LEE Initiative Announces Mentor Lineup

The LEE Initiative, a non-profit launched by Lindsey Ofcacek and Chef Edward Lee to address equity issues in the restaurant industry, announces the 2021 chef and spirit professional mentors and mentees for the Women Culinary and Spirits Program.

The Women Culinary and Spirits Program, formerly Women Chefs of Kentucky, was The LEE Initiative’s first program, founded in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. Now in its fourth year, the program is expanding into the sprits world and launching nationally. This year, the program received more mentee applications than ever before, and a selection committee narrowed the mentees down to ten chefs and five spirits mentees.

The spirit and culinary mentees will each participate in a seven-to-ten-day externship at a female-led restaurant or beverage program and seven days throughout the year working on a sustainable farm. They will spend a week in Kentucky for programming to include bourbon blending at Maker’s Mark, foraging, butchery workshops, cooking sessions at the Monogram Experience Center, and numerous other trainings. Later in the year, they will collaborate on a series of regional fundraiser dinners.

Maker’s Mark, a partner since the founding of The LEE Initiative in 2017, supports the spirit mentees through funding and provides programming for culinary and spirit mentees with product development, a day of foraging, and more. Audi of America, a partner of The LEE Initiative since 2020, supports the chef mentees through funding, assisting with programming, and providing transportation and drivers to facilitate experiences throughout the year.

“We are so happy to be able to expand this program both nationally as well as into the spirits space,” says Ofcacaek. “Seeing how the first classes of mentees have grown through this program has been inspiring and we’re eager to bring these experiences to more people and have these women join our network.”

The LEE Initiative will focus on the following for 2021:

2021 Chef Mentors

Chef Amy Brandwein

Centrolina & Piccolina in Washington, DC

Chef Beverly Kim

Parachute in Chicago, IL

Chef Cheetie Kumar

Garland in Raleigh, NC

Chef Claudette Zepeda

Vaga in Encinitos, CA

Chef Jessica Koslow

Sqirl in Los Angeles, CA

Chef Katie Button

Cúrate in Asheville, NC

Chef Sarah O’Brien

Little Tart Bakeshop in Atlanta, GA

Chef Nina Compton

Compere Lapin in New Orleans, LA

Chef Ouita Michel

Holly Hill Inn in Midway, KY

2021 Spirit Mentors

Kristina Magro

Orbit Group in Chicago, IL

Christa Cotton

El Guapo Bitters in New Orleans, LA

Colleen Hughes

Supperland and Haberdish in Charlotte, NC

Jesse Peterson

Morning Glory in San Diego, CA

Charlotte Mirzoeff

Kindred in New York City, NY

2021 Chef Mentees

Chef Aretah Ettarh

New York City, NY

Chef Ashlee Martinis

Bristol, VA

Chef Darian Jones

Scottsdale, AZ

Chef Hannah Arvin

Lexington, KY

Chef Juliann Stoddart

Austin, TX

Chef Lauren Schoen

Louisville, KY

Chef Meagan White

Cincinnati, OH

Chef Megan Duffy

Lexington, KY

Chef Nadia Casaperalta

Elsa, TX

Chef Sydney Fisher

Cincinnati, OH

Chef Taylor Davis

Louisville, KY

2021 Spirit Mentees

Bri Hlava

Louisville, KY

Meredeth Wright

Louisville, KY

Sarah McCabe

Raleigh, NC

SC Baker

Louisville, KY

Sherri Jenkins

Louisville, KY

“It is an honor and a privilege to watch The LEE Initiative’s unwavering impact on the hospitality industry,” says Rob Samuels, Chief Distillery Officer at Maker’s Mark. “Their work continues to make a monumental difference in enabling the next generation of bar and restaurant professionals for success, and this class of mentees is no different. We look forward to supporting and being a part of this 2021 Women Culinary and Spirits Program and many future partnerships with The LEE Initiative for years to come."

“Audi is pleased to support The LEE Initiative’s Women Culinary and Spirits Program to empower female chefs and provide them with the tools they need to become leaders in the industry. We hope that programs like these inspire other women to take their dreams to the next level and support gender equality and inclusion both within the auto and culinary industries and beyond,” said Tara Rush, chief marketing officer, Audi of America.

This program would not be possible without the generous support from The LEE Initiative’s  partners at Maker’s Mark, Audi of America, Monogram luxury appliances, and Libbey.

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