Joan Nathan is LDEI's Grande Dame for 2015

Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s (LDEI) prestigious Grande Dame recognition will be awarded to Joan Nathan, author of 10 award-winning cookbooks. Nathan is a charter member of the Washington D.C. LDEI Chapter, a dedicated philanthropist and noted culinary expert who views food through the lenses of history, culture, and tradition.

LDEI is an organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality. Its Grande Dame Award honors a lifetime of outstanding professional achievement, excellence, and charitable/community contributions within the culinary industry and is bestowed biennially. Nathan, the thirteenth recipient of the international honor, will receive the award at a gala dinner culminating the LDEI annual conference in Charleston, S.C. on Saturday, October 31, 2015.

Nathan joined Grande Dame Alice Waters and Chef Jose Andres in leading Washington D.C.’s Sips and Sups dedicated to fighting hunger. Last year, Sips and Sups raised over $500,000 for DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table, where Nathan serves on the board. Martha’s Table is a DC-based nonprofit that provides comprehensive support to impoverished individuals.

Nathan has been inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who In American Food and Beverage. Her most recent cookbook Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, made both the New York Times and the National Public Radio 2010 best cookbooks lists. Her landmark book, Jewish Cooking in America won both the 1994 James Beard Award and the 1994 IACP/Julia Child Cookbook of the Year Award as did her 2005 cookbook, The New American Cooking. Nathan’s PBS series Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best National Television Food Show. 

Over the course of her career, Nathan has had a significant impact on the culinary profession. In 1974, while working for New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, she cofounded the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival, which continues today. In the 1980’s, Nathan pioneered the inaugural Smithsonian Associates’ food series with special guests Julia Child and Craig Claiborne. Nathan served as the guest curator of the Smithsonian’s Folk Life Festival’s 2005 Food Culture USA; an event that drew upon the research for her book The New American Cooking. In May of 2011, she spoke at the National Archives about the Jewish American Exhibit. Recently, Nathan was invited to serve on the Kitchen Advisory to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Nathan has consulted on several White House Passover Seder menus and was also asked by First Lady Laura Bush to participate in the National Book Festival. The Obama administration invited Nathan to stage a Passover culinary demonstration at the White House.