Les Dames D’escoffier To Honor Culinary Pioneer Esther McManus At Harvest Dinner

Les Dames d’Escoffier will honor Philadelphia culinary pioneer Chef Esther McManus on Sunday, September 25th at Outstanding in Her Field, a new annual event to recognize talented women making a difference in the region’s culinary field. The locally sourced harvest farm dinner will be set amidst the vines of Inn of Grace Winery (50 Sweetwater Road, Glen Mills) and paired with its fine wines and will celebrate McManus’ artistry and legacy. McManus is a quiet and behind-the-scenes rockstar in the culinary world - she taught Julia Child how to make the perfect croissant, is considered by many to be the mother of Philly’s artisan bread movement, and currently inspires legions of young cooks at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill. Funds raised from the event will help fund scholarships for women entering the culinary field. Tickets are on sale now starting at $125 at http://bit.ly/tixlesdamesphl

Philadelphia has a storied culinary history, and professional women have been integral to the development of restaurants, catering companies, farms and food production since the city was founded. In order to honor this heritage, Les Dames d’Escoffier Philadelphia has developed Outstanding In Her Field, an annual awards dinner to recognize a Philadelphia-area woman for her accomplishments in the food, beverage or hospitality  industry.  

“The idea for an annual award event was the brainchild of one of our members, Lynne Farrington. She really wanted to use the platform that Les Dames d'Escoffier has to honor a local woman for her outstanding contributions in the culinary field,” said Natanya DiBona, Event Co-Chair and Incoming President, Les Dames d'Escoffier Philadelphia. “We loved the idea and got to work on this new signature event. We thought it was also the perfect way to raise money for our scholarship program that will help support our next generation of culinary superstars.”

“Choosing the bucolic Inn at Grace Winery and its vineyards was easy, selecting the first honoree from a pool of so many talented women was a bit more challenging,” said DiBona. “In the end, our nominating committee selected Esther McManus for her vast contributions to the Philadelphia food scene as well as her long commitment to education.”

LDEI Philadelphia is thrilled with their choice of McManus, who came to Philadelphia in 1972. The chef, baker and teacher extraordinaire was born in Marrakesh and has lived on four continents. After an adventurous early life in Morocco, France, Italy, Israel and the United States, she took up cooking and became chef at notable Philadelphia restaurants including The Garden, The Yacht Club, DiLullo’s  and Le Bus, where she helped make a small restaurant and the idea of artisan bread into a culinary empire. According to many in the local food scene, McManus is the mother of the artisan bread movement in Philadelphia.

She is now a beloved chef-instructor at the Restaurant School where she shares her generous and inspiring passion - and flawless techniques - with her lucky culinary students who are known to universally adore her. Her culinary motto “Je seme a tous vents” - “I have to give somebody some food” - is taken from the gastronome Larousse.

Outstanding in Her Field promises to not only honor McManus and raise funds for Les Dames’ Educational, Scholarship, and Green Tables initiatives, it will also shine a light on the many talented local women working in the culinary, hospitality, farming, beverage and educational fields. And of course, it will be a lot of fun savoring what the Dames enjoy most, “Je seme a tous vents.”

Food for the event will be created by the talented chef-members of LDEI Philadelphia and friends of McManus’ in the culinary world, including: Lynn Buono (Feast Your Eyes), Robert Bennett (formerly of Le Bec Fin and now Classic Cake), Rich Pepin (Drexel University), Marie Stecher and the students at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Garces Catering, Kathy Gold (In the Kitchen Cooking School) and Michele Haines  (Spring Mill Cafe), to name just a few. 

The meal will feature Mediterranean with French and Moroccan influences to reflect Esther's background and the worldly mindset she brought to her cooking and teaching. Dishes will include: Lamb Tagine, Couscous, celery root pate, orange pomegranate pistachio salad, Moroccan Chicken Bastilla, assorted desserts, and of course, Esther's famous croissants!

Proceeds from the event will support scholarships to women pursuing careers in culinary arts, hospitality, fine beverage and agriculture. Scholarships are awarded annually to women of all ages who are enrolled in accredited programs in the Philadelphia region. For more information and to apply, go to http://www.lesdamesphilly.org/scholarships/