Welcome 2016 New and Reinstated Members

A warm welcome to the 8 new LDEI Chicago members, 2 reinstated members and 1 new dual member. Read on to learn more about these accomplished women in food.

Toni Cox Toni, Owner, Patisserie & Café

Toni Marie Cox is an artist, pastry chef, and proprietress with a BA in fine arts from the U of I, Chicago. She is former Executive Pastry Chef of the Mayfair Regent Hotel in Chicago and The Disneyland Hotel in Paris. Since 1994, Toni has been owner/chef of Toni Patisserie in Hinsdale and in 2011 opened Toni Patisserie & Café in Chicago. Toni feels her strongest professional quality is her work ethic and ”Whatever it takes attitude.”

Charla Draper, Foodconsultant/Owner, It’s Food Biz

Charla is an accomplished food professional with diversified experience in marketing and editorial communications. She is a former Food Editor for Ebony and Southern Living magazine, and owner of It’s Food Biz! Consulting. It’s Food Biz! provides marketing services for food and food related products. Her work has been featured on numerous digital sites including TODAY.com. Her food blog is ChowChow & Soul. Charla is looking forward to contribute to Les Dames via mentoring and our community service projects.

Tamara Franck, Senior Account Executive, Estes Public Relations

Tamara is a Senior Account Executive at Estes Public Relations with 25 years of experience in food-related consumer and foodservice public relations. She has worked in culinary advertising, promotions and new product development. At Estes, Tammie utilizes her public relations background and her personal experience of owning and running French restaurants and bakeries in Nashville, Tenn. She “believes firmly in supporting and furthering women and their opportunites in the culinary professions.”

Claudia Jendron, Head Brewer, Temperance Brewing

Claudia is the head brewer at Temperance Beer Company. Originally from South Carolina, she moved to Chicago in 2009 to continue her career in marine biology. She took a temporary job as a receptionist at Goose Island that turned into a complete career change. She became a brewer at Goose Island in 2012 and a year and half later, started Evanston’s first brewery since Prohibition. Claudia loves “educating people about craft beer,” which will be fun for us!

Laura Levy Shatkin, Freelance Writer and Podcaster

Laura is a veteran multi-media journalist and Certified Sommelier, who has spent the past 18 years crafting fascinating stories on food, wine, spirits and travel. Her accomplishments include Restaurant Critic/Wine Guru at the Chicago Reader, Broadcast TV and Video with WineTasteTV.com and “Taste” on NBC5 Chicago, and most recently, Laura launched the podcast SommTalks.com, which is on iTunes and TuneIn Radio. Laura would like to “collaborate with other impassioned women in my field to give back, help each other and socialize.”

Laura Parsons, Pastry Chef, Conway Farms Golf Club

Laura has been the Pastry Chef at Conway Farms Golf Club since 2012. After graduating from The French Pastry School in 2003, she has worked in many outlets as a pastry chef. Once Laura started working in private clubs, she knew that it was the best place for her. She is looking forward to “building up younger woman interested in the field.”

Raeanne Sarazen, Registered Dietitian, Writer and Chef

Raeanne is a registered dietitian and chef, who specializes in traditional and digital forms of culinary and nutrition communications. Her educational background, 20-plus years of experience in settings, such as Trotters to Go, Edelman Public Relations, the CHICAGO TRIBUNE Test Kitchen and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides a breadth and depth of food and nutrition expertise. Raeanne believes “in the power of women sharing with each other their life and work experiences, as well as their expertise….and is looking forward to “the opportunity to be a Chicago Les Dames member.”

Susan Szymanski, Vice President of Marketing, SPINS LLC

Susan is Vice President of Marketing for SPINS, with responsibility for the brand’s footprint and marketing strategy for a growing food research company. This includes brand positioning, custom content, digital marketing, event planning and execution. Susan already has a great deal of experience mentoring women, who have succeeded in moving their careers to a high level of responsibility and visibility, which will wonderful for Les Dames.


Mary Kay Halston, Culinary Operations

Mary Kay Halston is a professionally trained Chef and Pastry Chef from The Culinary Institute of America 1989 and 1993. She is former Vice President of Culinary Operations at Corner Bakery and New Product Development /Bakery Manager, La Brea Bakery. Mary Kay is “interested in being a catalyst for others success”, by supporting business and individuals in the field of Culinary Arts, and connecting people within the industry and community.

Marilyn Wilkinson, Public Relations Specialist/Founder, Food Communications

Marilyn Wilkinson is a retired public relations executive, having spent more than 25 years in the dairy industry. Her “dairy days” began at United Dairy Industry Association, a national promotion organization, before working for Wisconsin dairy farmers at Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (Wisconsin Cheese) as director of National Product Communications. Marilyn also has had extensive experience in Mexican foods and cooking. She worked with noted Mexican chef Patricia Quintana for several years, culminating with the best-selling Taste of Mexico cookbook (Stewart, Tabori and Chang) to which she was consulting editor.

New Dual Member:

Sandra Lach Arlinghaus

Founding member and past president of the Ann Arbor LDEI Chapter, which was found in 2015. Sandra and her husband, Bill, donated all fo the culinary books, file and papers of her mother, Alma Lach, to the Joseph Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago Library. Sandra wishes to have a local Chicago present with LDEI to “facilitate interaction between the academic and culinary worlds.”

Leave a Reply