Awards and Honors

Lady Boss Festival Recognizes Women's Culinary Accomplishments

Ginger Graham, owner of Ginger and Baker, was awarded the first Bakery Leader Lady Boss Award this April.
Ginger Graham, owner of Ginger and Baker, was awarded the first Bakery Leader Lady Boss Award this April. Courtesy of Les Dames d'Escoffier Colorado
The new Lady Boss Festival celebrates women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries — those who take charge and rise up within their professions. The Colorado chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International created the event in order to honor twelve female professionals in the state who are leaders in restaurants, agriculture, food retail and other fields. And while the inaugural event was virtual this year for approximately 45 members and sponsors, Les Dames already has the date planned for next year’s in-person event.

“We want to do something fun but also educational,” says Lori Tieszen, chair of the Lady Boss committee. The 2022 in-person festival will be a time to teach and honor women making an impact within the culinary world. And it will also be a moment to raise funds for scholarships aimed at supporting young women in pursuing education in culinary-related fields.

“Philanthropy is the number-one goal for [Les Dames],” Tieszen continues. And it’s been that way since the organization was founded 41 years ago by Carol Brock. At that time, Brock worked as the Sunday food editor at the New York Daily News, but she had also experienced how women could be treated differently in the workplace. While working for Good Housekeeping, and despite having a master's degree in nutrition, she often filled the role of maid and cook in the male-dominated business, Tieszen explains.

Les Dames grew out of an intention to provide a supportive environment for women in the field, both by building networks and distributing financial assistance to those in need. It carries on the legacy of Auguste Escoffier, a chef renowned for his talent, philosophy and philanthropic deeds. Since its inception, the organization has grown to include 2,400 members in 45 chapters in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Mexico.

The Colorado chapter started in 2003, and while it’s a medium-sized chapter compared to others, it's looking to grow, Tieszen says. Lady Boss Festival is part of that public outreach — a way to teach residents about the organization, raise funds, and recognize culinary professionals who are already making a difference in Colorado.

click to enlarge All of the women leaders at the GrowHaus were nominated for the Lady Boss Community Leaders award. - COURTESY OF LES DAMES D'ESCOFFIER COLORADO
All of the women leaders at the GrowHaus were nominated for the Lady Boss Community Leaders award.
Courtesy of Les Dames d'Escoffier Colorado
The 2021 award winners include:
Restaurant Leader – Dana Rodriguez, chef & co-owner, Super Mega Bien and Work & Class
Restaurant Leader – Tabatha Knop, co-owner, Super Mega Bien
Agricultural Leader – Natalie Condon, co-owner, Isabelle Farm
Agricultural Leader – Jill Skokan, co-founder, Black Cat Farm
Bar Leader – Nicole Sullivan, owner, Book Bar
Food Retail Leader – Linda White, owner, Cheese Importers
Food Manufacturing Leader – Janet Johnston, co-owner & president, Savory Spice
Alcoholic Beverage Leader – Karen Hoskin, CEO & co-owner, Montanya Distillers
Bakery Leader – Ginger Graham, owner, Ginger and Baker
Food Truck Leader – Erika Rojas, owner, Prieto’s Catering
Community Leaders – women leaders of The GrowHaus
Non-Alcoholic Beverage Leader – Linda Appel Lipsius, co-founder, Teatulia

“Our chapter is proud to recognize the selected women for their strong work ethic, talented skills and sustainable efforts,” says Lee Clayton Roper, president of Les Dames d'Escoffier Colorado.

The awards are based on “women making a difference,” Tieszen adds. For Les Dames, diversity, education and community are the most important characteristics to nurture. For example, she says, Les Dames chose James Beard Award nominee Dana Rodriguez as a restaurant leader for both her talent as a chef and her work giving back to the community. “As respected as she’s become, she hasn’t forgotten her roots at all,” Tieszen explains.

By recognizing these women, the organization hopes to garner support from sponsors who will help Les Dames provide scholarships to university students who participate in culinary arts and hospitality programs.

While this year’s festivities are somewhat subdued due to their virtual nature, Tieszen says they have big plans for an in-person event on April 23, 2022; the Lady Boss Festival will also host educational events that showcase the talents of award recipients and provide entertainment for attendees.

The name Lady Boss encapsulates an attitude: a little bit irreverent and a little bit fun, with a lot of resilience, says Tieszen, and the awards are a way to celebrate that in other women and then pass it on.

To learn more about Les Dames, visit the organization's website here
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Claire Duncombe is a journalist, photographer, multimedia storyteller and musician. She is a recent graduate of CU Denver, and a proud Philadelphia native.
Contact: Claire Duncombe