Who Are The Disciples & Les Dames of Escoffier?
The great chef Auguste Escoffier had a long-lasting impact on the culinary world. Not only did he revolutionize French cooking and the organization of the professional kitchen, but he also served as an inspiration for a continued tradition of culinary education and fellowship among chefs and restaurant industry professionals
The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is just one of the institutions dedicated to the growth of culinary professionals in Escoffier’s name. Two others are the Disciples Escoffier International and Les Dames d’Escoffier International.
Learn more about these two exclusive groups and what they bring to the modern culinary world.
Disciples Escoffier International
The Disciples Escoffier International is the premier gastronomic society established to maintain and promote the traditions of French cuisine. The group works to establish contacts between professionals and students, to organize culinary events where members can gather to discuss French haute cuisine, and to unite all Disciples Escoffier from around the world.
History of the Disciples
The Disciples Escoffier International was established in 1954, nearly 20 years after the great chef’s death. Founded by Jean Ducroux, then-President of the Fraternelle des Cuisiniers, the group was originally called the Disciples d’Auguste Escoffier. Ducroux intended for it to bring the chefs of southern France’s major hotels together in comradeship.
The first real chapter of the group was established in the early 1960s, when it inducted the original 80 members. In the next few decades, chapters were founded throughout France and internationally.
In 2007, new President Jean-Pierre Biffi sought to modernize the group and codified its purpose in the “Esprit Escoffier.” He and the leadership laid out the four main pillars of Disciples Escoffier International:
- Equality and Appearance — all Disciples are equal and there are no membership ranks
- Knowledge and Transmission — Disciples share their culinary knowledge with others
- Culture and Modernity — Disciples respect their culinary history while also promoting the evolution of the kitchen
- Generosity and Unity — Disciples support charitable causes and participate in philanthropy
“The kitchen will evolve as society evolves, without ceasing to be an art…We must look in ourselves for new ways to leave working methods adapted to the customs and habits of our time.”
– Auguste Escoffier
These four pillars are in keeping with Auguste Escoffier’s philosophy and actions during his life. His innovations laid the groundwork for the future of French cuisine. He was known to take an interest in the education of young chefs, and he regularly donated extras from his kitchens to the needy.
Membership in the Disciples
Over the past 65 years, membership in the Disciples Escoffier International has grown to 25,000 members across 26 countries. Members include chefs, non-chef experts like food writers and hospitality professionals, sommeliers, maîtres d’hôtel, and food/wine producers.
New Disciples are added by invitation only and must be sponsored by two current members. Once members are inducted into the group, they’ll be awarded a specific color sash depending on their profession:
- Red Sash — professional chefs
- Blue Sash — non-culinary professionals in the food industry and media
- Purple Sash — sommeliers, maîtres d’hôtel, restaurateurs, and hospitality professionals
- Green Sash — food and wine producers
Members meet to dine together, sharing great food and discussing changes and improvements to the culinary profession. Chapters also provide scholarships and raise money for important causes.
Current Disciples Escoffier International
In addition to sharing a namesake, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts also shares some faculty and staff with the illustrious Disciples.
Escoffier’s Boulder campus Chef Instructor Michael Scott was inducted into the group in 2011. Austin campus Executive Chef Robyn McArthur and Chef Instructor Pablo Guerrero are also members. And Escoffier’s Online Programs Chef Instructor Cesar Herrera and Pastry Chef Susie Wolak are Disciples as well.
“I promise to transmit, serve, and honor cooking, its culture and its constant evolution.”
– Oath of Disciples Escoffier International
Outside of the kitchen and the classroom, Chief Admissions Officer Jeffrey Larson and Escoffier Schools Board of Directors member Chas Edelstein were both inducted in 2017.
Finally, one of our esteemed community partners has also been added to the ranks of the Disciples. Chef Curtis Duffy, former owner and chef of 3 Michelin star restaurant Grace has been a member since 2016.
Les Dames d’Escoffier International
Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) is a culinary organization that promotes women in the food, beverage, and hospitality industries. The group provides scholarships for women to attend culinary school, as well as hosts a range of initiatives for career advancement and charitable causes.
History of LDEI
Although there are now plenty of female members of Disciples Escoffier International and other culinary groups, that wasn’t always the case.
Up until the 1970s, women were largely shut out of the culinary profession and their trade organizations. One such group was Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of New York, which was founded shortly after Auguste Escoffier passed away in 1935.
By 1973, Carol Brock, the Sunday food editor at the New York Daily News, decided it was time for a women’s culinary institution. She received a charter from Les Amis d’Escoffier to form a local women’s chapter. But not content to remain an offshoot of Les Amis, the founders of the women’s group agreed that when they had established five chapters, they would break off to form Les Dames d’Escoffier International.
By 1985, there were chapters in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia, and LDEI was formally established.
Membership in LDEI
Similarly to the Disciples, membership in LDEI is by invitation-only. Exact requirements for membership vary among local chapters, but generally applicants must be long-term food, beverage, or hospitality professionals, and must be sponsored by two current Dames.
Disciples members can be any gender and is primarily an honorific title built on preserving the legacy of Escoffier. Les Dames on the other hand is more focused towards advancing and supporting women in the food industry.
There are currently 2,400 members in 43 chapters across five countries.
LDEI has a robust philanthropy program that makes up the bulk of its activities. One of their primary purposes is to help women attend culinary school. To that end, individual chapters host fundraisers and award scholarships for women to attend culinary schools like Escoffier.
The group promotes international culinary diversity through education and training in their Global Culinary Initiative. They also work to connect schools and restaurants to farms, fostering education about sustainable food and promoting farm-to-fork eating.
And with the support of the Julia Child Foundation, they provide mentorship to young female culinarians through The Legacy Awards. Award winners spend a week working with a more experienced Dame member to expand their knowledge and become future leaders.
The Legacy of Escoffier
The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is proud to share an inspiration and a name with these two great organizations. Just like our culinary school provides education to the innovators of tomorrow, these groups provide leadership, mentorship, and camaraderie to the next great generation of chefs.
Did you find this interesting? Then you might like these articles:
- A Short Bio of Auguste Escoffier
- Our Guide to Escoffier’s 5 Mother Sauces
- 6 Types of Culinary & Pastry Careers in the Food Service Industry
This article was originally published on August 1, 2013, but has since been updated.