Robin Wolf, owner of newly opened SLO bar and restaurant Highwater, has worked in the bar industry for two decades. In that time, she said a lot has changed for the better for women in the industry—but many still face discrimination.
"I was working for this amazing restaurant and I remember guests, as they were leaving after a great experience, speaking to one of the owners of the restaurant at the front door and saying, 'Oh, you must be the owner's wife,'" Wolf said. "That struck me really hard, because this person is also the owner of the restaurant and does probably more work than anyone else involved, and she's still being referred to as the owner's wife.
"We still have a ways to go."
- Photo Courtesy Of At Her Table
- COMMUNITY SUPPORTED At Her Table is a nonprofit organization funded through community donations and sponsorships.
Wolf is a guest speaker at the upcoming event Behind the Bar, happening on March 7 at Highwater, where she and other women will share their experiences in the beverage industry, followed by a mixer with cocktails and light bites.
Behind the Bar is one of more than 20 events featuring women in the food and beverage industry, all organized by At Her Table for San Luis Obispo County Women's Restaurant Week (March 6 to 13), plus dozens of food specials going on throughout the county.
At Her Table was founded in 2021 by Michelle Barrera, owner of the curated community calendar EnjoySLO, after talking with local women in the food and beverage industry.
"There were stories of not being acknowledged, not being recognized," Barrera said. "I've heard stories of people saying, 'Give me the real owner,' or assuming that they are just the chef's wife—that's the common thing I've been hearing. I knew there were so many beautiful stories to these women, and I thought, let's just do a women's week."
Barrera ended up throwing last year's event together in three weeks, and At Her Table was born. This year, the week-long event is expanding to include the beverage industry in addition to food.
"It grew a lot. We started at 36, and right now at this moment we're over 160 businesses registered," Barrera said. "We have over 52 events and food specials all together."
- Photo Courtesy Of At Her Table
- BREAKING BARRIERS Crafted by Root Elixirs Founder Dominique Gonzales, the Granada Hotel & Bistro's Glass Ceiling Cocktail is one of dozens of specials available throughout the county for Women's Restaurant Week. Tiny hammers to "break the glass ceiling" are included!
The week kicks off with the Untamed Dinner on March 8, which also happens to be International Women's Day.
Featuring six chefs and six women-owned wineries, the six-course menu starts with a strawberry crudo—local snapper with strawberry, tarragon, citrus, agave, sparkling wine, chives, and smoked sea salt—crafted by local private chef Danelle Jarzynski.
Next, Les Petites Canailles sous chef Betsy Villagomez will delight guests with her artichoke tartlet, featuring crispy asparagus, whipped goat cheese, pine nut gremolata, truffle honey, and garnished with picked herbs and flowers.
Colony Culture owner and chef Monika Knapp's Carrot & Its Top soup is next on the menu, made with local carrots, carrot tops, preserved bearss lime chutney, smoked Pragati turmeric yogurt, and crispy black garbanzos.
- Photo Courtesy Of Kat Hanegraaf
- WOMEN-OWNED Jill Hammond, owner of Farm & Harvest, is teaming up with The Hidden Kitchen for a Sunrise Market on March 13, one of more than 20 events you can snag tickets to for Women's Restaurant Week.
The main course by chef Rachel Ponce, co-owner of Pair With Dead Oak, is diver scallops and pork belly with house-made teriyaki, toasted sesame, and microgreens.
The dinner ends with a two-part dessert finale: first, Azita Bernard (owner of Azita's Bakery) will serve a raspberry and pistachio meringue cake. And last but not least, Bread Bike co-owner and baker Mariah Grady will round out the meal with her brownie bite: brownie, tahini, cardamom buttercream, and rose petals, topped with labneh ice cream with sesame and pistachio brittle.
Each course is served with a wine pairing from a Central Coast woman winemaker. Chef Ponce, creator of the main course for the Untamed Dinner, picked out the wine to be poured with each course—food and wine pairing is her specialty.
"Everyone has such different offerings and skill sets, and I feel like people are going to see the diversity in all of us," Ponce said of the event. "We're all coming together, and we all have each other's backs to make this—you'll never get a dinner like this with all six of us under one roof. I think it's really powerful, and it's going to be fun."
The Untamed Dinner will be the headlining event for At Her Table's restaurant week, and all the proceeds will go toward funding next year's Women's Week.
But if you can't make the dinner, there are more than 20 other events to choose from, plus dozens more food specials—and the participating business owners keep all the profits from these, Barrera said. These events include a seaweed foraging class; a full day of wine, cheese, and pairings with Toast Tours; and the At Her Table Street Fair in Atascadero at the end of the week, just to name a few.
Any women-owned food or beverage business can also become a member of the organization, which means their business will be added to the At Her Table directory.
"Women don't pay to be a member," Barrera added. "When Women's Week happens, I funnel sales to them: I'll say, if you couldn't make it to an event or get a food special, consider purchasing at a local, women-owned food or beverage business."
For Barrera, this is what it's all about: supporting women.
"This is so important to our community," she said. "My vision for this is, one day, it's so big that everyone is celebrating on the streets. This is for the whole entire community to participate, and just celebrate.
"This is a really special time for these women, and they've worked really hard to make this happen." Δ
Reach Staff Writer Malea Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.