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The LEE Initiative is an acronym for Let’s Empower Employment: “We started the LEE Initiative in Louisville, Kentucky in 2015 after we saw a need for more diversity, more training, and more equality in our own restaurants.”

For International Women’s Month, The LEE Initiative is teaming up with Kentucky to the World to present “The Future of Food is Female,” a program in the Republic Bank Foundation Speaker Series. The event takes place on Monday, March 2 at the Kentucky Center Bomhard Theater (501 West Main Street, Louisville). A reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and the program kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

Louisville favorite Chef Damaris Phillips will host the evening’s conversation about female chefs by female chefs, and The LEE Initiative will be announcing the new chef mentees selected for Season 3 of Women Chefs of KY (an eight-month leadership development experience for women chefs).

Here are the guests, with information provided by the organizers:

Chef Samantha Fore, Food & Wine Magazine’s August 2019 featured cover chef and proprietor of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, Ky. One of the few representations of Sri Lankan cuisine in the United States, it reflects Sam’s Sri Lankan upbringing in the American South. She is a 2019 Smith Fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance and was selected as one of Plate Magazine’s 2018 Chefs to Watch.

Chef Kristin Smith, Chef/Owner/Farmer of The Wrigley Taproom & Eatery in Corbin, Ky —a farm-to-table Appalachian restaurant. Chef Smith is a celebrated foodways evangelist for Southeastern Kentucky that works with area farmers to create a sustainable, supportive economy. She discovered her passion for communicating with honest, thoughtful, engaging food while living and working in rural China. She returned home in 2009 to take over her family’s sixth-generation cattle farm.

Chef Nikkia Rhodes, grew up in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood, went to Western High School’s early college program, then to JCTC studying Culinary Arts. From there, she went on to being chosen for the LEE Initiative’s Women Chefs Mentoring program and is now a full-time culinary instructor at Iroquois High School. Nikkia has quite a story to tell that you won’t want to miss.

The cost is $25 for reserved seating and $15 for students; call the box office (502-584-7777) or visit Kentucky Performing Arts.