Cleveland LDEI Announces 2022 Grant Recipient

Local nonprofit Cleveland Seed Bank plants real ‘seeds of change’

By Elaine Cicora

The Cleveland Seed Bank The Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International is pleased to announce that local nonprofit, The Cleveland Seed Bank, is the 2022 recipient of our Green Tables Initiative Grant.

The Cleveland Seed Bank is the domestic work of The Hummingbird Project, an international nonprofit based in Cleveland, Ohio. It aims to safeguard and restore the biological diversity vital for sustainable agriculture, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“The Cleveland Les Dames chapter feels strongly about supporting organizations such as this, that benefit local foods systems,” says chapter member and grants committee chairperson Carol Hacker. “Connecting and educating members of the local community builds strength in neighborhoods and improves everyone's lives.”

The $2,000 grant will be used to support the Seed Bank’s Climate Change Speaker Series, a monthly series of speaker-led events surrounding the issue of climate change as it relates to food insecurity, healthy eating and our food system. According to Hummingbird Project co-founder and executive director, Marilyn McHugh, the topics have been chosen with a “seed to table” mindset, which will allow participants to confidently prepare home gardens, grow food, know where their food comes from, save adaptable seed, attract local pollinators and minimize waste – thereby helping build a local food system in Northeast Ohio that is more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Thus far, topics in the series have included soil blocking and seed starting, composting, use of organic fertilizers, and a cooking demo featuring “Glorious Greens.”

All workshops are presented in the classroom space at local nonprofit Cleveland Roots – coincidentally, the 2019 recipient of LDEI-Cleveland’s Green Tables grant – and have attracted a multicultural, intergenerational audience of “people who are passionate about local food and knowing where their food comes from,” says Marilyn.

“We wanted to offer subjects that would be engaging and interactive,” she continues. “The fact that the classroom is right next to Cleveland Roots’ greenhouse is a real plus. We can be teaching in the classroom and then walk right next door to the greenhouse and actually show participants just what we have been talking about.”

Founded in 2011 by Marilyn and her husband, Chris Kennedy, the Hummingbird Project and its initiatives have focused on reconnecting people to the natural world and empowering community resilience through ecological regeneration and sustainable practices. Chris is a professional educator and Marilyn is a biologist, soil microbiologist, researcher, avid seed saver and full-time staffer with the National Institutes of Health. Together, Marilyn says, they envision initiatives like the Cleveland Seed Bank and the Speaker Series as providing participants with a set of “actionable skills” for tackling climate change.

In its role to promote locally adapted seeds, the Cleveland Seed Bank operates in partnership with 20 local public libraries, comprising seven public-library systems and three counties. Participants are able to “borrow” seeds from their library, plant them in their gardens, and enjoy their harvests. Then, they save the seeds from their mature plants and may either share them with their community or bring them to the annual Winter Seed Swap, an immensely popular event attracting up to 500 eager participants. The Seed Bank also hosts various plant sales and swaps, including a recent one at a local brewery. “It has been so much fun to build these programs,” says Marilyn. “And now, especially in the wake of COVID, there is so much happiness and joy in being in community again!”

Just how do locally adapted seeds play a role in fighting climate change? Marilyn explains. “Seeds are living embryos,” she says. “Every seed is alive, and the ones we plant in Cleveland and save, year after year, adapt. They have memories of the challenges faced by their ancestors, and they adapt: to our weather, our water and our soil. This is the real solution: for our farmers to grow resilient, adapted seeds, working with Mother Nature and not against her. All that adaptability is right there in the seeds.”

While admitting that the pressures of climate change are no longer theoretical, Marilyn says she holds out hope for effective solutions. “I envision a world that is inspired by nature, where we look to nature to learn how to solve our problems, and so create healthy, resilient, abundant livelihoods. By that, I mean we are not polluting, not damaging our ecosystem, but are enhancing biodiversity and regenerating healthy ecosystems.

“I am hugely optimistic,” she concludes. “Every time I see a seed sprout, it gives me hope.”

The Climate Change Speaker Series is free and open to the public. Go here to find a listing of upcoming workshops and other special events sponsored by The Hummingbird Project. While you’re there, you can sign up for their newsletter, or connect with them on Facebook.

“LDEI’s Green Tables Initiative allows each chapter to support programs in their community that deepen the relationship between locally grown food and what's on our plates,” says Cleveland LDEI chapter president Beth Davis-Noragon. “We are very excited to support the Cleveland Seed Bank and are thrilled that the program aligns with the Initiative literally from a ground-up basis. But it goes much deeper than seeds-in-dirt, by addressing the even bigger picture of climate change through local gardens and their impact on creating more sustainable food systems.

“Not only is it about local food, it’s good food for thought.”
Seed Library Seed Class
Cleveland Seed Swap


Cleveland, We Have a Winner!

CLE Urban Winery founder Destiny Burns wins ‘Legacy’ Award from Les Dames d’Escoffier International

By Elaine Cicora

Members of the Cleveland chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International couldn’t be more proud of Destiny Burns, who earlier this spring was chosen as the 2020 winner of the Wine & Hospitality Award – one of six Legacy Awards given out annually by the parent organization.

A native Clevelander, Destiny was one of 53 international candidates vying for the prestigious awards, which provide targeted mentorship opportunities for professional women in the food, fine beverage, and hospitality industries.

Destiny is the founder and owner of CLE Urban Winery in Cleveland Heights. Her mentorship will be provided by Wente Family Estates in Livermore Valley, California, the oldest continuously operated, family-owned winery in the country. During her time with Wente, Destiny will enjoy in-depth mentoring by Dame Amy Hoopes, president; Dame Carolyn Wente, fourth generation winegrower and CEO; and Karl Wente, fifth generation winemaker and COO, learning about Wente Vineyards viticulture, winemaking, and wine and food pairing philosophies. She will also learn about the winery’s national branding strategies and marketing plans, and have an opportunity to tour and taste at other award-winning wineries around the Livermore Valley.

Cleveland Dame Shara Bohach has served on the Legacy Awards committee for 5 years – two years as chair – and helped review the applications. “Destiny embodies so many ideals of LDEI’s Legacy Awards, and is the perfect recipient of the wine award at Wente. Her drive to further her wine education, her generosity and support of her local community, her unique venture creating a winery that celebrates Cleveland and creates community, her history of service to others… These are all hallmarks of what we look for in a candidate.”

It’s been a long road to winemaking for this retired Navy officer and Russian linguist, who went on to work for 13 years as a development executive for large defense companies in Washington, D.C. But with her adult daughter launched and her own 50th birthday behind her, Destiny determined to move back to Cleveland and chart a new course. Her dream? A welcoming space for her neighbors to gather and learn about wine in a relaxed setting. In 2016, that dream blossomed into CLE Urban Winery on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.

The winery sources its grapes from around the country, freeing Destiny from the need to own a vineyard. Offerings include reds, whites, and fruit-infused wines – all brandishing labels that celebrate such local landmarks as Playhouse Square, Murray Hill, and Lake Erie.

But beyond just making wine, Destiny had another goal: building a sense of community, similar to what she had observed in Cleveland’s small craft-beer breweries.

Cleveland Dame and food stylist/recipe developer Melissa McClelland, a Cleveland Heights resident, nominated Destiny for the award, after being deeply moved by how quickly the winery grew into a neighborhood hub. “Cleveland Heights is an extraordinarily diverse place, but there are not many spots where a wide range of people come together and feel welcome,” Melissa notes. “But with the winery’s garage doors flung up and live music pouring out into the street, CLE Urban Winery quickly became a place for the entire neighborhood to check out. Destiny saw her business as a way to improve her city and bring us all together in a truly tasty way.”

As for Destiny, she says she is delighted with the opportunity the award provides. “For me, as a relative newcomer, to get to work with a multi-generational winery like Wente – and bring that learning back to Cleveland – is an absolute godsend, especially in these crazy times. I had no expectation whatsoever I would win the award, but I am absolutely thrilled! Personally and professionally, I think this will be a game changer.”

Please join all of us in congratulating Destiny on her accomplishment!


LDEI Cleveland Announces Scholarship Winner

By Paris Wolfe

Gabrielle Shipta
LDEI Cleveland Scholarship Recipient
Gabrielle Shipta, 25, received the 2020 Culinary Scholarship, sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI). She will use the $2,000 prize to help with tuition as she pursues an associate degree in Hospitality Management with a focus on Culinary Arts at Cuyahoga Community College.

Gabrielle has long been interested in nutrition. “I started getting really into it in middle school,” says the Seven Hills resident. “My mom taught me to read food labels and we ate pretty healthy. I became more interested in nutrition and cooking thanks to a home economics class. The passion derived from there in wanting to keep improving my own health and eating.”

That led her to the dietetics program at Ohio University. Like many students she changed direction her junior year. She says, “I had an epiphany and realized that I like a hands-on approach. I liked cooking and food science.”

And so, Gabrielle shifted focus to culinary nutrition. “I learned a lot and worked more in a kitchen setting. I realized then that I didn’t want to be in a clinical setting, but in a kitchen.”

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in applied nutrition from OU in 2017. She immediately took a job as a part-time sous chef developing culinary medicine in the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic. There she works with Chef Jim Perko and helps patients learn more about food as medicine.

Working at The Cleveland Clinic expanded Gabrielle’s worldview and her desire for culinary skills. Thus, she enrolled in the two-year program at Cuyahoga Community College. Resistant to new student loans, she works two jobs – at The Cleveland Clinic and at Little Birdie Wine Nest in Parma – to earn tuition money.

“I really enjoy hospitality and being creative in the kitchen,” says Gabrielle. “I get pleasure out of serving others and what you can make and present. I like the busy-ness of it.”

During the COVID crisis, classes are online and work has changed. Gabrielle says she spends much more time at a desk. “I’m itching to get up and prep and cook. I miss the craziness and the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.”

Like a true millennial she eschews the idea of a favorite cookbook and prefers social media to inspire her personal cooking. “I use Pinterest,” she says. “I look on Instagram and watch videos. Then I’ll tweak ideas how I like them.”

When she finishes her culinary degree, Gabrielle, wants to work full time at The Cleveland Clinic. Long term she’d like to lead the Culinary Medicine Program and/or become an executive chef. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives through food. Whether it be demonstrating knife skills and cooking skills for an elderly couple wanting to live longer, or teaching quick, easy, healthful meals for a mom developing cooking memories in her children’s lives,” she says, “food is the driving force in my life.”

The LDEI Cleveland Chapter $2,000 scholarship is used to assist and promote women in the professions of food, wine and hospitality. “The award is based on academic accomplishments, career goals, culinary experience, professional and personal references, and financial need,” says Carol Hacker, chair of the Cleveland Chapter’s Scholarship Committee. “Gabrielle is an ideal winner.”


"Lifting Our Spirits" In the Company of Friends


Zoom gathering on March 26 brings ‘cheers!’ and good cheer

By Elaine T. Cicora; Screenshot courtesy of Beth Davis-Noragon

Nine smiling faces, cocktails firmly in hand, beamed into homes across Northeast Ohio last Thursday at 6:30 p.m., as Cleveland chapter president Beth Davis-Noragon hosted our first virtual happy hour. (One additional member joined us by phone, for a total of 10 intrepid Dames in attendance.)

We “Zoom”-ed in from such Ohio locales as Seville and Canton to the south, Geneva to the east, and Rocky River to the west, all brought together by a chance for some (virtual) face-to-face time, an opportunity to share some mutual support, and – just maybe – an excuse for some communal happy-hour sipping.

During our 45-minute “gathering,” the conversational gambits ranged from the light hearted (“What are you drinking?” answered by a show of libations that included Negronis, espresso martinis, perfect Manhattans, and M Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir, among others), to the serious (“How’s your work situation?” with answers that ranged from furloughs and slow-downs to “no effects yet”).

Other timely topics included the vagaries of InstaCart (expect a wait), proper washing techniques for leafy greens (a little soap is okay), and “takeout: yay or nay?” (mostly “yays”).

No, we definitely did not solve many of the myriad challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. But at least for a while we had this: We were in the company of friends.

Please join us for Virtual Happy Hour #2 at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, on Zoom; look for a LDEI-Cleveland email with sign-in information.



Current and Prospective Members Mix and Mingle at Der Braumeister

By Beth Schriebman-Gehring and Paris Wolfe

LDEI Cleveland Members and Guests at Der Braumeister

On the last Monday in January, the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International welcomed six guests/prospective members to its monthly meeting. All are experienced professionals in the restaurant and hospitality industries, and were invited to submit membership applications by February 1.

During the meeting at Der Braumeister all members and guests introduced themselves and shared their reasons for current or future membership. Consistent themes included a desire for comradery, networking, and education as well as a desire to support other women in the industry and to support the scholarships and grants program.

As part of new business President Beth Davis-Noragan reported that Dame Paris Wolfe, freelance writer, will serve as chair of the Communications Committee.

Then the socializing began over a German-influenced buffet provided by Dame Jenn Wirtz, third-generation owner of this almost 40-year-old establishment.

Der Braumeister’s menu is inspired by Bavarian and European favorites. The buffet table started with charcuterie plates studded with grapes, cheese, speck and plenty of gherkins. The buffet was balanced with two types of cucumber salad; German lox with cucumber, dill, lemon on pumpernickel; sauerkraut balls and potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream.

While dinner was delightful, dessert stole the show. The sour cherry strudel was flaky and buttery with just the right amount of filling and the most decadent mini cream puffs – made by Jenn’s mom – were topped with a semi-sweet chocolate ganache. Rumor has it some Dames had more than one! #ldeigratitude

Learn more about membership in LDEI.


Inspired by Nashville #ldeigratitude

By Shara Bohach

The LDEI conference in Nashville was incredibly inspiring and the Nashville Dames really went above and beyond. From the welcome bag full of goodies, to the programming and evening sessions, conference was full of inspiring words, truly delicious food and drink, and wonderful music.

We were collectively brought to tears by several touching moments. There wasn’t a dry eye when Becca Stevens presented the video for “Love Heals” – a song written by her Grammy-winning songwriter husband, sung by their son, inspired by her book of the same name, with the video lip synced by the women she has helped to heal. Not a dry eye when LDEI Founder Carol Brock stood and thanked everyone for all of the love, support and cards during her illness, and said it is what pulled her through. And a personally moving moment at the Grande Dame reception, when our own Bev Shaffer took the stage to become LDEI president, with her husband John seated at the front table with us cheering her on.

Themes and Mantras
There were some themes that really ran through conference – sentiments heard in multiple sessions from different speakers.

Be Generous
Both with others and with yourself. Be welcoming. We are in the business of hospitality, so show that welcoming spirit to everyone.

Embrace Mistakes
Be generous with yourself – know that you will make mistakes, and that it is ok. You learn more from mistakes than anything else. Grow through them.

Be Authentic
Both as a generality (with yourself and others) and in what you deliver on social media.

Some examples…

Keynote speaker Maneet Chauhan, a sparkly, effervescent owner of 4 restaurants and 3 breweries, enthused that the more genuine you are on social media, the more engagement you will get. She had someone else do it for a while and engagement went way down. People knew it wasn't her. She now responds to every single post.

The Doing Digital Right session emphasized that social media has to be authentic and personal. The rough-around-the-edges posts get the best response because they show real life. Show them the behind the scenes, and the gritty mishaps. It's about the people not the product. It’s not about selling the sweatshirts – but you might be wearing the sweatshirt in the video you post!

Carla Hall talked about how insecurity kept her from being authentic early on. How nervous she was on her first competition show against younger chefs. She told us of ups and downs and the voice of self-doubt. Her advice? Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen? If it's not death, then that's a calming realization and you will be ok.

She also emphasized that without adversity and conflict you will never grow. In the face of adversity, seek out the knowledge you need to make yourself better. This will give you the confidence to do it. You grow through it. Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Facing adversity, you can feel defensive, but it is better to ask yourself why you are facing it, and advocate for yourself and prove yourself.

Stronger Together
Another thread through conference was strength in women, and being stronger together through LDEI.

Over a delightful Bollywood breakfast, keynote speaker Maneet Chauhan talked about growing up in India, living and working in New York, and what led her and her family to end up in Nashville, where they have built so much. She shared thoughtful insights about how she has become so successful in this male dominated field.

  • There are no shortcuts to success – her parents instilled in her that you must work hard, and be the best.
  • Work-life balance doesn't exist. Balance comes from living in the moment, and giving 100% at that moment. That way you can be fair to your work, and fair to your family.
  • Reaching goals, no matter how outrageous – you set them, meet them, and then set the next goals. Dream big.
  • Have the adaptability to change course.
  • Generosity – be generous with others and yourself. You will make mistakes, it's ok. You learn more from mistakes than anything else.
  • It’s all in your attitude. Always be ready to learn. Every person you meet has something to teach you, so be open to that.

She also left us with a quote that resonated.
“A rising tide raises all ships. We are all ships and LDEI is our tide.”

The Nashville conference was 3 days of non-stop inspiration, friendship, music, food and drink. It truly lived up to its tagline “Rhythm and Roots.” A month and a half later, back in the hectic pace of things, I still feel recharged and inspired to honor and practice the mantras I heard again and again at conference. #ldeigratitude to the Nashville Dames.


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