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.
As General Manager of the St. Louis Woman’s Club, Kathy Best is responsible for the guidance and collaborative leadership of this unique venue. A seasoned professional with over 25 years of hospitality, Kathy’s experience has provided her with a management philosophy of optimizing operating results and maintaining a “member first” service culture to enhance member patronage and to maximize use of the Club’s facilities.
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When the nearby Chase Park Plaza Hotel reopened in 2000, Kathy was part of the team that helped to stimulate the economic regrowth of the Central West End. There she worked as Catering and Convention Service Manager, developing strong working relationships with many of the repeat clients. Her leadership and customer service skills were finely honed in previous positions with both Maritz Travel Company and Nix Conference & Meeting Management.
These experiences also fostered in her a love of travel, and allowed her to visit such places as Bali, Budapest, London, Paris, Rome , Munich, Bogota, and many places in the United States.
A graduate of Fontbonne University with a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership, Kathy lives in the City of St. Louis with her Brittany spaniel , Griff. She enjoys gardening, travel and riding as a passenger on her boyfriend Mike’s Harley Davidson.
Drew Formenti, our Banquet Manager, joined The Saint Louis Woman’s Club after 16 years with the Orlando family serving Orlando Banquet facility. He was with Ces and Judy’s Catering for five years, while working at the St. Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Garden. In the1980s, Drew was a server at The Saint Louis Woman’s Club under the famed chef Manfred Zettl.