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.