Les Dames D'Escoffier International members at foraging class  

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Dames Dish! Newsletter

1/10/19 | A Brand New Year

12/13/18 | Wine and Dine

11/15/18 | Conference Review

10/23/18 | Blog About It

9/20/18 | Craft Distilling

8/16/18 | Get the Picture?

7/19/18 | Stop and Smell the Rosé

5/22/18 | The State of Food

4/19/18 | Herb Your Enthusiasm

3/22/18 | Springing a Leek (And Other Veggies)

2/15/18 | The Cleveland LDEI Newsletter


2/20/20 | Currents, "Les Dames d'Escoffier women thrive in the culinary industry"

2023 | Edible Cleveland, "Legacy of Les Dames"

Scholarships | Grants | Past Recipients | About Green Tables


Something New!
In 2023 LDEI Cleveland hosted its first PITCH COMPETITION at The Cleveland Garlice Festival. Three finalists were selected from many strong applications to present a pitch to our esteemed panel of judges and the crowd in the main tent. Cash prizes were awarded to 1st ($2,000) 2nd ($1,000) and 3rd ($500) place winners, and all finalists also got to promote their products and services at a North Union Farmer’s Market booth on either 8/5, 8/12 or 8/19, sponsored by the USDA. So without further ado...

  • 1st – Mariel Bernarte, Silvanas Kitchen ($2,000)
  • 2nd – Tina Chamoun, Terranean Herbs & Spices ($1,000)
  • 3rd – Carmella M. Williams, Deep Roots by Carmella Marie ($500)

Cleveland LDEI Announces 2022 Grant Recipient

Local nonprofit Cleveland Seed Bank plants real ‘seeds of change’

Cleveland Seed Ban

The Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International is pleased to announce that local nonprofit, The Cleveland Seed Bank, is the 2022 recipient of our Green Tables Initiative Grant.

The Cleveland Seed Bank is the domestic work of The Hummingbird Project, an international nonprofit based in Cleveland, Ohio. It aims to safeguard and restore the biological diversity vital for sustainable agriculture, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“The Cleveland Les Dames chapter feels strongly about supporting organizations such as this, that benefit local foods systems,” says chapter member and grants committee chairperson Carol Hacker. “Connecting and educating members of the local community builds strength in neighborhoods and improves everyone's lives.”

The $2,000 grant will be used to support the Seed Bank’s Climate Change Speaker Series, a monthly series of speaker-led events surrounding the issue of climate change as it relates to food insecurity, healthy eating and our food system. According to Hummingbird Project co-founder and executive director, Marilyn McHugh, the topics have been chosen with a “seed to table” mindset, which will allow participants to confidently prepare home gardens, grow food, know where their food comes from, save adaptable seed, attract local pollinators and minimize waste – thereby helping build a local food system in Northeast Ohio that is more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Thus far, topics in the series have included soil blocking and seed starting, composting, use of organic fertilizers, and a cooking demo featuring “Glorious Greens.”

All workshops are presented in the classroom space at local nonprofit Cleveland Roots – coincidentally, the 2019 recipient of LDEI-Cleveland’s Green Tables grant – and have attracted a multicultural, intergenerational audience of “people who are passionate about local food and knowing where their food comes from,” says Marilyn.

“We wanted to offer subjects that would be engaging and interactive,” she continues. “The fact that the classroom is right next to Cleveland Roots’ greenhouse is a real plus. We can be teaching in the classroom and then walk right next door to the greenhouse and actually show participants just what we have been talking about.”

Founded in 2011 by Marilyn and her husband, Chris Kennedy, the Hummingbird Project and its initiatives have focused on reconnecting people to the natural world and empowering community resilience through ecological regeneration and sustainable practices. Chris is a professional educator and Marilyn is a biologist, soil microbiologist, researcher, avid seed saver and full-time staffer with the National Institutes of Health. Together, Marilyn says, they envision initiatives like the Cleveland Seed Bank and the Speaker Series as providing participants with a set of “actionable skills” for tackling climate change.

In its role to promote locally adapted seeds, the Cleveland Seed Bank operates in partnership with 20 local public libraries, comprising seven public-library systems and three counties. Participants are able to “borrow” seeds from their library, plant them in their gardens, and enjoy their harvests. Then, they save the seeds from their mature plants and may either share them with their community or bring them to the annual Winter Seed Swap, an immensely popular event attracting up to 500 eager participants. The Seed Bank also hosts various plant sales and swaps, including a recent one at a local brewery. “It has been so much fun to build these programs,” says Marilyn. “And now, especially in the wake of COVID, there is so much happiness and joy in being in community again!”

Just how do locally adapted seeds play a role in fighting climate change? Marilyn explains. “Seeds are living embryos,” she says. “Every seed is alive, and the ones we plant in Cleveland and save, year after year, adapt. They have memories of the challenges faced by their ancestors, and they adapt: to our weather, our water and our soil. This is the real solution: for our farmers to grow resilient, adapted seeds, working with Mother Nature and not against her. All that adaptability is right there in the seeds.”

While admitting that the pressures of climate change are no longer theoretical, Marilyn says she holds out hope for effective solutions. “I envision a world that is inspired by nature, where we look to nature to learn how to solve our problems, and so create healthy, resilient, abundant livelihoods. By that, I mean we are not polluting, not damaging our ecosystem, but are enhancing biodiversity and regenerating healthy ecosystems.

“I am hugely optimistic,” she concludes. “Every time I see a seed sprout, it gives me hope.”

The Climate Change Speaker Series is free and open to the public. Go here to find a listing of upcoming workshops and other special events sponsored by The Hummingbird Project. While you’re there, you can sign up for their newsletter, or connect with them on Facebook.

“LDEI’s Green Tables Initiative allows each chapter to support programs in their community that deepen the relationship between locally grown food and what's on our plates,” says Cleveland LDEI chapter president Beth Davis-Noragon. “We are very excited to support the Cleveland Seed Bank and are thrilled that the program aligns with the Initiative literally from a ground-up basis. But it goes much deeper than seeds-in-dirt, by addressing the even bigger picture of climate change through local gardens and their impact on creating more sustainable food systems.

“Not only is it about local food, it’s good food for thought.”

Cleveland Seed Bank - Seed Library Cleveland Seed Bank - outdoor class Cleveland Seed Swap 

Congratulations to our 2021 Culinary Scholarship Winner!

Nadia Policoff Nadia Policoff
Winner: 2021 Culinary Scholarship
Sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of LDEI

The Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International is pleased to award a $2000 scholarship to Nadia Policoff. Nadia is pursuing a degree with a double major in Culinary Arts and Hotel & Restaurant Management at Hocking College. She is passionate about helping those struggling with dietary restrictions and food allergies, and aspires to become a personal chef or open her own restaurant catering to these concerns. Congratulations Nadia!


2020 Culinary Scholarship Winner

Gabrielle Shipta Meet Gabrielle Shipta!
Winner: 2020 Culinary Scholarship
Sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of LDEI

READ ABOUT Gabrielle, her journey in culinary nutrition and medicine, and the $2000 scholarship she received!


2019 Culinary Scholarship Winner

Melissa Holden Meet Melissa Holden!
Winner :2019 Culinary Scholarship
Sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of LDEI

READ ABOUT Melissa, her culinary journey and good community works, and the $2000 scholarship she received!

Past Grant Recipients


City Life

City Life
2021 Grant Recipient

City Life, a local nonprofit in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood, is our chapter’s 2021 Green Tables Initiative grant winner. City Life recognizes that many youth do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The organization is receiving $2,000 to support their Farm to Table Program, which connects garden produce with foods familiar to youth. It will equip them with knowledge and skills to ensure affordable, sustainable access to nutrient-dense food items. With 11 garden beds and 3 compost bins, the garden will produce food for youth and their families while teaching them gardening, cooking, and entrepreneurial skills. Congratulations City life!

Cleveland Roots
2019 Grant Recipient

Cleveland Roots, a local nonprofit that creates opportunities for urban agriculture and educational programs that encourage people to grow their own produce, was our chapter’s 2019 Green Tables Initiative grant winner. The organization received $2,000 in support of their Food & Garden series, which teaches a full range of skills – from gardening technique to food preparation – to residents of the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

Cleveland Roots LogoCleveland Roots - urban agriculture and educational programsCleveland Roots - urban agriculture and educational programs

Take Charge and Learn Food / Coit Road Farmers Market
2014, 2016, 2017 Grant Recipient

Take Charge and Learn Food was awarded the grant to educate and connect residents of East Cleveland and surrounding communities about the benefits of fresh locally produced fruits and vegetables available at the Coit Road Farmers' Market. The need was addressed through two monthly events, free to participants, over a one year period. Take Charge targets individuals who want to improve their overall health, but have limited resources. Learn Food targets food oriented individuals from the Cleveland area who want to improve their cooking skills using fresh local ingredients.

Case Western Reserve University Farm
2013 Grant Recipient

The CWRU Farm was awarded $2,000 to expand its year-round food production capabilities. This expansion benefitted school visitation programs between staff at University Farm, faculty and students at the Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University and 5th and 6th students at the Michael R. White Elementary School in the Cleveland Municipal School District. Funds were used to upgrade the existing hydroponic system and to construct cold frames. The addition of these two improvements allows for increased understanding and enhancement by the students regarding the local food system, as they are now able to participate in food cultivation no matter what time of year they are able to visit for their field trips. The academic year is mostly out of sync with the food production season as it relates to the traditional growing season in our climate. Increasing University Farm's year-round food production capabilities allows for better accommodation of both the public school's availability as well as that of the nursing students.

Veggie U, 2010 Grant Recipient

In 2010, the chapter awarded a $2000 grant to Veggie U to help place new Earth to Table kits and provide teacher training for fourth grade classrooms in Cleveland area schools.

Farmer Bob of Veggie U
Photo by Veggie U

North Union Farmers Market, 2009 Grant Recipient

In 2009, the chapter awarded a $2000 grant to the North Union Farmers Market to support their Chef at the Market educational programs. View Chef at the Market Video

Chef Mary Wills of The Good Fork cooking up local produce and educating at the market
Photo by The North Union Farmers Market

Photo of Dame Carla Snyder with Jr. Chefs

Countryside Conservancy Farmers' Market Jr. Chef Program,
2008 Grant Recipient

In 2008, the chapter also contributed to the Countryside Conservancy Farmers' Market Jr. Chef Program. The focus was on forging connections between kids, farmers and food producers; teaching nutritional fundamentals; and simple hands-on food preparation.

Dame Carla Snyder with Jr. Chefs
Photo by The Countryside Conservancy

Tremont Urban Learning Garden,
2007, 2008 Grant Recipient

The Cleveland chapter provided financial support to the Tremont Urban Learning Garden, a food-growing project for at-risk city teens, in 2007 and 2008. Today, the mini-farm still offers an opportunity to build agricultural and entrepreneurial skills as well as nutritional awareness. A portion of the organic produce the teens harvested was donated to CityFresh Market, which offers fresh, local sustainably raised fruits and vegetables to low-income urban residents. The balance was purchased by Lucky's Cafe, a restaurant adjacent to the garden and owned by Dame Heather Haviland, who still plays an instrumental role in the project.

Dame Heather Haviland with Urban Learning Garden teens
Photo by Marilou Suszko

Green Tables | Pinterest

Green Tables Logo

Les Dames d’Escoffier (LDEI) launched a nationwide initiative called Green Tables in 2006 to help people better understand the link between rural and urban farms and their tables. Many Dames are at the forefront of this global movement to transform how we eat. Chapters around the country including Cleveland are participating in this civic agriculture and garden project, collaborating with and starting programs in their own communities.

Members of Les Dames d’Escoffier are participating in the farm-to-table revolution in a variety of ways:

  • Chef leaders of local farm procurement
  • Farmers and gardeners
  • Farmers’ market operators
  • Farm-to-market leaders fostering links among regional farmers and local restaurateurs, caterers, etc.
  • Civic agriculture educators and journalists
  • Public heath nutrition experts and educators
  • Community food project developers

For more information, click here.
Connect on Pinterest to see what various chapters are doing with Food Day and Green Tables.

Website by Unity Design, Inc.  |  Photography by Beth Segal Photography and LDEI members