ABOUT US

The Houston chapter of LDEI, chartered in 1994, presently has 40 members who actively support programming related to culinary education and philanthropy in the area.

CONTACT 

Email: ldeihouston@gmail.com

MEMBERS

Dames Board 2018-2019

Diane D'Agostino    Co-President

Marie LeNotre         Co-President

Sandra Shafer         1st Vice President- Ways and Means

Maria McGinity        2nd Vice President-Program Chair

Andi Pope                Communications and Recording Secretary

Kathleen Roussel    Scholarship Chair

Madelin Sanchez    Membership Chair

Amy Scott                Website Manager


 

Active Members

Pamela Barksdale

Member since 2018

 

After graduating from Rice University and University of Houston Law Center, Pam Barksdale pursued a career as a transactional tax attorney. But, her true passion had always been food and wine. In 2005, she acquired the 29-acre Italian winery Tenuta Acquazzolo located near Siena in Tuscany. Since then, Pam has pursued wine with vengeance. Her accomplishments to date include earning the International Sommelier Guild Diploma, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s WSET Level III with distinction, and French Wine Scholar and Italian Wine Specialist certifications. This fall, she expects to complete her Winemaking Certificate at Texas Tech University. Pam loves sharing her passion with others and has taught the International Sommelier Guild’s ISG Diploma Program at El Centro College in Dallas. She is also an adjunct professor at the Culinary Institute LeNôtre in Houston. Currently, Pam is working on bringing the wines produced at Tenuta Acquazzolo into the United States, including a Chianti Colli Senese DOCG, two “Super Tuscan” blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Vin Santo. 

 

Carla Buerkle

Member since 2006; President 2012–2015

 

Carla Buerkle is an award-winning Houston food stylist with twenty years of experience in stills and motion. Carla works primarily in Texas but travels anywhere on location or in the studio. Her background in restaurants, science, and art are the perfect food styling combination. Creativity and great communications skills have led to many years of great client relationships. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Carruth

Member since 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gracie Cavnar 

Member since 2009

 

Following a career in hospitality, Gracie Cavnar learned about childhood obesity issues confronting our society. In 2005, she created the Recipe for Success Foundation in order to change the way children understand, appreciate, and eat their food. Now entering its second decade with more than 50,000 children have participated, her foundation is the largest initiative of its kind in the country. Its signature Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program is available in schools nationwide and its public service campaigns such as VegOut! Challenge and programs like farmers marKIDS have garnered numerous national awards for Gracie and her foundation. In addition, Hope Farms, an urban agricultural project designed to provide affordable produce in a food desert and train veterans to be urban “agriprenuers,” has taken root in Houston. Gracie’s children’s book Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo has snared a dozen national awards since its publication in 2012.

 

 

 

Jacquie Clark

Member since 2007; President 2015–2017

 

Jacquie Clark’s culinary career was launched in 1984 when she opened Jacquisine, a restaurant and catering business in the Champions area in Houston. Jacquie owned and operated her business until 2002. In 2005, she became the market manager of Bayou City Farmers Market, now known as Urban Harvest Farmers Market, which was one of Houston’s first producers-only farmers’ markets. During her tenure there until 2008, Jacquie was instrumental in transforming the market from a mere handful of vendors into the bustling gathering spot it is today. A graduate of Cornell and Harvard Universities, her first career was in health services planning. Today, Jacquie remains passionately committed to the promotion and use of locally grown, seasonal food.

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Cook

Member since 2006


After working many years as a systems analyst in the oil and gas field, a corporate buyout presented Barbara Cook with the opportunity to pursue her dream of going to culinary school. Upon receiving a certification in Pastry Arts from Houston Community College and a certification in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Houston, she worked as a pastry chef for many years. Now retired, Barbara enjoys meeting other women in the food and beverage industry in the course of her travels as well as lending a helping hand to the next generation of culinarians.

 

 

Diane D’Agostino

Member since 2004; Co-President, 2017–Present

 

After graduating with a B.A. degree and a J.D. degree from law school, Diane D’Agostino decided to pursue a career in the culinary world. Following her graduation with honors from the Art Institute of Houston’s Culinary Program, she bought her current business in 1998. Diane transformed this business, originally called Mrs. Powell’s Gourmet Pecans, into a premier company by developing many new products. For many years, Diane supplied customer appreciation food gifts for Saks Fifth Avenue. In addition, she sold snack items to Bombardier’s Flex Jet business for their private jet customers. In 2006, Diane’s snack named “Come And Take It” was described in a Saveur magazine as a “snack mix to rise above the rest”. Today, Diane’s products can be found in many local grocery stores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise Ehrlich, CSW

Member since 2009

 

Denise Ehrlich is the owner of Renaissance Wine Marketing, LLC, with client wineries from Australia, California, Europe and South America. Denise has spent twenty-seven years working in the wine business as an importer, distributor, and supplier representative, and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators (SWE). Denise is also a founding member of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wine Committee. In 2010, she was a founding board member of the Women of Wine Charities (WOW), a nonprofit organization comprised of women working in the wine industry, women associated with the wine industry, and women who are wine enthusiasts. As WOW’s current president, she works with its members to organize several wine-related events and educational programs each year to benefit the Houston Area Women’s Center. With interests in travel, cooking, and entertaining, in addition to wine, you might run into Denise in the best restaurants, fine wine shops, and airports across Texas and surrounding states.

 

 

 

Suzanne Fain

Member since 1994; President 1999–2000

 

Suzanne Fain, a licensed attorney, was co-owner and manager of A Moveable Feast, Houston’s largest and oldest family-owned health food store and restaurant, from when it was established in 1971 until it was sold in 2013. Over the years as dietary trends evolved, Suzanne directed the business through several expansions. However, a major focus of the restaurant was always to demonstrate products sold in the store, while emphasizing the importance of eating “low on the food chain” and appealing to public tastes. In her current role of managing the Joe Ruckman Ranch, a cattle ranch in South Texas, Suzanne continues to apply the principles that drove her restaurant and retail store by studying soil health. Her goals are to increase the organic matter of the soil in order to retain water during Texas droughts and to prevent erosion by the use of cover crops. Suzanne believes that without healthy soil, chefs will eventually have nothing to cook.

 

Sarah Finster

Member since 2009

 

After graduating from Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis with an A.A.S. degree in Culinary/Hospitality, Sarah Finster wanted to further explore opportunities in the culinary world. Upon the advice of Master Chef Fritz Gitschner, Sarah moved to Houston. After spending five-and-a-half years at Houston Country Club, Sarah broadened her career in restaurant fine dining at Mark’s American Cuisine under Mark Cox. Subsequently, she shared her culinary knowledge through teaching cooking classes at Urban Chef. As a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), Sarah has competed in numerous culinary competitions sponsored by the ACF, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. Sarah is currently employed as Chef de Cuisine at Rice University. Her culinary philosophy reflects an interest in seasonal and fresh produce, and a strong belief in supporting local and small-farm-produced livestock and ingredients. Sarah’s broad range of cooking specialties illustrate her interest in cooking, eating, and learning about all cuisines.

 

 

 

 

Charelle Grant

Member since 2018

 

Charelle Goulas Grant is currently an adjunct faculty instructor at the Culinary Institute LeNôtre, teaching wine, marketing, and hospitality management courses. A graduate of the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Charelle also holds an accredited hospital educators’ certification and is a Certified Wine Associate through the Federation of Dining Room Professionals (FDRP). As a consultant in all aspects of the food and beverage industry, Charelle’s extensive experience spans the private club industry, hotels and restaurants, catering, and surgical and medical industries. She currently organizes private events with celebrity chefs, marketing promotions, high-performance leadership training sessions, team building and culinary & wine events to benefit local charities. Her passion is in teaching, training, and volunteering to raise funds for charitable organizations.

 

Norma Jessop

Member since 2018

 

Norma Jessop is a chef who loves to work with children and people of all ages by teaching them cooking skills and a flexible approach to a healthier nutritional balance to develop lifelong skills and benefits. A love for children and the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents over the past twenty years has made her especially passionate in working with children. In addition to studying herbology, homeopathy, and holistic nutrition courses, Norma is a graduate of the Culinary Institute LeNôtre. Norma strongly believes that by interesting children in cuisine at an early age, she can instill in them a healthy relationship with food and encourage them to try different ingredients and cuisines. Healthy eating thus creates healthy cells and a physiologically balanced body. Prior to her culinary career, Norma owned a textile, fire, water and mold remediation company in Houston for twenty years.

 

 

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Kimberly Joyner

Member since 2016

 

Kimberly Joyner is currently the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for The Art Institute of Houston, with an enrollment of 1200 students. She holds a M.B.A. from South University in Savannah, Georgia, B.S. from the University of Houston, Downtown; an A.A.S. from The Art Institute of Houston; and an A.A.A. from San Jacinto College. In addition, she served an apprenticeship with Executive Chef Jim Mills at The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa and was the owner and Executive Chef of Cuisine Catering. Kimberly has also been a Culinary Instructor, a Culinary Advisor, and the Culinary Coordinator for the Art Institute of Houston. Her awards from the Art Institute of Houston include the NISOD Excellence Award for Faculty in the Fall 2004 quarter, and Staff in the March 2004 quarter. Her continuing culinary interests include the art of garde manger.

 

 

 

 

Peg Lee

Member since 1994

 

After growing up in New England and Minnesota, Peg Lee began her culinary career at the age of eighteen. While going to France to study French, Peg met a young woman going to Cairo. A month later, Peg found herself in Cairo, exploring the flavors of a new cuisine. Peg’s interest in international travel and bonne femme cooking has continued to grow and evolve over seventy years. Recently, she traveled to India and enjoyed a cooking class in Jaipur. Peg has shared her culinary interests by starting cooking classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s, coordinating demonstrations with local chefs at Marshall Field’s, developing a cooking curriculum at Rice Epicurean Market, and opening the cooking school at Central Market. Through Peg’s efforts, Houstonians were introduced to many famous chefs and cooking instructors. Peg has also received awards from My Table magazine and the Recipe for Success Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marie LeNotre

Member since 1999; President, 2004–2006; Co-President, 2017–Present

 

Marie LeNôtre is the co-founder and Director of the Culinary Institute LeNôtre, a four-hundred student nationally accredited higher education institution. Marie is also the President and founder of the Gaston LeNôtre Scholarship, a Texas non-profit organization that raises scholarship funds for talented and deserving students pursuing a culinary arts career. Since 2001, this scholarship fund has raised nearly one million dollars in tuition scholarships through the annual Champagne & Chocolat Gala thanks to the generosity of supporters and friends. Marie also holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Houston, a B.A. in Drama from the University of Athens, Greece, a M.A. in Public Health Education from the University of Texas, and a M.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. In 2011, Marie was honored by the French Government with The Order of Merit at an event officiated by Chef Daniel Boulud. Marie’s book Appetites: A Memoir provides additional insights regarding her career.

 

 

 

 

Maria McGinity

Member since 2016

 

Maria McGinity has a diverse background in Hospitality Management. Her career began in restaurants while she worked her way through college, earning her Culinary, Catering, and Restaurant Management degree from the Art Institute of Houston. As Director of Catering on the opening team of NRG Stadium, she led her team of employees through the Texans’ opening season and Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. In 2006, Maria joined River Oaks Country Club where she advanced to the Assistant General Manager position over a period of nine years. In 2015, Maria joined The Clubs at Houston Oaks as their Assistant General Manager. At the beginning of 2016, Maria joined the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee as the Director of Hospitality while employed as the Director of Catering and Conference Service at the Four Seasons Hotel. In her current position, Assistant General Manager at Bluejack National, Maria oversees all club, food and beverage, sports, residential services, and facility operations.

 

 

 

 

Barbara McKnight

Member since 2009

 

Chef Barbara McKnight founded CULINAIRE-Inspired Cuisine and Events in a church kitchen in 2000. Since then, the company has grown in size and reputation, and from its current headquarters in the historic Hofheinz House, caters hundreds of high-profile events each year. Prestigious clientele, including CEOs and visiting royalty, consistently praise CULINAIRE’s delicious bespoke cuisine and attention to detail. Born in western Canada, Barbara was raised in Houston and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. After completing a three-year chef’s training course in Germany, she worked at The Hotel Savoy in Zurich, Switzerland. Upon her return to Houston in 1996, Barbara accepted a position with Jackson & Company, Houston’s most prominent catering company at the time. A culinary trip to Seattle in 1998 sparked the idea to create her own chef-driven catering company. In addition to running her catering company, Chef McKnight is active in the Houston community and has served on the boards of several local and national non-profit organizations, including Entrepreneur's Organization (EO), La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, and Recipe for Success.

 

 

Daniela Mocofan

Member since 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine Parsi

Member since 2017

 

Catherine Parsi has a B.A. in French, a M.A. in Elementary Education, and is currently completing a doctoral dissertation for her Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. She has attended National Restaurant Association Level 1, 2, and 3 trainings at the University of South Carolina School of Hospitality, Le Cordon Bleu, and Virginia Tech. Catherine has also pursued advanced training at Johnson & Wales, Valrhona, PreGel, and the French Pastry School of Chicago. While teaching high school culinary arts for six years at College Station High School, she developed one of the school’s hallmark career and technical programs. In addition to coaching her culinary teams to multiple wins at local, regional, state, and national levels, she developed a fundraising event called “Dinner under the Stars” which brought local celebrity chefs into schools to raise money for culinary scholarships. Her current projects include writing a cookbook, developing an on-line specialty pastry catering business, pastry consulting and education, and consulting for new high school culinary programs in central Texas.

 

 

 

 

Andi Pope

Member since 2018

 

Andi Pope’s love and passion started very early in her grandmother’s kitchen where she learned everything she could regarding food and cooking. After receiving a degree in Culinary Arts from the Texas Culinary Academy Le Cordon Bleu, Andi worked for Pluckers Wing Bar in Austin where she was the youngest and first female general manager in the company’s history. At Pluckers, she blazed the trail for young women to follow a culinary career path with this growing company. After returning home to Houston, Andi combined her love for the industry and teaching by starting a new career in education. Currently, she is a Culinary Arts Instructor at Cleveland High School. She also serves as Assistant Director of District 7 for SkillsUSA, the second largest career and technical student organization in the United States. SkillsUSA provides her students with opportunities to work with industry professionals in order to further their education and develop career goals. By combining a passion for culinary arts and education, Andi plays an important part in training and developing the next generation of culinarians.

 

 

Kathleen Roussel

Member since 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madelin Sanchez

Member since 2018

 

 

Madelin Sanchez is a personal chef with over fifteen years of experience in the culinary field. Her love for food and service began at a young age while working at a family restaurant. In 2008, and while attending Houston Community College’s Culinary Program, Madelin began her professional career at River Oaks Country Club. During the five years that she worked there, Madelin was a prep cook, line cook, and later a garde manger chef responsible for creating a vast repertoire of dishes for weddings, banquets, and fine dining events. At River Oaks Country Club, she broadened and enhanced her professional and creative culinary skills. Currently, Madelin is a personal chef in Houston who caters to diverse palates with bold, healthy cooking. Over the years she has recognized the importance of nourishing people with delicious flavors while at the same time emphasizing the importance of food as medicine and fuel. A native Mexican, Madelin works daily to develop new and healthy recipes inspired by a wide range of cuisines including modern Mexican, Thai, Japanese, and Indian. 

 

 

Amy Scott

Member since 2017

 

After managing a food pantry in Los Angeles County and seeing how little fresh food was available, Amy Scott pursued a career as an organic vegetable farmer for seven years. Although she didn’t have a background in agriculture, Amy wanted to learn how to grow food. After interning on farms in Santa Rosa, California and Cold Spring, New York, Amy moved to Gravity Hill Farm in Titusville, New Jersey where she was the manager for three years. While there, she also organized area farms to provide educational opportunities to local farm interns.  The group, now known as New Jersey C.R.A.F.T., continues to thrive in the area. After moving to Houston, Amy worked with the Recipe for Success Foundation to start Hope Farm, and was the Farm Manager for the project from 2016–2017. In 2016, she began as a part-time freelance food photographer and copywriter for Pranayums, a spice company in Los Angeles. In 2017, Amy took her love of food writing and photography full-time.

 

 

 

Sandra Shafer

Member since 2012

 

Sandra Alonzo Shafer was born in El Salvador, where she graduated with a degree in sales and marketing from Universidad Politecnica de El Salvador. After moving to Houston in 1989, she worked in the petrochemical industry in supply chain management. While living in Cyprus, she discovered that her passion was always in the kitchen. After traveling and researching foods in Europe, she moved to Houston and attended the Culinary Institute LeNôtre, earning degrees in Culinary Arts and Pastry and Baking Arts. Sandra has staged in Europe at Michelin-starred restaurants, worked in private country clubs as a chef, and managed her own catering company. She currently devotes her time to numerous not-for-profit organizations, including Women of Wine Charities, Houston Food Bank, Star of Hope Women and Family Shelter, and Recipe for Success where she is a culinary instructor for their Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program. In addition, Sandra works as a for-profit business consultant in the fields of brand development, menu design, and marketing strategies.

 

 

 

 

Yvonne Sternes

Member since 2012

 

Yvonne Sternes is an award-winning Houston Pastry Chef with eleven years of experience in the food industry. As a career changer, she attended the Culinary Institute LeNôtre, completing two degrees—an A.S. Baking and Pastry Arts and an A.S. Culinary Arts. Yvonne found that culinary school provided the perfect opportunity to combine a background in science (she holds a B.S. in Geology), with a lifelong love of cooking and baking. Currently employed at The Art Institute of Houston as a baking and pastry instructor, Yvonne enjoys passing along knowledge and skills to her students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monique Studak

Member since 2017

 

A graduate of the University of Texas, Monique Studak has been in the wine business for over twenty- five years. Her passion is education and training as it pertains to wine and the art of selling. Monique began her career in the Texas Wine Industry at Messina Hof Wine Cellars before spending 16 years with the E&J Gallo Family. She currently works with Pernod-Ricard presenting their wine and champagne portfolio to major on-premise accounts. Monique is the founding president of the Women of Wine Charities established in 2007. Over the years, this organization has been a major fundraiser and supporter of the Houston Area Women’s Center. Monique continues to serve in the organization. In addition, she is presently a Vice Chairman on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Wine Committee and is also a judge at the Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition. Monique’s many professional credentials include: Certified Sommelier 

 

 

Merrianne Timko

Member since 2003; Co-President 2006–2008

 

Merrianne Timko has served as the culinary historian for the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s popular Cultural Feasts dining program since 2002. In this role, she draws on her academic background in art history and archaeology to research special exhibitions from a culinary perspective and then works with local chefs to interpret these exhibitions through the use of historical ingredients, dishes, and menus. To date, more than forty Cultural Feasts have been organized to complement a variety of exhibitions. Merrianne is also a frequent lecturer on the history of food, wine, chefs, and gastronomy from antiquity through the nineteenth century for various Houston organizations and groups, and has presented at several national and international conferences. Her research regarding the British author Lawrence Durrell (1902–1990) from a culinary perspective has provided new insights regarding the author’s references to food and wine in his popular novels like the Alexandria Quartet and the Avignon Quintet.

 

 

 

 

Marian Tindall

Member since 1996; President 2003–2004; Co-President 2006–2008

 

 

Marian Tindall’s culinary career in Houston was inspired by her love of French culture and the French language. After receiving a B.A. degree at Rice University in 1964, she graduated with a M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) in French at Yale University in 1965. A former instructor of French at the Greenhill School in Dallas from 1965–1967 and The Hockaday School in Dallas from 1967–1969, Marian pursued her interest in French cuisine by taking cooking classes in Houston at Mary Nell Reck’s school La Cuisine, LaVerl Daily’s school Le Panier, and with Jacques Pépin and Edward Agopian. In addition, she attended the Le Cordon Bleu program in Paris. Marian worked at catering businesses in Houston such as La Pâte et Le Pain and Karens Fine Food before operating her own restaurant and catering business in the Galleria—Bistro Cuisine—from 1985–2000. Marian has also taught at Batterie de Cuisine and Central Market in Houston. Today, Marian is an active Board member with Rice University’s Friends of Fondren Library.

 

 

Deborah Woehler

Member since 2004

 

Deborah Woehler, a registered and licensed dietitian, received her undergraduate degree in nutrition from Purdue University and a M.S. degree from Texas Women’s University. In 2008, she was honored for her accomplishments by being inducted into Purdue’s Nutrition Hall of Fame. Deborah’s professional positions have included: Nutrition and Healthcare Specialist for Sysco Foods, Vice President of Research for Health at National Health Laboratories (a major pharmaceutical research company), and owner of WM Services, the first privately owned bone mineral density center in Houston. Since 2004, she has served as Executive Director of the Oliver Foundation, a nonprofit organization that sponsors programs in Texas focusing on the prevention of childhood obesity. Deborah is also active with the Houston Culinary Guild and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and serves on the boards of the LeNôtre Culinary Endowment and the Gaston LeNôtre Scholarship fund.