Each year, the board of Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago selects one member for an important lifetime achievement award – the Dame of Distinction honor. This member is one who has achieved excellence in her career and made outstanding contributions to the chapter.
This year, we are extremely proud to present Dame Ina Pinkney with the Dame of Distinction Award.
The award was presented at the annual business meeting and dinner of the Chicago chapter on Monday, June 11 by Dame Jennifer Bucko Lamplough, whose words are worthy of sharing verbatim, here:
The Breakfast Queen. Baker. Chef, Entrepreneur. Polio survivor and advocate. Champion of female culinary professionals. Captivating speaker and writer. Chicago culinary legend.
These are just a few ways to describe Dame Ina Pinkney. Aside from Ina’s long-standing presence in the Chicago food community, she is consistently a positive presence in Les Dames d’Escoffier and wonderful advocate of the organization for new and prospective members.
Ina became a member in 1985, sponsored by Elaine Sherman. She was on the board of directors in 1991 when Dame Nancy Brussat was president (the first time) and she stayed on for another two years as program chair when Dame Toria Emas was president.
Ina has worked on every Les Dames fundraising event during her time as a member, all while running her many business ventures including The Dessert Kitchen Ltd. and her renowned restaurant, Ina’s Kitchen, which quickly became Chicago’s premier breakfast restaurant. Ina’s Kitchen evolved into INA’S, an American Restaurant, serving not only breakfast, but also lunch and dinner. Ina was a true pioneer, establishing one of the first restaurants in what is now the restaurant mecca of Chicago – the West Loop.
In 2013, Ina made the decision to close her eponymous restaurant after 33 years in business. But before doing so, she authored a book entitled Ina’s Kitchen: Memories and Recipes from the Breakfast Queen that sold as fast as her famous Heavenly Hots did every morning at her restaurant.
Most recently, Ina served on the LDE Chicago board of directors again under President Veronica Hastings, and she recruited the group of young women chefs who created the amazing dinner at our most recent fundraiser, “Culinarium” in April.
Ina continues to work tirelessly in the culinary community to encourage and mentor young, up-and-coming chefs and restaurant owners. Never one to rest on her laurels, Ina recently celebrated four years as a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, publishing her monthly “Breakfast with Ina” stories, sharing new places to enjoy the most important meal of the day.
Ina also donates countless hours to Rotary Club and its mission to help eradicate polio, serving as a national and local ambassador and speaker. In fact, Rotary Club named Ina a top influencer in 2017 for her efforts to help eradicate polio.
Over the years, Ina also has been a leader in the effort to ban artificial trans fats in food, and she also led the group the supported the smoking ban in Chicago (which went into effect in 2006). She also created a “green” purchasing co-op for restaurants in Chicago, helping the industry become more sustainable.
On top of all this, Ina has been a guest chef, lecturer, culinary judge, emcee, keynote speaker as well as the subject of numerous national and local articles in print, online and on TV and radio.
What we are most proud to call her though, is our friend, and our Dame of Distinction for 2018. Thank you, Ina, for your dedication to the culinary and hospitality industries, to our chapter and for making a difference in our community. Congratulations!