Series of Workshops for Aspiring Culinary Industry Professionals Begin Tonight at SoFAB



NEW ORLEANS – A few of the most successful women in the local food and hospitality industry are sharing their expertise with like-minded individuals hoping to follow in their footsteps. 

Tonight, the New Orleans Chapter of Les Dames d' Escoffier International (LDEI) will launch Dames Connect – a free, bimonthly meetup meant to educate and empower women pursuing a career in the culinary and hospitality industries. 

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The inaugural Dames Connect, which takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB), focuses on food writing.

But several upcoming workshops revolve around such business topics as launching and marketing a food business, and increasing revenue through partnerships.

“The reason we decided to launch this is because we were looking for ways to give back to our community,” said Stephanie Carter, the president and co-founder of LDEI’s New Orleans Chapter.

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Les Dames d’Escoffier International is a philanthropic organization comprised of more than 2,400 female leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality, spread throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Mexico. Local Dames include Chaya Conrad, the owner of Bywater Bakery; chef Nina Compton, who runs Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro; and restaurateur Ti Martin.

“We have so many women in our organization who are in the top of their field, and this seems like a good opportunity to share their knowledge, in a really accessible way,” said Carter. “We’d like to reach women who are interested in opening a business, or going into food writing or some other aspect of culinary arts. That includes not just women who are looking to break into a field, but women who might already be in a field and are looking for that extra push.”

For example, one session is geared towards female business owners who are wondering if they should hire a publicist and incur an extra expense as a result. Panelists for that session will include women who have run a successful business while working with a PR firm, along with professionals who have flourished without one. 

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“We included the business and marketing aspect to the meetups because there are different phases of your career, and different phases of launching a business and then running a business,” said Carter. “We're hoping to affect women in all of those different stages and answer some of the questions they might have, so that they can create more successful women-owned businesses.”

As of now, the gatherings will begin with about 15 minutes of networking, followed by a casual panel discussion, and a question and answer session – all while enjoying wine and snacks. 

“Hopefully, we'll be able to provide a comfortable space where women can ask questions to people who have been through the same experiences,” said Carter. “The meetups are a little bit of mentorship.”

For details on upcoming workshops, visit


Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur is the associate news editor of


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