of this region] made up the largest, most densely populated non-agricultural region in the world. We knew how to use and manage the natural world.” But today, with diabetes “at epidemic levels among native peoples,” and attendant problems like obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, peripheral neuropathies and blindness on the rise, that traditional wisdom may be lost.

To help reignite that knowledge, Valerie has created the Cedar Box Kit, an educational tool containing the 13 quintessential foods at the center of the Northwest Indians’ diet.

Developed with a grant from the CDC, the Cedar Box represents a way to move tribal culture into current times, Valerie said, by explicating the links between food choices, nutrition, health – and community. Thus, the foods in the Cedar Box Kit are of both cultural and nutritional significance. Among them, water holds first place. “Water is life,” Valerie teaches. “Put down those sugary beverages and drink water.”

Other foods in the box include berries (“wild strawberries are great for women’s health”); greens (“when it comes to nutrition, nettles make spinach look iceberg lettuce” ), bulbs and roots (“camas, a starch that helps reduce blood sugar, was once the most traded item after salmon”), nuts (“hazelnuts make us feel full from eating just a few”), wild game (“elk, deer, and mountain goats are a living legacy”), birds (“duck is high in fats and protein), fish (“salmon give their lives so we can have life”), and shellfish (“perfect little packages of nutrition”).

“I ask people to walk through the grocery store as if they are walking with their ancestors,” Valerie says. “For every item they buy, I want them to ask themselves: Is it seasonal? Is it local? And how do I cook it with good intention?”

Darren Jameson, a member of the Tsimshian Nation and chef de cuisine at Lisa Dupar & Company, spoke next. While his love of cooking encompasses an entire world of cuisine, his passion and focus are wild, indigenous foods.

Darren spoke movingly about his childhood memories of potlatch gatherings on the beach, and the strong sense of connection they created. “I learned you didn’t have to be rich to have a good life,” he recalled. “You just needed to have a community around you.”

As a forager, Darren also shared his concern about our impact on the land and water, especially in the case of wild salmon, an endangered species “that connects everything in the world. Its importance is not just that it is delicious. It is a keystone species whose demise will effect everything: bears, whales, eagles, and us.

“And as hospitality people,” he reminded us, “we are in a great position to educate others about salmon’s importance.”
Sea, forest and wetlands: “There is enough wild food in each of these places to create a full meal,” he said. “As a chef, to be able to take these things and create a meal that appeals to all is very special. I am privileged to be a part of that.

“It’s the most special way there is to connect with the past – and to create traditions for our own descendants.”

Read more about this year's conference in the Winter issue of the LDEI Quarterly.


Dames Dish! Five Reasons to Blog About Your Food Business

By Paris Wolfe
At its most basic, blogging keeps your customers informed and tells others about your business. Sure, you can use other social media to spread the news, but blog posts offer more space than Twitter or Facebook. (Just try to keep each post under 800 words.) And you can go on to promote those blog posts on Twitter and Facebook for a triple play.

Think about a blog as your newspaper. Introducing a new product or menu? Blog the news. Secured a new supplier? Blog why this is important. Have mad skills in the kitchen? Blog your expertise. Don’t just brag, but tell the story around your news.

Here are five reasons to blog:

1) To market or promote your business: The biggest blog benefit is awareness. It makes your business easier to find when someone is searching the internet. And it lets you tell them why they should choose you for their needs.

2) To connect with customers: Regular followers learn about your business and feel part of a community. That secures them as brand loyalists.

3) To build your reputation: The content and quality of your posts enables you to demonstrate your expertise and reaffirm your reputation as an expert in your field.

4) To share your thoughts and opinions: Do you have an opinion on a trending topic – like tipping or the paleo diet – that you really want to share? Blog it. But, blog wisely and avoid politics – or else!

5) To have fun: Share the news! Share some excitement

Dame Paris Wolfe is an award-winning writer, editor, and author of two blogs: The Herb Society of America and Willoughby Outdoor Market. She also is founder and administrator of “NEO Foodies, Ashtabula Wining and Dining,” and a contributor to The News-Herald, Edible Cleveland, Northeast Ohio Boomer, Crain's Cleveland Business, American Iron, and more. Contact her at 440-867-8966, pariswolfe@yahoo.com, Twitter @pariswolfe, Instagram pariswolfe.

Article originally published in Dames Dish! – Cleveland's Les Dames d'Escoffier monthly newsletter. Read more of newsletter here.