Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) is a global philanthropic society of women leaders and trailblazers in the culinary, beverage and hospitality professions. The non-profit organization coordinates educational, community service, and charitable programs and events to foster excellence and promote achievements of women in the culinary arts.

The Chicago chapter was founded and incorporated in 1982. More than 100 members from all facets of the culinary and beverage industries work together to promote and advance the profound impact of women on Chicago’s vibrant culinary scene.

Today’s members include restaurateurs, chefs, nutritionists, food and beverage retailers, food, wine, spirits and beer importers and marketers, educators, communications professionals and journalists and others. Each year, the Chicago chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier awards upwards of $25,000 in scholarships to deserving candidates. Every other year, Les Dames d’Escoffiers Chicago hosts a Culinary Bazaar to support philanthropic efforts across Chicago.

Les Dames d’Escoffier is named after Auguste Escoffier, the most innovative chef in history whose philosophy and accomplishments still inspire culinary professionals today. As a legendary French chef, cookbook author and culinary innovator, he is credited for establishing modern-day restaurant operations and elevating the art and practice of cooking. Three of his cookbooks from the early 20th century are still regarded as indispensable references. His achievements are a constant inspiration to Les Dames d’Escoffier in Chicago and around the world.

History of LDEI Chicago



  • The late Elaine Sherman, owner of The Complete Cook in Glenview, founds Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago
  • 15 charter members inducted on May 23, 1982 at L’Escargots. Elaine Sherman voted in as president
  • Second induction of 18 members on Nov. 1 at Maxim’s restaurant
Elaine Sherman, founder, with Nancy Harris
  • Bylaws, mission statement created and finalized
  • First educational seminars include chocolate, caviar. Programs with visiting experts, author/teacher Anne Willan, restaurateur Alice Waters
  • A member potluck picnic tradition begins at Doris and Jean Banchet’s home
  • First scholarship fundraising dinner held at Ritz-Carlton
  • Jane Butel, Southwest cuisine expert, teaches members “How to Make a Perfect Margarita”
  • Sherman steps down; gavel turns over to Carol Mighton Haddix
  • Winemaker Jill Davis leads wine tasting seminar


  • Meeting in New York unites the four existing chapters under the name Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) Haddix represents Chicago chapter on first LDEI board
  • Scholarship benefit with an Italian wine tasting by Anthony Terlato of Paterno Wines
  • The first fundraising auction, chaired by Harris at the Ritz Carlton, raises $26,000 for culinary scholarships
  • Nancy Kirby Harris becomes president
  • Chicago chapter is one of the largest donors to Cooking Advancement, Research and Education Foundation (CAREF) of IACP. Abby Mandel represents the chapter on their Scholarship Committee
  • Chapter newsletter begins publication


  • Grand Dame Julia Child is honorary chairman for the annual auction which raises $56,000 for the Greater Chicago
  • Food Depository and for CAREF, for culinary scholarships
  • Nancy Brussat Barocci elected president
  • Nancy Kirby Harris elected LDEI president
  • Abby Mandel becomes president
  • Chicago hosts LDEI annual meeting
  • Community outreach: Members donate advice and hands-on help to the Flower Pot Cafe, run by culinary students at Flower Vocational High School. Julia Child joins the chapter in presenting $10,000 to the Cafe at its grand opening dinner
  • Abby Mandel becomes president
  • Chicago hosts LDEI annual meeting
  • Community outreach: Members donate advice and hands-on help to the Flower Pot Café, run by culinary students at Flower Vocational High School. Julia Child joins the chapter in presenting $10,000 to the Café at its grand opening dinner

Abby Mandel, Toria Emas, Dorothy Williams (FVHS Principal), Julia Child

  • Toria Emas elected president
  • Nancy Brussat Barocci elected LDEI president
  • Year of reappraisal: Strategic-planning session produces new mission statement: “To enhance our professional endeavors and to support each other through resource exchange, education, and community outreach
  • Endowment created for future fundraising, after 8 years of auctions. Smaller fundraisers emphasized


  • Members work with Greater Chicago Food Depository on first Agency Nutrition Conference
  • Escoffier’s 150th birthday celebration: Members orchestrated a magical six-course dinner in the style of the famous chef at the Ritz
  • Les Dames d’Escoffier Chefs Grazing for AIWF and LDE Reception feting Alice Waters and her new book Chez Panisse Vegetables at the Children’s Museum on Navy Pier

Dames and guests at 150th Anniversary Dinner
Dames and guests at 150th Anniversary Dinner

Peggy Ryan, Suzy Crofton, Sarah Stegner, Alice Waters, Rita Gutekanst, Gale Gand at Children’s Museum

  • Jeanne McInerney-Lubeck elected president.
  • Karen Levin organizes the first annual member potluck picnic at Ravinia.
  • “Dames who Drink” networking events begin at local restaurants.
  • Chapter becomes partners with Friends of the Park and Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance to Mentor the Flower Vocational students running The Flower Cart at Garfield Park Conservatory.
  • Suzanne Florek becomes president


  • Benefit at Nacional 27 focuses on Latin finger foods and Latin-inspired desserts created by chef Gale Gand
  • Abby Mandel elected LDEI president
  • Rita Gutekanst elected president
  • Spring Market and Street Fair fundraiser, one of the first area events to highlight the benefits of sustainable agriculture
  • Elaine Sherman presented with the chapter’s first Dames of Distinction Award at a Derby Day brunch at the Cheney Mansion, Oak Park

Madelaine Bullwinkel and Lois Levine co-chair Street Market

  • The auctions returns 20th year celebration at the Ritz with Bill Kurtis as master of ceremonies. “Foodles,” signed celebrity doodles, up for auction
  • Founding member Marian Tripp receives the second Dame of Distinction Award at Frontera Grill

Bill Kurtis at 20th Anniversary Food & Wine Auction

  • Rose Kallas elected president
  • Chapter hosts its first Green City Market BBQ benefit
  • Tradition of awarding culinary scholarships to Washburne Culinary Institute begins

Ina Pinkney & Gale Gand at Green City Market Chef’s BBQ

  • Chicago hosts Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) annual conference at Knickerbocker Hotel; the theme: “Sweet Home Chicago Is . . .”
  • Barbara Glunz Donovan elected president


  • LDEI kicks off Green Tables, a civic agriculture and garden initiative to educate communities about the importance of fresh local produce
  • Toria Emas becomes president of LDEI. Chicago has had more LDEI presidents than any other chapter
  • “Escoffier, Dead or Alive?” panel discussion with local chefs on the legacy of the famed chef and gastronomic visionary
  • Alma Lach receives Dame of Distinction Award at the Four Seasons
  • Chapter members participate in giving Alice Waters the LDEI Grande Dame award at the Green City Market
  • 25th anniversary book launch party for “Chicago Cooks: 25 Years of Food History with Menus, Recipes, and Tips from Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago.” Proceeds go to the Community Kitchens Program of The Greater Chicago Food Depository

  • Nancy Brussat elected president for a second time
  • New Chicago Chapter website introduced
  • Chapter begins association with McCormick Boys and Girls Club funding their mobile kitchen and sponsoring garden and cooking class projects

Patty Erd, Judith Hines, Barbara Glunz, Toria Emas and Mary Hess with Washburne Culinary Institute Scholarship winners

  • Founding member of LDEI, Carol Brock visits Chicago chapter, attending Ravinia, Green City Market Chefs BBQ and Ina’s


  • Fashion Plates fundraiser at Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center introducing the Dessert Dash
  • Improved Chicago Chapter website newly introduced with lots more bells and whistles by editor Linda Avery
  • Sharon Olson elected president
  • Global Culinary Initiative, Three Global Adventures: Tours of Pilsen, Argyle Street and Devon Avenue
  • 30th Anniversary “Pearl’s of Wisdom” held at the Ritz Carlton celebrating our chapter, the past presidents and our 4th Dame of Distinction, Joan Reardon
  • First Culinary Garage and Bake Sale held at Naha

First Culinary Garage and Bake Sale held at Naha

  • Jennifer Lamplough elected president
  • 30th anniversary celebration benefit: “Culinary Insiders Weekend”
  • Judith Dunbar Hines began “Dames who Read”
  • Second Culinary Garage Sale and Cake Walk held at Kendall College
  • Amuse Bouche began, the Les Dames Chicago Chapter on-line newsletter
  • Town Hall Meetings began where the membership could voice their ideas and opinions
  • “Swankilicious” retro supper club fundraiser held at Gallery 1060 in Chicago
  • Roberti Community House in Waukegan introduced as our community service initiative
  • In 32 years, Les Dames Chicago has awarded $517,188 in culinary scholarships and grants to qualified women, educational facilities, and food banks

“Swankilicious” retro supper club fundraiser