Chef Leon came to The Saint Louis Woman’s Club in 1995 and became Executive Chef in 2000. He earned his culinary arts diploma at the College of the Ministry of Trade in Moldova and has achieved the status of Chef de Cuisine. Chef Leon relishes events that challenge his repertoire and creativity. He incorporates a variety of world cuisines to develop specialized menus that beautifully complement our events.
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Executive Chef Leon Dubinovskiy earned his culinary arts diploma at the College of the Ministry of Trade in Moldova, the only cooking school in his Russian hometown. He arrived in St. Louis at age 23 with no English. As an émigré, despite his previous culinary credentials, he had to virtually begin a new career in America. “I had an interest in food,” he says, “and I learned a lot during my compulsory military service starting at age 18.” In the army, Chef cooked three meals a day for 500 soldiers. His fine dining experience began when he came to America.
He was in English language school only two weeks when he began working at The European Café as a dishwasher—he was soon offered a fulltime job. “I had no idea what was going on,” he remembers. “I used to go and sit in the freezer!” He slowly built his cooking skills and through a contact with his brother, was hired at a steak house. “I wasn’t there very long and the chef quit. Suddenly I was in charge. I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat. I would translate the recipes into Russian so I could cook them!”
With a growing family, Chef worked two fulltime jobs, including at Sportsman’s Park in Ladue. He heard that The Saint Louis Woman’s Club was looking for a European Sous Chef so he applied with Chef Zettl, who was then The Club’s award winning Executive Chef. “Chef Zetll had 17 sous chefs before me, “ he recalls. “The training was difficult—an emotional rollercoaster—but I trained for five years with one of the greatest chefs in the country. His passion was cooking, he taught me classical French techniques. He wanted me to earn important certifications and encouraged me to learn and grow. It was hard training in the old style.” Among other certifications, Chef Leon achieved the status of Certified Chef de Cuisine.
In 1995, he became Executive Chef at The Club. “By then, I wanted to develop my own style. Having a chef coat doesn’t make you a chef,” he says. He began introducing some of the ethnic Russian dishes from his youth and including influences of Ukraine, The Baltics and other cuisines. Chef and his wife are passionate travelers. “I am always open to new ideas. I love to try the food of the places we visit and incorporate my version of those dishes into the menus at The Club.” His creativity, expertise in a variety of cuisines and attention to detail make events at The Saint Louis Woman’s Club a culinary delight.
Chef Leon relishes events that challenge his repertoire and creativity. He views each one as an opportunity to create a specific and unique menu. Inspired by an event theme or speaker, brunch, luncheon, or dinner, Chef incorporates a variety of world cuisines to develop specialized menus that beautifully complement our events. Every meal receives the same careful attention.Weddings or special parties are an opportunity for Chef and his staff to exceed the expectations of the bride and groom or other hosts. From hors d'oeuvres to desserts, Chef’s menus strives for excellence and for artistic presentations that delight our members and guests. “There are no do-overs for someone’s special event,” he quips. “I find the challenge rewarding. Often you are preparing a meal people will remember for the rest of their lives.” We are lucky to have such a talented, versatile and gifted person in our kitchen.
General Manager Elizabeth Cordes was born into a restaurant family; her father Marcel Keraval and mother, Monique, owned and operated two of St. Louis’ beloved French restaurants, L’Auberge Bretonne and Café de France. She developed expertise in Special Events in a number of previous positions and finds her skill set to be a perfect fit at The Saint Louis Woman’s Club.
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General Manager Elizabeth Cordes was born into a restaurant family, her father Marcel Keraval and her mother, Monique, owned and operated two of St. Louis’ beloved French restaurants, L’Auberge Bretonne and Café de France. “I began working the coatroom at L’Auberge when I was 12,” Elizabeth says. I did everything—kitchen, office, hosting. It was a family business. It’s what we did.”
She earned a minor in Art History, and combined with experience in hospitality, her career evolved. She worked in development for a number of local non-profits including The Artist’s Guild, Craft Alliance and Channel 9 including helping to plan and manage events and galas. She worked for Maritz, but after her second child was born, she decided to step back a bit from a demanding schedule. However, a friend at Maritz started Cosmopolitan Events and needed help. “She knew my background in special events and the work was more part-time which suited me very well at the time. I wanted to learn more about different kinds of events and this was the perfect opportunity.”
Soon she was working for Express Scripts planning large conferences and corporate events, but it required a lot of travel, which was difficult for family life. “I heard about an opportunity at The Saint Louis Woman’s Club and as I had experience in club events, I thought it would be a good fit.” And it didn’t hurt that her wedding reception had taken place at The Club.
Elizabeth says that her position as general manager incorporates all the skill sets she developed in her other positions into one harmonious environment. “It’s almost a ‘perfect storm,’” she says. “Our goal is to create the best event for each guest—whether it is our members, their guests, or others who are hosting an event at this beautiful Club.” She says the key is to put herself in the shoes of the guests and hosts. “I always remind the entire staff that we need to think about what we would hope for if we were the hosts and guests. We want to anticipate what people need and make sure their experience exceeds their expectations.”
For large events—weddings in particular, it’s ‘all hands on deck’ she says. “We want to be creative and accommodating. We want people to know what a wonderful place this is for events. The quality we provide is an exceptional value and creates a very personal experience. It is truly a hidden gem.”
As the monthly program chair for Meeting Planners International, Elizabeth is always open to new ideas and options to improve every aspect of her various roles in managing The Club. “We want our members to feel welcome any time. We are always ready to receive them and hope they will come more often, not just when there is an event in progress, but for lunch with a few friends or a quiet dinner. This is their club; we want them to use and enjoy it.”
A love of cooking at age 9 started The Saint Louis Woman's Club’s Banquet Manager Stela Georgieva, on her path in the hospitality industry. After arriving in America from Bulgaria, she honed her skills at fine dining restaurants in St. Louis. She worked at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown prior to joining The Saint Louis Woman’s Club team.
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A love of cooking—especially for her grandfather—started The Saint Louis Woman's Club’s Banquet Manager Stela Georgieva on a path in the hospitality industry. While living with her grandparents in her home country of Bulgaria, Stela’s grandfather was her first ‘guest,’ and helped her develop her skills and a life-long desire to do things at a high standard. She studied criminology in Bulgaria where she met her husband. After he returned to the U.S., it wasn’t long before he helped get her a visa. She came to America and they were married. Stela worked in the kitchens of several fine dining restaurants in St. Louis, including Copia on Washington Avenue, where, in addition to cooking, she helped plan and manage the restaurant’s special events.