We have invited these exceptional women to become Dames and help us all work towards achieving our mission of educational outreach, philanthropic giving and service to our communities. We hope the time will come very soon when we can all gather in person and welcome them into our family of Dames.
Cheryl Bell, Executive Chef, Miriam's Kitchen (Non-Profit). Cheryl was an executive administrative professional serving C-Suite executives for over 30 years. She entered the culinary field cooking as a chef’s assistant volunteer at L’Academie de Cuisine from 2013 until it closed in 2016. Clearly cooking suited her because she switched career in 2015, at age 47, to become the executive sous chef of Miriam’s Kitchen. She was recommended by her predecessor to be promoted to executive chef in January 2017. Miriam’s Kitchen and Cheryl Bell were recently featured in The Washington Post.
Erin Clarke, Executive Chef, Sfoglina Restaurant. For nearly 20, Erin has worked as a line cook and a chef in restaurant kitchens. Her passion exists in hospitality. She is actively working towards opening her own restaurant in the near future. Her long-term goal is to teach future chefs and employees in the hospitality industry.
Rebecca Clerget, Director of Operations, Pastry Chef/Dog Tag Bakery (Non-Profit). Rebecca has spent the last 20 years in our industry as a pastry chef. She focused in fine dining, working at Relais Chateaux properties in the US and abroad. She had the incredible opportunity to help open Dog Tag Bakery in 2014 as the chef and stepped into a leadership role three years ago as its Director of Operations. She says that Dog Tag gives her the unique opportunity to share her industry experience with veterans, spouses and caregivers who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs.
Michelle Douglas, Attorney, Kalbian Hagerty LLP. Michele is an attorney with a legal practice increasingly focused on the hospitality industry, as well as being an enthusiastic "foodie." In 2000 she began working in general commercial litigation, representing strip malls and handling restaurant landlord-tenant disputes. After moving to Washington D.C., Michele joined Kalbian Hagerty and in 2013 began handling litigation matters for colleague Mark Sandground, who specializes in representing chefs in partnership and financing agreements and all matters related to restaurant operation and management. She is involved in any dispute that may lead to litigation, including everything from disputes over build-outs, partnership breakups, allegations of sexual harassment, landlord-tenant disputes, ADA compliance, and employment issues. Representative clients include Paolo Sacco, MacMillan Whisky Room, Georgetown Cupcakes, American Tandoor, Rappahannock Oyster Co. and Robert Wiedmaier.
Lani Furbank, Freelance Food Writer. Lani is a freelance writer who loves stories that meet at the intersection of food, farming, and the environment. She was born and raised in Northern Virginia, but stays true to her Welsh-Taiwanese heritage by exploring new places and experimenting with recipes from around the world. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, Eater, Plate Magazine, Tasting Table, Thrillist, Time Out, Edible, the Washington City Paper, Roads and Kingdoms, Great Day Washington, Good Day DC, Good Morning Washington, Full Service Radio, District Fray Magazine (formerly On Tap Magazine), Northern Virginia Magazine, DC Refined, Food Tank, and the New York City Food Policy Center. Her website is here.
Kathy Hollinger, President and CEO, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Kathy is President and CEO of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Since 2012 her visionary leadership has led RAMW -- which represents over a thousand restaurants and the food service industry in one of our nation’s largest and most visible regions -- through its most dramatic period of sustained growth and innovation, with overall operating budget and new revenue growth of 30%. She also raised the profile of the association and industry across the region and country, resulting in an epic year of national accolades that included Bon Appetit Magazine’s 2016 Restaurant City of the Year and ZAGAT’s Hottest Food City of 2016.
Aba Kwawu, Founder, TAA PR. Aba is the founder and president of TAA PR, a results-oriented public relations, marketing, and special events agency dedicated to the fashion, design, entertainment, hospitality, and luxury lifestyle sectors. At TAA PR, she advises and serves brands seeking expertise in media relations, event production, experiential marketing, and social media. The agency’s regional, national, and international clients span various industries and have included Cirque du Soleil; The Ritz-Carlton; Ladurée; Kering, the global luxury group; chefs Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud; Shake Shack; Tysons Galleria, an upscale shopping destination; CityCenterDC, a mixed-use development; hospitality for The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the Smithsonian Institution; Mercedes-Benz; Paraiso Miami Beach, formerly known as Swim Week Miami, among others.
Catherine Mendolsohn, Chief Operating Officer, Sunnyside Restaurant Group. Catherine has 35 years of excellence in foodservice operations and business management. She grew up in the hospitality business, at age 22 owned a fine-dining French restaurant and has since owned and operated restaurants ranging from fine dining to quick casual. In 2008, she co-founded the Sunnyside Restaurant Group which encompasses six brands. She helped increase sales year over year by introducing new menu items, constantly refreshing restaurants, staying current, and understanding the marketplace.
Cindy Selby, Regional Sales Manager, Executive Chef, RATIONAL Cooking Systems. Cindy was a pastry chef for 28 years and owned a bakery. In her role at RATIONAL she helps others become successful. She works with local high schools to promote Skills USA, helping to coach, train and judge. She set up a non-profit that sells baked goods locally to raise money for scholorships, tools and equipment for the students who want to move forward. She volunteers time and products to raise money for No Kid Hungry.
Jessica van Dop DeJesus, Founder & Editor, The Dining Traveler. Jessica is a food and travel content creator and founder of The Dining Traveler. She began traveling over 20 years ago as a young Marine and has visited over 50 countries. She has published stories on the Travel Channel, Modern Luxury, USA Today, and is the author of the book, The Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico. Her website is here.
Mary Dawn Wright, Corporate Executive Chef, Sabra Foods. Mary Dawn has a degree in anthropology, became a certified pastry chef and then decided to become a chef. She attended the Hotel Sofitel School of French Culinary Skills where she received the same culinary degree students in France receive, the “Certificate Apptitude Professionale” from the French Ministry of Education. She has worked in several world-class restaurants, had her own restaurant and pasta company and eventually found a career as a research chef.
Juste Zidelyte, Executive Chef and Co-Owner, Maple Ave Restaurant. Juste is a self-taught, professional chef. She rose from an unpaid intern with NO professional experience to sous chef to chef and restaurant owner in less than three years. She is the current co-owner and operator of Maple Ave Restaurant.
Stephanie Zarpas, TV Broadcast Producer (retired). Stephanie’s career was in television broadcasting. Her work intersected with the culinary world during the years from 2002 to 2006 when she was the broadcast producer for the CBS’s The Saturday Early Show. She supervised production of regular weekly segments that showcased many of the nation’s finest chef’s creating a three-course meal on a specified budget. She was responsible for supervising the segments as they aired, but also for copy-editing the recipes and other information on our website. Since her retirement, she has been a recipe tester for Cook’s Illustrated, Food52, and The Washington Post. She has also “done a bit of food writing.” She has been a James Beard Foundation Awards judge for the past two years.
Les Dames d'Escoffier DC
LDEI is the premier organization of influential professional women who are committed to the advancement of education and philanthropy in food, beverage and hospitality for the good of the global community.