Last week, we passed along the announcement of a local female chef and a beverage director being chosen for the first all-female advisory council at Atlanta Food and Wine festival. In the same day, we received the announcement that Chef Edward Lee  (chef/owner of 610 Magnolia, The Wine Studio, MilkWood, and Whiskey Dry in Louisville, KY and culinary director for Succotash in National Harbor, MD and forthcoming in DC) and Lindsey Ofcacek (general manager and wine director of 610 Magnolia) have launched a program titled the LEE initiative, which will advance women in restaurants by awarding impressive grants with travel, education and opportunities to five Kentucky women in the culinary industry.  

According to the press release, LEE Initiative stands for Let’s Empower Employment. The mission of the LEE Initiative has been to bring more equality and diversity in the restaurant industry through work programs and continuing education. Recently, it has become more and more apparent that leaders in the culinary industry need to work to bring about change in the opportunities available to female cooks and chefs.

“There’s an industry and cultural sea change right now and we all need to adjust and do better. This program isn’t going to fix everything but we can all be a part of a positive change,” says Lee of this program.

This year, the LEE Initiative will award five female chefs from Kentucky the opportunity to spend a week working under a notable female chef / owner around the country. The LEE Initiative will identify these female leaders in the industry and handle all expenses for the grant recipients, including travel, hotel, a stipend for food, and one week of pay at the same rate that she would earn at her place of employment. The LEE Initiative is currently identifying the female chef / owners who will lead these internships.

Following the completion of these internships, the five recipients will attend the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Summer Symposium in Lexington, KY (June 21-23). The Southern Foodways Alliance, in partnership with Mountain Valley Spring Water, is providing a Mentorship Scholarship to include:

  • Event tickets, travel and lodging to the SFA Summer Symposium in Lexington, KY
  •  Event tickets, travel and lodging to the SFA Winter Symposium in Birmingham, AL 
  • Expenses for food, supplies and books 
  • Mentorship meetings and consultations with Chef Edward Lee

This fall, the five recipients will cook a dinner with Lee at the James Beard House in New York City, with expenses paid for by the LEE Initiative.

Interested candidates can  sign up for updates, get more information or apply via the LEE Initiative website; all applications are due by February 20. The LEE Initiative will announce recipients on the website in early March  and internships will take place between March and July 2018.

“We hope to grow and create more programs and paths to leadership,” says Ofcacek of the initiative. “We hope to find new and creative ways to inspire. We hope to continue to keep this conversation going because that is how we will find long-term change. We owe it to ourselves to make this industry a better place for the next generation of women who will choose this life as their career path.”