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


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


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.”


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.”


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!


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!


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 décor, 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.


Dinner in the Dark with Dames

June 24, 2019

From Dame Carol Hacker’s irresistible Basil Vodka Lemonade to Dame Amanda Montague’s stunning strawberry-chocolate tart, last night’s Dinner in the Dark with Dames was a delicious success.

More than 70 devoted foodies and fans of Chef Brian Okin’s popular Dinner in the Dark series turned out to support our chapter’s culinary grants and scholarship programs and enjoy a multicourse menu created by chefs and chapter members Karen Small (Flying Fig), Heather Haviland (Lucky’s Café), Ruth Levine (former chef-owner of Bistro 185), Britt-Marie Horrocks (Levy Restaurants) and Amanda Montague (Lilly Handmade Chocolate). A group of Dames volunteered as the servers and bussers for the evening, allowing us to put even more proceeds towards our grants and scholarships. Thanks also go to Michael and Dawn Selzer of Private Reserve Wine, Stevee Wagner Terry of ICASI and all the great staffers, front and back of the house, who made this evening rock!

Not only was it a fun way to highlight the immense talents of our membership while raising funds to support the next generation of female culinarians, but it also was the perfect way to introduce our chapter to the broader community.

We hope many of last night’s guests will be inspired to support us in August, at SummerDine 2019, our major annual fundraiser. Tickets are now on sale, here!

And... by popular demand, here it is!
Dame Carol Hacker's Vodka Basil Lemonade
Photo by Mary Manno Sweeney

12 ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
12 ounce vodka (use the empty lemonade can to measure)
Big handful of fresh basil
12 ounces water (use the empty lemonade can to measure)

Combine the lemonade, vodka and basil in a blender and blend until the basil is pureed. Add the water and 7 or 8 ice cubes and blend until the ice is liquefied. Pour over ice in a glass to serve.

To make as a slushy drink: Eliminate the water and combine the lemonade, vodka and basil in a blender and blend until the basil is pureed. Fill the blender container with ice and blend until smooth and slushy.


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