A local chapter of women in the culinary industry raised enough money — through events and other fundraisers — to provide $20,000 in scholarships and stipends to fellow women in the business.


Les Dames d’Escoffier Austin, which started giving away scholarships 14 years ago, awarded $20,000 in scholarships and stipends for the second year in a row. The funds support Central Texas women who want to advance their knowledge in a culinary field, says Stephanie Piland who chairs the Les Dames Scholarship Committee.


"We were thinking about the upheaval and uncertainty the hospitality industry has faced over the past several months, and in light of that, awarding $20,000 in educational scholarships and stipends at this moment felt like the ultimate act of optimism for our industry and our peers," she said via release. "These very talented women are Austin’s present and future, and now, more than ever, Les Dames feels called to support their significant contributions to our city."


This year’s scholarship recipients include Krista Church, wine director at Eberly, who got a travel stipend to travel to the Wachau wine region of Austria to learn about its sustainable winemaking practices. Sara Mardanbigi, co-owner of Nixta Taqueria, got a stipend to pursue sommelier certifications to help her build a beverage program at the East Austin restaurant.


Austin Community College student Juanda Powell received a scholarship to pursue her applied science degree in baking and pastry and culinary arts. Hope Green, owner of Emojis Grilled Cheese Bar, got money to attend a hospitality training conference and entrepreneurial coaching program.


Con Olio manager Margaret Thorenson will use a stipend to attend the University of California-Davis Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil Certification program, and Les Dames will foot some of the bill for Olamaie pastry chef Jules Stoddard to travel through the South to learn about Southern food and culture.


Valerie Fontana, founder and chief curator of the Museum of Tea USA, will go to the World Tea Expo for the first time, and Carrie Matherly, a server at Lenoir, will continue her sommelier certification training.


To date, the Austin chapter has awarded more than $120,000 in scholarships, continuing education stipends and community grants.


Another Les Dames community effort is also still going strong: Since 2003, local members have made weekly food runs, picking up excess food from Wheatsville and delivering it to the University United Methodist Church, where the food can be used to make hot meals for unsheltered members of the community. This year, they added a second weekly delivery from the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller to Posada Esperanza every Sunday.


Those deliveries have continued through the coronavirus shutdown. University United Methodist Church is also where they host an annual holiday dinner, which will continue this fall.