Margaret Grace Votta '80
Margaret Grace Votta '80, who found her calling as an award-winning chef, was born on June 12,1958, in Philadelphia, PA. The daughter of Frank A. and Margaret Clawell Votta, she grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, where she was graduated from Wissahickon High School. "Meg" Votta enrolled at Kirkland College in 1976 and quickly became involved in a variety of campus activities. A participant in the women's sports program created for Kirkland by Comfort Richardson, she played field hockey, ice hockey (sharing uniforms with the Hamilton men), and lacrosse, and was a member of the ski team. She also contributed her time to The Spectator, assisted in editing the yearbook, and was active in the Women's Center and in theater. An art major specializing in photography, she spent many hours in the darkroom.
Meg Votta stayed on at Hamilton following its merger with Kirkland and obtained her diploma in 1980. Two years later, she earned an associate's degree in interior design from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. Remaining in New York City for 13 years as an interior designer and special events planner, she was showroom manager for Lawrence Carpet Mills (1982-84), a designer and office and business manager for Stephen Mallory Associates (1984-87), and senior designer for Design Clues, Inc. (1987-88) before joining Weinreb Schultz Design Association as project director. During those years, she and her life partner, Kathleen A. Lambert, began catering parties in their spare time out of their tiny apartment kitchen.
Meg Votta, who first worked in a country club kitchen as a 15-year-old in suburban Philadelphia, had long been drawn to food preparation. In 1995, she decided to pursue a full-time career in the kitchen by attending the Culinary Institute of America. While there, she received awards, grants, and a scholarship from Les Dames d'Escoffier, personally presented to her by that doyenne of chefs Julia Child. One of her internships took her to a restaurant in Chappaqua, NY, where she had the pleasure of greeting the town's most prominent resident, the former President, Bill Clinton.
Following her graduation with honors from the CIA in 1997, Meg Votta embarked on a peripatetic career in various restaurant kitchens, first as a line cook but soon as sous chef. She was sous chef at Tabla in Manhattan's Flatiron district when she moved back to Pennsylvania in 2000 to become executive chef at inns in the Philadelphia area. In 2009, she was executive chef de cuisine at Feast Your Eyes Catering in Philadelphia when she at last realized her lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant. Located in Lansdowne, where she and Kathleen lived, Sycamore was a small, local bistro seating 30 and specializing in American Regional cooking. On the menu were some of her award-winning appetizers and desserts, including her signature crab cakes. There, "her passion for food shone through in her dishes, and her sense of hospitality was unmatched."
Beyond the kitchen, Meg Votta continued her athletic activities. She was a founding member of the women's team of the New York Rugby Club as well as the Olde Girls Rugby Club, the first national over-30 touring team. She continued to participate in the sport until she was 40.
Margaret G. Votta, known for her grace, humor, and "utmost zest for life," died at her home in Lansdowne on November 10, 2009, after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. In addition to her partner of 20 years, she is survived by her mother and a brother, Richard A. Votta.