How I’m Making the Wine World More Inclusive of Black Women Like Me

Restaurant diaries is a weekly series starring four different people working in the industry. Every week you will hear from one of them: the bartender Jenny Feldt, the farmer Kristyn Leach, the line cook Peter Steckler and the wine educator Kyla Peal. Here, Peal, one of the co-founders of Slik wines, an experimental winemaking platform, talks about why diversity, equity and inclusion need to be part of winemaking. Read her first entry in the diary Here.

We were pretty busy hosting virtual events – a wine pairing dinner, some tastings, and private customer events Slik wines. They all went very well. I ran a Valentine’s Day dessert and wine pairing for industry people who are members of CHADD (Chicago Hospitality Accountable Actions Database)and it ended with a talk on diversity and inclusion in hospitality. The group wanted to discuss the lack of these things in the wine community and gourmet cuisine, as well as in wine work practices. I shared my experiences in the industry and remembered areas in my life where I had the same conversations.

There is an urgent need to build a fairer wine industry. I had a recent chat Krista Scruggs from ZAFA wines and Danielle [one of Slik’s cofounders]Danielle said something interesting about the similarities in what we do at Slik and ZAFA. She said it’s like we’re reclaiming something that has been maintained by the gate. The wine world was not easily accessible to black women. And because it wasn’t made to include black women, people often assume that I know less about wine. I’ve seen this happen pretty regularly when I was a server. Guests assumed that I liked these wines – Moscato and White Zinfandel, wines historically marketed for black women – and that I didn’t know much about other wines and wine regions. Now I say: “No. I will reclaim all of this. “Change always starts with open and honest conversation, and I don’t expect this to happen overnight. But the more we talk about a lack of inclusivity and diversity, the more it will stay on the minds of people in positions of power who can hire beverage directors, sommeliers, and wine salespeople.

Photo by Alex J. Rivera

But like many entrepreneurs, I have to have a full-time job to support myself as Slik is still a very young company. When I’m not home working on Slik, I’m with Verve wine. It’s difficult and tiring at times, but working there helps me do better at my job as a wine educator, co-founder and business partner. I love it when people come into the shop and tell me what they’re doing for dinner because I get to present them wines they may have never thought of. The other day two ladies came and said they wanted a red wine with the ramen they were making. I pulled a couple of bottles of red for her, but I said, “The acidity of this Riesling would be crazy on your ramen. Trust me. “Combining wine with non-Eurocentric foods is also an important part of what we do at Slik as we help promote wine culture.

Part of my job as a wine educator is to discuss how our industry can get fairer. I think about it as I walk past restaurants in Chicago where food recently reopened with limited capacity. The other day I passed a restaurant on my way home and it was full. Absolutely packaged! So many questions went through my head for the guests there. Are you doing it for yourself Are you doing it to support the restaurant? Who Is At Risk If You Go Out? You can support the restaurant by ordering takeout and tipping well and making sure the staff are well looked after. Think of the people cleaning the dishes and the cooks in the kitchen who are probably all black and brown people. Be careful when you go out to eat.

I would love to see a great example of a restaurant that manages everyone’s expectations well, but that’s a great accomplishment. Personally, I don’t see myself walking around a restaurant like I used to, talking to hundreds of people in a week and interacting with all of these people visiting the city. I miss this and I always will. I loved it, but I don’t see this as a safe option for me.

My transition from restaurant clerk on vacation to figuring out what’s next to my current location – I mean, I never thought we’d be here and own our own business. I know we will face more challenges as Slik continues to expand and that’s fine because I also feel like I’m growing as a person, as a friend, as a partner, and that’s really rewarding.

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