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Lindsey Ofcacek and Edward Lee are launching the second year of The LEE Initiative with a party at the KMAC Museum on Friday, March 15 at 5:30 p.m. Guests at the party will meet the new class of chef mentees while enjoying cocktails from Maker’s Mark, wine from Marcus Brothers Imports and canapés from Chef Edward Lee.  Tickets are available here for $25 and all of the sales go directly to The LEE Initiative.

The LEE (Let’s Empower Employment) Initiative identifies needs for more diversity and equality in the restaurant industry and works to find creative and forward-thinking solutions to those needs. The leaders of The LEE Initiative saw a need for more women to be in leadership positions in the restaurant industry and launched the Women Chefs Initiative, a six month mentorship program that shines a spotlight on talented but little known female chefs in the Kentucky area.

Says Lee, “Last year was a resounding success with the graduating mentees already showing us how far they can come in just one year.  But there is much work still to do and I am beyond excited to honor the mentees this year and showcase their talents.”

Throughout the year, the chef mentees will travel across the country for week-long externships under notable female-led restaurant group; attend the FAB Workshop in Charleston; work with the team at Maker’s Mark to create a signature bourbon through the Private Select Program; spend a day in the test kitchen at Jeni’s Ice Cream in Columbus developing a signature flavor; cook a dinner at the renowned James Beard House in New York City with Chef Edward Lee; and put on a fundraising dinner in at Maker’s Mark Distillery. All expenses for these experiences, as well as one week of pay at the same rate as offered by the mentees current place of employment, will be covered by The LEE Initiative.

“We were beyond happy with how much great feedback we got from the mentees, mentors and the public from last year’s program. The experience was definitely pivotal for these women and we look forward to following their careers,” says Ofcacek. “This year, our selection committee found these five women to be the best candidates for our program.”

Breanna Baker of Louisville, KY

Emily Dunagan of Louisville, KY

Katie Smith of Louisville, KY

Miriam Martinez Prisciliano of Lexington, KY

Tonya Mays of Lexington, KY


These chef mentees will be matched based for externships with the following chef mentors:


Ashley Christensen: Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, Death and Taxes, Chuck’s, and Fox Liquor Bar

Brooke Williamson: Playa Provisions, Hudson House, and The Tripel

Katie Button: Curate and Button and Co Bagels

Mindy Segal: Hot Chocolate

Nina Compton: Compère Lapin

The LEE Initiative exists in part due to generous private donations and support from partners including Maker’s Mark, Tilit NYC, Bourbon Barrel Foods, New Belgium Brewery, Marcus Brothers Imports.


For updates on the LEE Initiative, please visit www.leeinitiative.org.


Photography: Ofcacek and Lee founded the Lee Initiative last year.