The female forward movement takes root in DC’s food scene

Connection and collaboration, inclusion and equity: A new grassroots movement for women in the culinary field has taken root in DC

Working to “empower and advance female food and beverage entrepreneurs,” Concerning Her (Re:Her) Food began in Los Angeles amid the pandemic in the summer of 2020. In March, the organization launched its second chapter here in DC through a two-week festival of dinners, talks and other events – and it will continue to bloom on May 2 at an outdoor spring market on 14th Street.

“In response to the pandemic, we [in D.C.] began informally to facilitate communication between female food business owners,” says Ruth Gresser (she identifies as a lesbian), founding member of the DC Chapter, longtime culinary leader and owner of Pizzeria Paradiso. “In just a few months, we have created a solid network of monthly calls and regular collaborations. It is a space where women can come together in a very honest, open and communal way. After learning of similar Re:Her efforts in Los Angeles, they joined forces to formalize their efforts.

For women in the food sector, says Gresser, “there are two fundamental challenges: access to capital and recognition.”

While this lack of access is a systemic concern, Gresser says, the pandemic has only reinforced it. Re:Her LA wasted no time in addressing these challenges and supporting women-identifying businesses: As of July 2021, it had distributed $150,000 in small grants. DC’s March 2022 launch also raised thousands of dollars to support its programs.

Beyond small business grants, Re:Her DC will focus its efforts on providing mentorship and other resources that directly benefit women in the culinary arts. Gresser notes that Re:Her will also work to support other issues important to women business owners, such as pay gaps, childcare and safe work environments. “We are helping to develop a more equitable future for women,” she says.

When Gresser launched her career 40 years ago in San Francisco, she came out as a lesbian at the same time. Moving to DC in the 1980s, she found a less welcoming environment in the world of food. Yet she was soon able to open her own restaurant, Pizzeria Paradiso, ensuring she could create the safe and inclusive work environment she envisioned. Through Re:Her, “I can help create a future where women in the industry enjoy parity and equity.”

Another founding member, Jamie Leeds (a former Washington Blade Most Eligible Bachelor), noted that “straight or gay, any woman would benefit from becoming a member of this group. There are so few places to have that level of professionalism to be able to tap into, get advice, and empathize. »

With Gresser, Leeds and other members of the LGBTQ community holding leadership positions at Re:Her DC, this opened the door to ensure Re:Her is an open and safe space and could reach underrepresented groups – the LGBTQ community included.

“The Re:Her DC group is a safe space to talk about what’s going on in our personal lives,” says Shannan Troncoso, Chef/Owner of Brookland’s Finest. “I was able to speak with other women who identify as lesbians (and with straight women) about family planning, fertility and adoption.”

Gresser points out that “the LGBTQ community faces more disadvantages, so we are reaching out to try and get companies that identify as part of the community to engage with us.”

Re:Her states that empowering women creates a platform for growth while addressing inequality, social reform, and political awareness in our cities and neighborhoods. The DC Chapter is open to all women restaurateurs, chefs, caterers, bakers, distillers, winemakers, bar owners, food truck operators and other businesswomen in the hospitality industry.

Following the successful March launch, Re:Her DC is hosting the next Bites & Libations and Outdoor Spring Market at Cork Wine Bar & Market on the evening of May 2. The food, drink, and craft offerings are all sourced from Re:Its members.

“Regarding Her is an amazing community organization for women,” says Julie Verratti, owner of Denizen’s Brewing and member of the LGBTQ community. “Representation is important and being able to fully be yourself among your peers is a privilege. I am so grateful to be part of this group and look forward to meeting more women who are genuine and excel in their careers.

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