STATEN ISLAND, NY – Pamela Silvestri, food editor for the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com, was recently accepted into Les Dames d’Escoffier, a prestigious organization for women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries.
Founded in 1976, the organization created a space for women in the male-dominated food industry, inspired by the all-male group Les Amis d’Escoffier. The organization has chapters in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Boston, according to its website.
The organization says its mission is “to inspire, advance and support women in food, beverage and hospitality to achieve excellence in leadership and philanthropy.”
“What I love about it is that they embrace the idea of mentoring,” Silvestri explained.
One of her own personal mentors is Amy Zavatto, the first Staten Islander to join Les Dames and the author of numerous cookbooks. Zavatto encouraged Silvestri to apply to the organization.
Silvestri is the former owner of American Grill, the first Michelin Star restaurant on the Staten Island.
With family roots in the restaurant business, the Staten Island local studied architecture and urban planning at Bryn Mawr College — but always knew she would wind up in the food business.
“I’ve had a lot of experience in the food service industry from the bottom up,” Silvestri commented.
“A lot of people think of the restaurant business as being a glamorous thing, but the reality is that you have to have a very varied background, you know, from a knowledge of plumbing and electrical systems to how to plate a dish.”
After moving back to Staten Island post-college, Silvestri met her now-husband, David Cavagnaro, as they partnered to start a company serving restaurant-grade food at local Catholic School cafeterias.
“The Staten Island Advance did a food review of our cafeteria, which kind of launched our company into another stratosphere,” she said.
From there, they opened the Michelin/Zagat-rated American Grill, a beloved restaurant with caricatures of loyal customers hung on the walls. In 2006, the couple sold the restaurant before starting a family.
Silvestri was then offered a position at the Advance, where she had previously worked as a teenager. “I really immersed myself in all the different foods that were coming into Staten Island.”
She expressed her gratitude to the female food editors who preceded her at the Advance, including Jane Milza, who passed away last year. “The Staten Island Advance has always been really, really admirable for its restaurant and food writing. Always.”
Silvestri was recently honored with the New York News Publishers Association awards for distinguished beat reporting, for her excellence in covering the Staten Island restaurant scene, and for column writing, recognizing her work on Pamela’s Food Service Diary.
Now, Silvestri remarks of Les Dames, “It’s really exciting because it brings decades of food service and writing about the industry to another level… [an opportunity to] share the knowledge in another way.”