NEW ORLEANS – Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) New Orleans has just announced the three grant recipients for the inaugural Leading from the Heart Awards. Restaurateur Amanda Toups of Toups Meatery and Cristina Quackenbush chef of pop-up Milkfish and founder/president of Good Trouble Network will each be awarded individual $2,500 grants. An additional $2,500 grant to WeHelp Nola, a woman-led nonprofit, will be awarded to founder Olivia McCoy.
In keeping with LDEI’s philanthropic mission, the awards honor women in the 10-parish Greater New Orleans community who have made a positive impact in hospitality, sustainability, food justice and/or public health. “These leaders help make our community healthier, happier, and more equitable through their efforts,” said chapter co-founder Beth D’Addono. “These women are creative and inclusive thought leaders, mentors and collaborators who have a track record of credibility, trust and personal integrity.”
“We were impressed with all of the nominees’ efforts to uplift women, but these three women set themselves apart as trailblazers,” said Dee Lavigne, LDEI Vice President of Philanthropy and director of the Deelightful School of Cooking at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
The grants will be presented at the Leading from the Heart Awards breakfast on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Hotel Fontenot, 501 Tchoupitoulas St. in New Orleans. The event is open to the public and tickets, priced at $30 per person, can be purchased at at LDEI Leading from the Heart Awards Breakfast
Amanda Toups, co-owner, Toups Meatery
Amanda Toups is deeply embedded in the New Orleans community. When the pandemic hit, Toups and her husband Isaac provided free meals to hundreds of displaced hospitality workers, families in need, and local hospitals. She is a supporter of The Leona Tate Foundation for Change, which educates audiences on the history of school desegregation and its role in the broader Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans. She also works closely with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen. Toups raises funds during Breast Cancer Awareness month (October) and recently donated proceeds, earmarked for women battling the disease, to the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. Amanda will use the funds to continue feeding displaced hospitality workers and support disaster relief efforts through her work with World Central Kitchen.
Cristina Quackenbush, co-founder and president, Good Trouble Network
A fearless mother and grandmother as well as a talented chef and non-profit leader, Quackenbush is known for Filipino restaurant and current pop-up, Milkfish. But her passion is the Good Trouble Network, a non-profit that leads monthly fundraisers featuring local chefs to support causes related to racial justice, prison reform, reproductive rights, and accessible housing. During the pandemic, she started assembling dinner boxes featuring renowned local chefs to raise funds for causes including the Innocence Project of New Orleans and the ACLU of Louisiana. She plans to use the grant to offset the cost of the Holiday Bakes Box and the materials necessary to produce future boxes.
Olivia McCoy, founder and director, WeHelp NOLA
A long-time service industry veteran, McCoy saw an immense need for access to mental health services within the hospitality community and industry. In February 2020, she founded WeHelp NOLA, a local, woman-owned and operated organization that provides free mental healthcare and wellness services to service industry workers in New Orleans. WeHelp partners with local restaurants that pay about $10 per employee, per month, for a membership that gives their staff access to therapy and wellness services — all free of charge to the employee. Currently, WeHelp NOLA is partnered with 49 hospitality venues in New Orleans and, since launching, has provided more than 3,000 free therapy sessions to workers. She will use the grant to provide more than 83 free therapy sessions to service industry members in New Orleans.
“We often forget to pause and reflect on the good work that has been accomplished in our communities,” said Lavigne. “We encourage the community to join us in celebrating what these amazing women have done to make a difference.”