The Dallas Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier (LDEI) has awarded UT Austin’s Department of American Studies a $100,000 Presidential Fellowship to support graduate research in Texas, women and food culture.
Over the past six years, the Department of American Studies has been developing a reputation for being a leader in the emerging field of food studies in the humanities. Most recently, the department became home to Foodways Texas, a statewide organization dedicated to preserving, documenting and celebrating the diverse food stories of Texas.
This generous gift will help retain top graduate students who are in need of support for dissertation projects, says Elizabeth Engelhardt, professor and department chair of American Studies.
“This new endowment will help put UT Austin on the map as a leader in food studies in the humanities,” Engelhardt says. “As the first such endowment in American Studies, Les Dames D’Escoffier will play a leading role in increasing the stability of the department into the future, inspiring other such endowments as we work with development and other donors, and be recognized as central to our efforts to support emerging scholars and professionals in the field of American Studies, including those in food studies.”
Graduate students have gone on to write Pulitzer Prize-winning books, receive MacArthur Genius grants, become teachers, college presidents, entrepreneurs, journalists, public servants and museum curators. Their research has covered a wide spectrum of topics relating to Texas history and culture, including:
- Gender and race in mid-century American restaurants, especially Texas;
- marketing images of the organics movement in the United States;
- a cultural history of food festivals;
- diners and church barbecues in agricultural counties;
- women’s co-operative groceries and restaurants in the 1970s; and
- high art and haute cuisine.
Central to food studies is an attention to gender as a lens to understand culture, Engelhardt says. This area of study is of great importance to Les Dames d’Escoffier of Dallas, Inc., an organization of professional women in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. It is dedicated to supporting and promoting the achievement of women in the professions of the table and fostering excellence through educational and charitable activities.
“As an international, invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality, I cannot think of a better way to execute our mission of philanthropy and education than this partnership between the University of Texas, American Studies Department, and our Dallas Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier,” says Kathi Mancini, president of the LDEI Dallas chapter.