Being one of six professional women chosen as this year’s Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) Legacy Award was a breathtaking and timely experience for my life. From Gala to orchard, this was not your average Legacy Award trip.
I traveled to Vancouver to spend a week with Dame Lee Murphy of Vista D’oro Farms & Preservatory and the Les Dames d’Escoffier, British Columbia Chapter. The first part of my trip centered on the Les Dames D’Escoffier BC Gala honoring Lidia Bastianich. Dame Murphy then opened her home and ten-acre farm in South Langley, BC to me. She shared her story with around the big farm table thumbing through the proofs of her upcoming cookbook, The Preservatory: Seasonally Inspired Recipes for Creating and Cooking with Artisanal Preserves. I was able to pitch in with harvest, from dodging hornets during the grape harvest to picking and preparing apples for the cooper pots. I got the first sips of wine aging in oak barrels and travel to other wineries to sample the terroir of the Fraser Valley.
My time in British Columbia was spent connecting with and learn from this large community of women- farmers, good food producers, chefs, retailers and restauranteurs (the entire farm to table chain). I had the opportunity to meet the Dames behind foodwords&images, The Gourmet Warehouse, Chicha Restaurant, Silk Road Teas, Pear Tree Restaurant, Nextjen and many other women-led food businesses. It's valuable to hear everyone’s story, to learn the good, the bad and the challenging parts of being a woman food entrepreneur - my Legacy Award trip gave me the insight and perspective for running my own restaurant and food business. This experience demonstrated the full power of women in community together.
On the flight home I feverishly rewrote aspects of my restaurants business plan and created a product launch plan for my burgeoning Sage’s Larder food and wellness brand. As a new restauranteur, farmer, food and wellness entrepreneur, business often takes over your life. As a farmer, I want to design a successful growing program that focuses on growing fresh produce to scale. As a small food producer, I want to take that fresh produce and transform it into sauerkraut, pickles, shrubs and jams. As a woman restauranteur, I want to insure the financial success and commitment to working fresh and local ingredients, small producers and artisans at The Farmer & The Larder.
I shared my journey with everyone that I came into contact with and when Hurricane Matthew hit I was able to draw on those stories of resiliency, flexibility and community in rebuilding. These are the lessons that will stick with me for a lifetime.