11/18/19

Our ‘Jersey Girl’ Is In the House!

By Elaine Cicora
Photos by Shara Bohach and Mike Matson-Mathes

Les Dames d'Escoffier International (LDEI)
President, Bev Shaffer

Five Dames from Cleveland were among more than 300 members cheering on our own Bev Shaffer last month, as she assumed the presidency of the national LDEI board. Bev stepped into her new role on Saturday, Oct. 26, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the 2019 LDEI Conference.

For the five of us in the audience – Beth Davis-Noragon, Britt Horrocks, Carol Hatcher, Shara Bohach and myself – it was a moment of immense pride, as it was for Bev’s husband, John, and son, Ray, who also were on hand to celebrate her accomplishment.

A New Jersey native and long-time resident of Medina, Bev has an impressive, 30-year collection of culinary bona fides to back her up. Most recently she was Corporate Chef and Manager of Recipe Development for Vitamix World Headquarters. She has authored six cookbooks, developed over 18,000 recipes, and has written about food and travel for several Cleveland newspapers and magazines. She produced an award-winning television series for cable TV and has cooked and presented at the James Beard House in New York.

She is also a founder and past-president of the Cleveland LDEI chapter, where she remains a highly respected and deeply committed member.

Prior to her appointment as president, Bev served on the LDEI board contributing expertise in the areas of sponsorship and partner development, new chapter outreach and chapter communication. She follows immediate past-president Ann Stratte, from Washington, D.C., into the one-year position. Among Bev’s initiatives will be crafting a Strategic Plan for the organization and encouraging the membership to take time to practice gratitude. She invites all members to share with her what they are grateful for, either by email or on the LDEI social media platforms with #ldeigratitude.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to congratulate Bev, please take a moment to do so now.


Cleveland Dames from left, Shara Bohach, Beth Davis-Noragon,
Carol Hacker, Elaine Cicora, Bev Shaffer, Britt-Marie Horrocks

From left. Grande Dame Nora Pouillon, Ann Stratte,
Founder Carol Brock, President Bev Shaffer, Hayley Matson-Mathes

Outgoing LDEI President Ann Stratte
congratulating incoming LDEI President Bev Shaffer

11/12/19

Bev Shaffer Named President of Les Dames d’Escoffier International

Bev Shaffer, President
Les Dames d’Escoffier International
Bev Shaffer Named President of Les Dames d’Escoffier International

On Saturday, October 26, 2019, before an audience of over 300 in Nashville, TN, Beverly Shaffer, owner of COOK.WRITE.TRAVEL.REPEAT (a culinary consulting company in Cleveland, OH), was named President of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI).

LDEI includes over 2,400 women leaders and luminaries in a variety of professions within food, fine beverage and hospitality industries who share a vision to improve lives through education and philanthropy.

Shaffer follows Ann Stratte (Washington, DC) who will serve as past president on the board of directors. Shaffer will guide the organization over the next year and assist in the development of the 2020 conference slated for Oct. 15-18 in New York, NY.

Prior to her appointment as president, Shaffer served on the LDEI board contributing expertise in the areas of sponsorship and partner development, new chapter outreach and chapter communication. She is a founding member and past president of the Cleveland, OH chapter.

Shaffer brings to the office more than 30 years of culinary experience. Most recently she was Corporate Chef and Manager of Recipe Development for Vitamix World Headquarters. She has authored six cookbooks, developed over 18,000 recipes, and has written about food and travel for several Cleveland, OH newspapers and magazines. She produced an award-winning television series for cable TV and has cooked and presented at the James Beard House in New York, NY.

While all things culinary are at the forefront of Shaffer’s life experience, she is also an advocate and ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement and a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association.

LDEI is an international organization of women leaders who create a supportive culture in their communities to achieve excellence in the food, beverage, and hospitality professions. To do this, over 2,400 members in 44 chapters worldwide provide leadership, educational opportunities and host philanthropic events within their communities. For more information, visit LDEI.org, FB, Insta, Linkedin or Twitter

11/11/19

A Growing Community

By Elaine Cicora
Photos by Beth Segal


It’s one thing to vote to award a $2,000 grant to a local “farm to fork” operation. It is another thing entirely to see, first hand, the wonderful work that that organization is doing.

That was our pleasure and privilege on Monday, Nov. 4, when chapter members were guests at Cleveland Roots, our 2019 Green Tables grant winner.

Executive director Maria Livers, garden manager Lisa Hardin, and chef Giovanna Mingrone, onsite partner and founder of Stone Soup Cle, gave us a warm welcome and a charming space for our business meeting and potluck inside their West 41st Street headquarters, on agricultural property that dates back to the 1880s. Following our meeting, the trio of inspiring women provided an in-depth tour of the greenhouses, gardens and market store that make up this part of the project.

Our grant award went to formalize and continue the organization’s Food & Garden Series, which helps residents of the surrounding Clark-Fulton neighborhood learn to grow and prepare healthy foods. We learned that the neighborhood is home to people of many nationalities, languages and cultures, including a number of Latin American countries and “almost every African nation.” Access to fresh, wholesome, and reasonably priced foods is limited in the area, as is household income. While many in the community were experienced gardeners in their homelands, lack of seed, space and equipment has limited their ability to grow their own food in Cleveland. In addition, unfamiliar crops and weather conditions can make growing and food prep a challenge.

These are just a few of the barriers that the Food & Garden Series helps community members overcome, with “classes that share a topic and come at it both from the gardening and the food angles in the same session. … Classes address questions about the benefits of growing, preparing and eating healthy food, how to grow from seed, growing in an urban setting, gardening techniques, care and maintenance of the garden, and the harvest, preservation and preparation of produce from garden to table” (from Cleveland Roots’ 2019 grant proposal).

More importantly, though, we learned that Cleveland Roots provides a place – within a tranquil urban oasis comprising 35 raised beds, picnic tables, a well-equipped tool shed, and welcoming space for classes -- of succor, sustenance and community building. “This has been a blessing and a relief for our clients,” Maria said of the property. “Many of them had been subsistence farmers in their home countries. At least here we can give them a 4-by-8-foot plot of land and place to relax. Sometimes that feeds you more than growing a potato.”

Giovanna also took time to talk to us about Stone Soup CLE, a nonprofit she founded in 2015 to rescue nutritious food from landfills and direct it to the dinner tables of those who need it most. A recent grant has allowed her to remodel space inside the Cleveland Roots headquarters for Stone Soup operations, installing a combo walk-in cooler and freezer to facilitate food storage, and creating a large space for organizing and sorting donations. In addition to running her own operation out of the space, Giovanna, a Culinary Institute of America alum and culinary instructor at Cuyahoga Community College, also assists in the culinary education segment of the Food & Garden Series.

We ended our tour with a peek inside the market store, a former flower shop operated by the Berghaus family, dating back to 1889. Open on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. during the growing season, the store serves as a very low-priced outlet for crops grown on Cleveland Roots’ Richfield Township farm, as well as a distribution point for free food gathered as part of the Stone Soup CLE project. (Winter hours are under consideration.) “No one is ever turned away for lack of money,” said Maria. “It’s a ‘pay as you can’ system.”

For those of us who took part in the tour, it seemed clear that our grant money, as proposed and awarded, did indeed help the organization expand the Food & Garden Series, which welcomed between 11 and 20 students at each of six classes this summer. And as part of the compassionate, community-building program that is Cleveland Roots, the cause could not have been more worthy.

“We did a lot of classes this summer, that’s for sure,” Giovanna told us. “Your grant had legs.”


11/4/19

The Future of Food

‘What will we eat, and where will it come from?’ is a thru-line at the 2019 LDEI Conference

Story and photos by Elaine T. Cicora

Who doesn’t like to eat? But in a future dominated by population growth, a shrinking land supply, and the changing demographics of the American farmer, fulfilling that need may become a challenge.

In several Conference sessions, attendees received surprising insights into the future of food.

Author, Amanda Little
In a fascinating Friday session entitled The Fate of Food: An Irony of Hunger and Waste, author and journalism professor Amanda Little walked us through a central paradox: Our global population is expanding, and as people attain a more affluent lifestyle, they crave a more intensive diet. Yet the amount of arable land and global crop yields are shrinking – to the point that some experts claim that by mid-century, global warming may reach the point where agriculture can no longer support the human population.

While that is a terrifying conclusion, Amanda has spent years investigating the realities. The result is her book, The Fate of Food, a text that explores the intersection of environment and technology and finds reasons for hope.

After more than 5 years of international reporting on “new normalities” like shifting seasons, warming waters, insect and disease infestations, and the profound disruptions in production that are facing growers all over the world, Amanda has concluded that the thru-line is climate change. “Climate change is something we can taste,” she told attendees. “This is not partisanship. Climate change is of interest to anyone who eats.”

Of course, there is an additional paradox to consider: While agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change, it is also its major driver. Among its impacts, agriculture uses more than 70 percent of the world’s fresh water; one-third of the world’s grain goes toward feeding livestock; agro-chemicals contribute to greenhouse gases and decimate beneficial insect populations; and even the very fact of tilling the soil releases carbon into the air. The result, Amanda says, is that technology has “real motivation” to find some solutions.

On the horizon are things like an AI weeder, which can kill tiny weeds with a small but intense blast of fertilizer; “toilet to tap” processes that yield drinkable water from treated sewage; “smart water networks” that use nanotechnology to find and repair pipe leaks; nutrition pellets created by 3-D printers; and cell-based meats, an outgrowth of medical research, that are grown in laboratories

At the same time, the author notes, many of us are deeply skeptical of technology’s ability to solve the problems: Historical fixes, after all, have led us to a landscape dominated by agro-chemicals, GMOs, monoculture, and preserved convenience foods. No surprise we are deep in a period of “food nostalgia,” that has launched everything from agro-tourism to a renaissance in backyard gardening
“There is so much we can learn from the past,” Amanda said, especially when it comes to things like ways to build healthy, resilient soils. But, as many of us realize, the chances of each family growing enough food to be self-sustaining are slim.

So what is the way forward? “It is not tech,” the author told us. “And it is not Little House on the Prairie.” But there is a third path, she says, that integrates the best of both worlds and can help solve the coming problems.

From left, Peggy Marchetti Madison, Kia Jarmon,
Dame Sylvia Ganier, and Caroline McDonald
On Saturday, in a panel discussion entitled Women on the Farm: Creativity and Agro-tourism, attendees heard from three farmers and one communications pro – women, all – who are forging that path.

Dame Sylvia Gainer, owner of the 350-acre Green Door Gourmet organic farm outside Nashville, served as moderator and opened the presentation with some vital statistics: According to the USDA, the average farmer is white, male and 59 years old.

Change, however, is coming in the form of female farmers; in fact, Sylvia said, one-third of all new farmers are women. Joining Sylvia were Caroline McDonald, who operates a half-acre, intensely planted, no-till market garden; Peggy Marchetti Madison, who owns 38 acres, with 6 in flower production; and Kia Jarmon, PR and communications pro in Nashville.

Thanks to the local food movement, the growth of farmers’ markets, and the boom in agro-tourism, the skills of female farmers are now in great demand, the speakers agreed. Most especially, women’s ability to tell the stories behind the food is enormously important, particularly in light of educating non-farmers in the nutritional, culinary and sustainability aspects of locally grown products.

“We are naturally storytellers,” Kia explained. “But it matters how we tell our stories and that we don’t discount our achievements. Our message should not just be, ‘I have a garden,’ but, ‘I am feeding my children, I am working against climate change.’”

Women also need to take back the narrative, the panelists agreed. For instance, while male commodity farmers usually get the most attention, it is women who have traditionally grown the food and medicine. “What fed my family growing up was the half-acre garden that my mom and grandma had,” said Peggy. “Women have always been farmers; they just called us gardeners.”

The panelists suggested a variety of ways to support emerging female farmers. Among them:
  • Stop denigrating farming as a “bad job choice” for young people. Instead assure young women that, with mentoring, they will find farming to be “a wonderful way to make living,” and “an economically viable career choice.”
  • Amend laws to help keep family farms in the family.
  • Help ensure women have equitable access to land and money.
  • Remember that, when it comes to acreage and equipment, bigger is not always better. “You don’t need a lot of fancy stuff; you just need to do what you do best,” said Peggy.
  • •And finally, respect female farmers’ expertise. “When you go to the farmers’ market, talk to the female farmers,” said Peggy. “They are the ones with the knowledge. They’re the ones whose butts are off the tractor and whose hands are in the dirt.”

10/22/19

Reasons to Celebrate

By Elaine T. Cicora

Our annual LDEI meeting has become not only a time to plan for our chapter’s future, but a time to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year. On that score, the 14 members who gathered at Toast, on Sept. 23, had much reason to feel proud.

At the top of the list, of course, was SummerDine19, which proved to be our most successful fundraiser ever, adding nearly $4,000 to our grants and scholarship fund and fully funding next year’s awards. Other highlights included the successful Dinner in the Dark with Dames fundraiser in June, which raised nearly $3,000 for our grants and scholarship fund; our first-ever $2,000 culinary scholarship award, made to Melissa Holden; and our $2,000 2019 Green Tables grant, made to Cleveland Roots. (If you wish to learn more about Cleveland Roots, be sure to register now for our Nov. 4 meeting, which will be held at the facility!)

In between our business meeting and the delicious dinner prepared for us by Toast chef-owner Jillian Davis, we took time to mark our ongoing commitments — to the chapter, to our mission and to each other — by taking part in our chapter’s first (but not last!) “pinning ceremony,” which saw each member receiving a lovely enamel membership pin. Membership chair Marcie Barker began the ceremony by pinning new member Jenn Wirtz. President Beth Davis-Noragon then introduced each of the other members in attendance, shared some kind words about them, and pinned them as well; fittingly, the first pins went to founding members Crickett Karson and Bev Shaffer. And finally, vice president Britt Horrocks pinned Beth Davis-Noragon. The board looks forward to making this a part of every annual meeting from now on, as a way to welcome new members and reinforce our commitments. (And who doesn’t love a little LDEI bling?!)

We also marked the occasion with our annual chapter photograph, taken by photographer Dame Beth Segal, on Toast’s patio. (You can see it on our Facebook page.) Thanks, as always, Beth, for your artful eye and generous support!

Beth Davis-Noragon closed the meeting by issuing a challenge, asking each member of the chapter to recruit and sponsor at least one new member in the coming year.
A doubling of our numbers would surely be something to celebrate in 2020!

9/4/19

Fun, Funds & Fabulous Food: SummerDine 19 Was a Real Success

By Elaine T. Cicora
Photos by Elaine T. Cicora, Cynthia Shuster-Eakin, Shara Bohach, Bev Shaffer

This year’s SummerDine19, our chapter’s major fundraiser for our grants and scholarships program, was held on Wednesday, Aug. 21. The evening proved to be a rousing success, raising over $4,000 and fully funding next year’s awards.

In the process, 55 lucky diners (LDEI members and non-members alike) contributed $80 each to the cause, in return for a very special dining experiences at one of 12 of the area’s top restaurants:

Each and every venue offered a specially designed, multi-course menu that highlighted its culinary style. At Spice Kitchen, for instance, 10 guests were treated to The Whole Beast Feast, an extraordinary spread wherein the guest of honor was a succulent roasted piglet, carved tableside by Chef Dave Blackburn. Meanwhile, at La Campagna, chef/owner and chapter member Carmella Fragassi presided over an authentic Italian repast that began with an Aperol Spritz, moved into the summertime classic “prosciutto e melon,” proceeded to homemade burrata ravioli, and reached its apex in a succulent pork rib eye, or eggplant Parmesan for the vegetarians.

At Vacarro’s, six diners were delighted by owner Raphael Vacarro’s friendly interactions, especially as he poured the wine pairings that accompanied each course. At Paladar, on the other hand, it was a series of rum tastings that won over the guests at the six-top.

Supporters who dined at Luxe are still raving about the five-course tasting menu, especially the perfectly prepared halibut, and the savory short rib served with ricotta gnocchi. At Michaelangelo’s, the star of the menu may well have been the saltimbocca, so full of flavor it literally “jumped in the mouth.” “Five courses of deliciousness!” exclaimed the guests who dined at Der Braumeister. And the lucky guests at Dante not only savored sumptuous dishes like tuna tartare topped with foie gras and truffle sauce, and a dessert tasting that included apple-rhubarb sorbet with fresh fig and kumquat, peach bars with almonds and Bing cherry puree, and chocolate mousse with homemade marshmallow and peanut butter ice cream – they got to do it all while seated at the Chef’s Table where they were personally served by Chef Dante Boccuzzi himself! (We understand the chef even delivered a goodbye hug as his guests departed!)

Thanks, and thanks again, to all the fine restaurants who supported SummerDine19, and to the discerning members of the Cleveland dining community who purchased tickets to join us.

Thanks as well to the chapter members who coordinated the event, and the members who sold or bought two or more tickets. We could not have had such a successful evening without your help!

















7/16/19

Brunching in the Garden

By Elaine T. Cicora
Photos by Elaine T. Cicora, Beth Davis-Noragon and Caroline Davis

Six dames and one guest came together on Sunday, July 14, for a potluck brunch and general membership meeting at Cavotta’s Garden Center & Urban Farm in Cleveland, a family operation founded in 1930 and currently run by Angela Cavottta, the third-generation owner. Beneath cloudless skies and surrounded by tidy gardens, vintage outdoor d├ęcor, and planters overflowing with colorful blooms, we enjoyed the chance for some task-focused conversation and planning, along with some very tasty brunch fare. Crisp, salty-sweet slices of bourbon-brown sugar bacon, cucumber tea sandwiches with lemongrass and ginger, cucumber-dill salad with sliced smoked salmon, tortellini salad, beautiful loaves of artisanal bread and toppings, and eclairs – all made an appearance. And what is brunch without a Mimosa or two? Happily, Cavotta’s newly opened Garden Bar was there to serve.