We founded Clayton & Crume out of our dorm room at Western Kentucky University in 2012. After graduating, we opened our first location in Louisville, Kentucky and haven’t looked back. We’re proud of our Kentucky roots, and that’s why we’re sharing the story of our friends at the LEE Initiative.
The LEE Initiative = Let’s Empower Employment
Established in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2018 by award-winning chef, Edward Lee, and restaurant industry veteran, Lindsey Ofcacek, the LEE Initiative was founded out of the idea that restaurants need more diversity, training and equality. The pair wanted to redefine what it meant to give back to their local community, and since they’re in the business of hospitality, they’re also in the business of solving problems. Repurposing this familiar mindset, they set out each day to approach the complex social issues that arise in today’s restaurant industry by:
- Wherever they identify a need for more diversity and more equality in the restaurant industry, they will find creative and forward thinking solutions.
- They will create small but impactful programs that make a real difference in the lives of the next generation of restaurant industry professionals.
- They will help our community and inspire others to get involved, get active and give back.
Coming Together for Team Kentucky
Our path crossed with the LEE team during the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were in the midst of producing a half-million face shields for our home state of Kentucky, while the LEE Initiative switched gears to feed service industry workers, and helped restaurants avoid shutting their doors both locally and all across the country. While we were shipping out face shields, they were bringing food from farm to table, making sure local farms continued to bring in money, and the restaurants continued to be staffed and operational. They also supported the food, beverage and hospitality industry as a whole with freshly cooked meals, much needed supplies, resources and more, with 19 relief kitchens established across the country. We were blown away by the impact of the LEE team and how much they truly value our community. From their Restaurant Workers Relief Program, Restaurant Reboot Relief Program, Women Culinary and Spirits Program, to their Louisville-based McAtee Training & Community Kitchen, they truly are an organization rooted in community.
“It’s small businesses and small teams that collectively came together to help those in a time of desperate need.” – Jeff Arsenault, Marketing Director, Clayton & Crume
A Strong Sense of CommUNITY
The successes of the Lee Initiative were made possible through partnerships with Audi, Yeti and many more that donated to assist in keeping everyone afloat. During this time, our friends at Maker’s Mark also stepped in to help by introducing a bottle called Maker’s Mark CommUNITY Batch – a special release bourbon created by the community, for the community, to support trade and hospitality partners around the country. The first CommUNITY Batch Private Selection barrel was sold out of our Clayton & Crume flagship retail store on November 14, 2020.
We both shifted gears during the pandemic to help our home state. Then, we came together to celebrate.
Now that the Relief Programs are winding down, the LEE Initiative is getting back to their main focus of the Women Culinary and Spirits Program, which seeks to bring more gender equality to the restaurant industry through mentorship programs and continuing education.
“Promoting women into leadership roles and higher-paying jobs is crucial to the independent restaurant industry. Today, less than one in five chefs in our industry is a woman. The LEE Initiative’s Women Culinary and Spirits Program addresses this void in leadership, bringing qualified women into the kitchen and equipping them with new skills, expanding their capability and elevating their career pathway.” – LEE Initiative
To celebrate the good we’ve both done over the last year, and honor this year’s Women Culinary and Spirits Program participants, on Wednesday, June 9, we hosted the LEE Initiative staff and five spirit mentees, and led them through the process of handcrafting their very own Leather Aprons. Since we’ve only made seven of these Leather Aprons before, it was an honor to share our craft with not only the LEE Initiative, but also with the mentees in the 2020 and 2021 Women Culinary and Spirits Programs.
"Making my Apron was one of the most therapeutic experiences I've had in a while. Meticulously assembling such a vintage and timeless piece signifying my craft was surely a proud moment for me. The process was truly humbling and gratifying.” – Sherri Jenkins, 2021 Spirit Mentee
Thank you to the LEE Initiative for their efforts during the pandemic and their dedication to increase diversity, training and equality in Louisville restaurants. We look forward to continuing this partnership for years to come and serving the Louisville community along the way.Also, stay tuned. This September we will be sharing how you can give back to the LEE Initiative. Hint – it involves leather!