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Last Monday, The LEE Initiative teamed with Kentucky to the World to present “The Future of Food is Female,” a program in the Republic Bank Foundation Speaker Series, held at the Bomhard Theater.

Those in attendance at the event were treated to an informative and entertaining discussion moderated by chef Damaris Phillips, who deftly guided guest chefs Samantha Fore (Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, Ky), Kristin Smith (The Wrigley Taproom & Eatery in Corbin, Ky) and Nikkia Rhodes (culinary instructor at Louisville’s Iroquois High School) through a range of stories about their personal experiences as women in a male-dominated industry.

Different chefs, varying approaches to cooking; beyond a common gender, each chef testified to the importance of place in their lives and work, a certain something about Kentucky that may be hard to define, but remains omnipresent.

When a male member of the audience approached the mic at the conclusion and asked a question, it suddenly became evident that almost two hours had passed with only female voices being heard in the Bomhard. For the primarily female school groups in attendance amid a large and rapt crowd, it must have been a powerful example.

Chef Edward Lee appeared only at the end of the program, joining LEE Initiative program director Lindsey Ofcacek and Thomas Bolton of major program sponsor Maker’s Mark. They introduced the next class of mentees for Season 3 of Women Chefs of KY, an eight-month leadership development experience for women chefs.

And with this, let’s turn it over to Haley Cawthon at Louisville Business First.

Meet the five women selected for chef Edward Lee’s mentorship program

 … The new group of mentees are Taylor Davis, Butchertown Grocery (Louisville); Megan Duffy, Lockbox (Lexington); Hannah Arvin, Holly Hill Inn (Lexington); Sydney Fisher, Goose & Elder (Cincinnati); and Lauren Schoen, bar Vetti (Louisville).

Within the six-month program, the young chefs complete week-long externships in other cities with prominent women chefs.

This year’s mentors include: Katie Button, executive chef and CEO of Katie Button Restaurants, Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels in Asheville, North Carolina; Anne Quatrano, chef-owner of Star Provisions, Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe and W.H. Stiles Fish Camp in Atlanta; Ashley Christensen, owner of Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, Death and Taxes, Chuck’s and Fox Liquor Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina; Nina Compton, owner of Compere Lapin in New Orleans; and Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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