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Attention, women in food: Les Dames may finally be here

One sign of a lively local culinary scene: Whether you have a chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International.

Yes, the name is a mouthful, but it’s a pretty big mission, too. It’s a nonprofit organization with 2,200 members in 37 states. Members have to be invited, but the women (yes, it’s only for women) include chefs and restaurateurs; food bloggers, journalists and social networkers; cookbook authors; TV and radio personalities; culinary educators, nutritionists and dietitians; hospitality executives; caterers and special events coordinators; culinary and wine consultants; entrepreneurs; food and fine beverage producers; food marketers; retailers and publishers.

The late Julia Child was a member. The group was founded in New York in 1976 to help women who often struggle for recognition in the culinary world.

For years, the closest chapter to Charlotte was in Charleston. Last year, a North Carolina chapter was organized, but it’s based in the Triangle, which is a little far for regular attendance from Charlotte members.

Now there’s a move to organize a chapter in Charlotte, led by cookbook author Jennifer Brule and marketer Christine Cicci. Brule has long been interested in membership, and got encouragement when she was doing cooking events at the Southern Women’s Show in Charleston with longtime member Nathalie Dupree.

Dupree is expected to come up for the first organizational meeting to help the new chapter get started.

The organization provides networking, professional development and supports awards in several categories. There’s a national conference every year in a different city; the 2017 conference is in October in Newport Beach, Calif.

To qualify for membership, you have to be invited by an active member, and you have to be employed in a culinary field, usually for at least 3 to 5 years, according to each chapter’s requirements. For more on the organization, the website is www.ldei.org. To see what the N.C. chapter is up to, go to www.lesdamesnc.com.

So, if you’re a woman working in food who fits one of those long list of categories, what do you need to do to join? First off, Ricci and Brule would like to hear from you, to get an idea of how many women here would be interested in joining. Email Cicci at christinacicci@gmail.com.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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