Les Dames d'Escoffier, Ann Arbor
Founded 2015

Home base in Ann Arbor, The Ann Arbor City Club

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Les Dames d’Escoffier is the only organization of its kind: a world-wide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality.

Co-Founders:  Ann Arbor Chapter of LDEI

(written by Sandra Lach Arlinghaus)

My mother, Alma Lach, was a great Chicago Chef, holding the ‘Grande Diplôme’ of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris France (awarded June 29, 1956), as well as numerous honors in the culinary worlds of food and wine (including ‘Dame of Distinction’ from the Chicago Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chaine des Rotisseurs, Association des Anysetiers du Roy,  and so forth).   Our Chicago Chapter Mentor, Toria Emas, notes:

Alma was in the first group of new members.  15 charter  members were inducted on May 23, 1982 at L’Escargot  and the second induction (18 members) was held at Maxim’s on November 1, 1982 which happened to be my birthday.  Alma and I were in the second induction.  Each of the charter members was asked to invite one or two women to join in fall.  [Click here for a link to Chicago Chapter History as recounted on the Chicago Chapter website]

Alma wore a number of different hats, as a culinary multi-tasker ahead of her time: a cookbook author, a newspaper Food Editor, a food consultant, and a professional food photographer (among other things).  Alma died suddenly in 2013 at the age of 99; she was skillful with a computer and continued to work until the day she died.  Her unfinished works as well as all of her career documentation are housed in the Alma Lach Special Collection of the Joseph Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago.  A project that she and I had been working on together, during the final years of her life, was to create a Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

     Much of Mom’s adult life had been spent in Chicago.   In 2007, several years after the death of my father (in 2000), my husband Bill Arlinghaus and I persuaded her to get a ‘second’ home (of totally independent living) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 5 minutes away from us.  She believed when she embarked on her trip to Ann Arbor on a lovely autumn day in late September of 2007 that she would be in Ann Arbor only a short time before she returned to Chicago and she could have done so at any time (she drove her own car until she died).  However, when she arrived in Ann Arbor and saw her new Nature Cove Condominium apartment for the first time—she loved it—the beautiful view and the well-arranged interior suited her tastes very well.  She never left; she lived in Ann Arbor for six years.  She also made many new friends, especially Bob and Bea Kahn, while she continued to embrace her many friends from Chicago and elsewhere in her heart.

     In about 2010, Mom decided that she would like to join the Ann Arbor City Club in order to play poker in their downstairs bar; she also wanted me and Bill to join, too.  Soon we were all members and Mom loved going there to play poker, drink Scotch, and eat appetizers brought right to the circular poker table.  She and I were the only two women in the game.  Some of the men loved coming to try to beat her…but generally they left shaking their heads.  She made them happy by buying them an occasional drink!  Shortly after we all joined, the City Club Newsletter, The Beacon, did a feature story on us as a mother-daughter pair, including a prominent mention of our project in working together to try to build a Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier in Ann Arbor.

     As she became accustomed to the City Club, Alma thought about founding the new Ann Arbor Chapter of Les Dames with a base at the City Club.  She already knew a few folks around town she thought might be interested.  So, she and I brought our friend with whom we had frequently talked about culinary matters, Donna K. Tope M.S., J.D., into our serious discussions about this idea.  It wasn’t long before I wanted to include my neighbor and friend, Chef Ricky Agranoff, partner and co-owner of the Moveable Feast, for many years Ann Arbor’s premier fine dining establishment.  Alma had met Ricky on several occasions and told me “that girl knows food.”  If you knew Alma at all, you would know that that comment represented very high praise!  Ricky introduced us to her long-time friend and advisor, Patricia Pooley (her business partner at the Moveable Feast)—several years ago, we enjoyed some pleasant conversation about the Ann Arbor food/wine scene.  In subsequent discussions, Donna and I discovered that Ricky had thought earlier about founding a Chapter of Les Dames here in Ann Arbor, an effort of the late 1990s that somehow did not come to fruition.  Naturally, it seemed a fine idea to pool our efforts and creativity. 

     The result of this four-way collaboration produced the Ann Arbor Chapter of LDEI:  Four original co-founders of the Ann Arbor Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier:  Alma Lach, Sandra Lach Arlinghaus, Donna K. Tope, and Raquel B. Agranoff.

Copyright 2015--present, Les Dames d' Escoffier Ann Arbor.

Image credits:  Floral images, Alma S. Lach, copyright 1998, and Sandra Lach Arlinghaus. Burgundy/green LDE logo created by Alma Lach for the Chicago Chapter (of which she was an original first-year member) and used here with their permission.  LDEI logo used here, in both original and modified form, with LDEI permission.  Photo of the Ann Arbor City Club reprinted here with permission of the copyright holder.  Globe image, Google Earth (TM).