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.”