Discovering Diverse Talent in the DC Food Scene

Recently, Laura Hayes of Washington City Paper penned a piece about how there are ZERO restaurant critics of color at any of the DC-area media outlets. ZERO.

That means we aren't hearing about a slew of great food, restaurants and talent that we may not pass in our news outlets or neighborhoods.

But, what it also means is that readers aren't getting a true look at how service is executed for non-white diners. I loved that Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post talked about how he tries to dine with people who are not like him - kids, people with disabilities, different ages, different races - and sends them in ahead of time to see if their experience is different. But, what would it look like to have a black food writer on the Post team who regularly goes into the best restaurants in town and gets sat at the crappiest table. Or experiences passive (and let's face it, overt) racism. Would that change how service and training is handled?

I don't know. Here's where I feel like I can start to play a part in this puzzle. I've made a concerted effort over the last few years to find and follow food talent that doesn't look like me. I'm going to use Instagram as my navigator for you because it's simple to follow people and discover new ones. And, what I'll ask in return is that you tell me who I should be tasting, reading and following that I'm not (yet.)

Chef Paola Velez at Kith/Kin
Don't ask me how I discovered Paola, but my eyes were transfixed by her desserts when she was the pastry chef at Iron Gate. I followed her on Instagram back then and have loved watching her flourish as she joined Chef Kwame Onwuachi's team at Kith/Kin. Not only has she upped their dessert game, but it's been so cool to get to watch Paola travel to Hong Kong for pop-ups and raise her profile/career. All that and, now that I've gotten the chance to meet her in person, I can tell you she is the nicest human.

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Julia Coney
Full disclosure, Julia Coney is a friend of mine. That aside, she's also the leading voice for more black women in the wine industry. Her stories of being asked for a refill at events where she has been invited as an expert will raise your blood pressure. But, she's also your go-to for discovering new wine regions vicariously through her travels and the person you can walk down and taste with (she also is a manager at Wardman Wines in Brookland.)

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Lauren Paylor
I've been meaning to meet Lauren in real life for months. Most recently, she's taken the helm of one of my favorite bars, Dos Mamis in Petworth. I've been following her Instagram cocktails and fun vibes for a while.

Black Girls Eat
A while back, I realized almost all of the "food influencers" I was following were white. So, I did some searching to find new voices. One of my favorites is Black Girls Eat, where the duo Cornelia & B eat their way across the DMV. Check them out and make sure they are on your DC food PR lists for invites.

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DMV Black Restaurant Week
One of the coolest new events that has evolved over the past year or two is Black Restaurant Week. It's designed to put the spotlight on black-owned restaurants, which is kind of the whole point of this post. Of course, it's happening this week and I'm in Florida. But, follow them and go check out some places you haven't been yet.

White Plates Black Faces
Another great account that highlights leading black restaurants and talent in the industry. Follow them to meet new people and discover events outside of DMV Black Restaurant Week (which their founders, professor, Dr. Erinn Tucker and bartender, Andra "AJ" Johnson manage.)

Beverage has always been my way of connecting with the world. From coffee to liquor, beer, and wine, I've always felt that I've been at my best when I can present what I have curated and cultivated to friends, family, and guests. I think that's why I've enjoyed working on @serenatadc so much. No experience I've ever had in my career beats spending hours on end crafting cocktails with @juaningaround or doing menu design and R&D with @daniellasenior. @supermario_m and @morauniverse have opened my eyes to all new flavors from a culinary standpoint and have shown me where they come from through food and that's just dope. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone professionally and admit everyday that I had very little to give to the concept in the beginning. Im used to leading projects, not being led. But listening and engulfing myself in the unknown is possibly the best thing I've ever done. Now as I lead a freaking amazing team of bartenders I can genuinely pass down the tools that were graciously bestowed upon me. Best of all, they have the ability to keep me from being stagnant and hold me accountable. So I know it's late. And I know I'm crazy busy. But no one is ever too busy to just say thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for the lessons learned. Thank you for the constant knowledge. And thank you for supporting me and the @serenatadc team ✊🏾❤🍸🍹 πŸ“·: Maya Oren * * * * * * * * #weouthere #lacosecha #dcdrinks #dceats #dcbars #dc #cocktails #acreativedc #zumodc #serenatadc
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Fabian Malone
One of my long-time favorite bartenders (from places like Dino Cleveland Park, Lupo Verde and Lucky Buns) has started doing pop-ups called Dougie's Backyard where he cooks his grandfather's Jamaican faves. Stay tuned to get the details on the next one (November 20.)

Maya Oren
If I was hiring someone to shoot social media videos for my restaurant, it would be Maya Oren. She's got an eye for what works well online and what looks delicious. I've been dying to find a way to work together since she moved to town and someone recommended her.

Farrah Skeiky
Farrah Skeiky is one of the reasons everyone thinks The Line Hotel is so cool. Her events, photography and friend circle keeps the hotel and all of it's restaurants in the height of the creative scene. All that and I love her live concert photography.

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So who else? Who should I be following? Where should I be eating and drinking? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter @Tammy or via carrier pigeon. 

Hayes closes her "The DC Region Doesn't Have Full-Time Food Critic of Color. Why That Matters." with a list of industry talent and storytellers. 

1 comment:

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