Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago Awards Scholarships to Nine Women

On Sept. 17, the Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago Scholarship Committee awarded scholarships totaling $30,000 to nine outstanding women pursuing culinary arts and hospitality education programs at four area schools. The Scholarship Committee received and reviewed 17 applications, inviting 11 women for personal interviews conducted by co-chairs Patricia Cobe and Joan Holleran Driggs, and committee members Mary Aregoni, Lois Levine, Phaedra Ruffalo, and Judy Hevrdejs-King. These are the impressive women who will receive scholarships and were honored at a reception at the French Pastry School.

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Anna Astashkina is enrolling in the Cake Program at the French Pastry School. She has given up a lot to get to this point, having emigrated from Russia with her husband so he could attend flight school. Now it is her turn to pursue her passion. She has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, but wishes to expand her skills as a baker and receive professional status and credentials, eventually sharing her knowledge by teaching cooking, baking and nutrition.

Gianina Gomez Cabrera is pursuing her culinary education at Kendall College. She came here from Peru to get a degree that will allow her to open a business that promotes nutrition and healthful global food. She has already operated a gourmet deli, then brought her children to Chicago, and attended St. Augustine College to learn English and start her culinary education.

Nina DeBoer attends Joliet Jr. College in the culinary arts program. She is an impressive self-starter, launching her own bakery and attaining Serv-Safe certification at the age of 12. Since then, she has baked thousands of cupcakes, created wedding cakes and catered large events. Nina has volunteered extensively, using her culinary skills to teach orphans and church groups.

Khrystyna Medvedyk emigrated from Ukraine where she experienced economic hardship and political unrest. Working at the Wit Hotel, she now has valuable hospitality experience, but her dream is to become a professional pastry chef. She is enrolled at the French Pastry School with the goal of opening a woman-operated business specializing in desserts that are delicious and healthful.

Jennifer Morley attends College of DuPage and is studying pastry arts. She is a mother of three children, one of whom is autistic. She is committed to completing her associate’s degree and pursuing her passion in baking. She already has demonstrated her expertise through volunteer work and a paid position at Meijer, where she custom decorates cakes.

Kelly Oatman grew up in Bolivia and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, where she earned an associate’s degree in culinary arts. Her true love, however, is baking and she is eager to extend her education one more year to get her certificate from the French Pastry School.

Ivry Radford is attending the pastry arts program at theCollege of DuPage, graduating in 2020. She has established a home-based bakery business called Ivry’s Delights that she wishes to expand into a storefront. Ivry had to withdraw from college when her son suffered a medical emergency, and had the motivation to re-enroll and continue her studies.

Mary Grace Go Steinbach  Grace moved here from the Philippines, where she worked as a data processor. She enrolled in the College of DuPage to earn an associate’s degree in culinary arts with the goal of expanding her food and wine expertise and eventually teaching. She already has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies, which deepened her knowledge of sustainability, the slow food movement and organic farming.

Leah Tibbs Leah decided to forge a new path into pastry arts. Over the last three years, with her passion for baking, she created a social media presence and website, connected with other women bakers and found a mentor. She works at Luxury Cake Company and has enrolled in the French Pastry School to get her professional credentials.

Huge thanks to the committee and to The French Pastry School for hosting a beautiful and delicious celebration of these outstanding scholarship recipients!

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