Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Female-forward movement takes root in D.C.’s culinary scene

Re:Her raises thousands for local female-identified businesses



Jamie Leeds and Ruth Gresser. (Photo by Ana Isabel Martinez Chamorro)

Connection and collaboration, inclusion and equity: a new female-forward grassroots movement in the culinary field has taken root in D.C. 

Working to “empower and advance women food and drink entrepreneurs,” Regarding Her (Re:Her) Food began in Los Angeles in the midst of the pandemic in the summer of 2020. In March, the organization launched its second chapter here in D.C. through a two-week festival of dinners, discussions, and other events – and it will continue to blossom on May 2 at an outdoor Spring Market on 14th Street.

“As a response to the pandemic, we [in D.C.] informally began to facilitate communication among women food business owners,” says founding member of the D.C. chapter, longtime culinary leader, and owner of Pizzeria Paradiso, Ruth Gresser (she identifies as a lesbian). “Within just a few months, we created a strong 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 about similar efforts by Re:Her in Los Angeles, they joined forces to formalize their efforts.

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

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

Beyond small business grants, Re:Her DC will focus its efforts on offering 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, like pay gaps, childcare, and safe workplace environments. “We’re helping 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 D.C. in the 1980s, she found a less welcoming environment in the food world. Yet she was soon able to open her own restaurant, Pizzeria Paradiso, ensuring that she could create the safe, inclusive work environment that she envisioned. Through Re:Her, “I can help create a future in which women in the industry have parity and equity.”

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

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

“The Re:Her DC group is a safe space to talk about things happening in our personal lives,” says member Shannan Troncoso, chef/owner of Brookland’s Finest. “I have been able to talk with other lesbian-identifying women (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 to get businesses that do identify as part of community to engage with us.” 

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

Coming off the successful March launch, Re:Her DC is hosting the upcoming Bites & Libations and Outdoor Spring Market at female-owned Cork Wine Bar & Market the evening of May 2. The food, drink, and artisan offerings all come from Re:Her members. 

“Regarding Her is an incredible community organization for women,” says Julie Verratti, owner of Denizen’s Brewing, and part of the LGBTQ community. “Representation matters and being able to be your full self amongst your peers is a privilege. I am so grateful to be a part of this group and can’t wait to meet more women being their authentic selves and excelling in their careers.”



Put this out gay trailblazer’s supportive coach in your bracket

‘Coach Willard’s awesome,’ says Derrick Gordon of Maryland’s Kevin Willard



Kevin Willard is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ ally. (Screen capture via Inside the Hall YouTube)

When the 8th seeded Maryland Terrapins faced off against No. 1 Alabama in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships last weekend, it wasn’t just the players on the hardwood who were working hard for the win. Nate Oats coached the Crimson Tide to a 73-51 victory less than an hour from their home court. And on the other side was Kevin Willard, who is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ ally. 

Willard was Derrick Gordon’s coach at Seton Hall when he transferred from UMass in 2015, a year after he came out as the first out gay Division I Men’s basketball player in the NCAA. 

Gordon has credited Willard with creating a comfortable environment, after he “bumped heads” with former UMass coach Derek Kellogg during his two seasons with the Minutemen. In contrast, he said he instantly connected with Willard, and told his teammates and Willard following his final season at Seton Hall that he wished he had another year of eligibility remaining. He’s said he considered Willard the best coach he’d ever played for.

“He just made it comfortable for me,” Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio in an interview broadcast on March 22, 2022. “He said, ‘You know what, we’re more focused on who you are as a person and a basketball player and what you bring to the team.’ He voiced that over and over again. When I went on my visit, I just felt even more comfortable, met a couple of the guys. They made me feel right at home as well, so it was kind of like an easy decision. Coach Willard’s awesome. He’s an amazing guy.”

If you don’t believe Gordon, ask the West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost to the Terrapins in the first round 67-65. Maryland’s win “took the paint off the floor at Legacy Arena” in Birmingham, Ala., as Brendan Quinn wrote in The Athletic. He described Willard’s style of coaching this way:

“Willard paced the sideline, as he does. The man is intense. Doesn’t suffer fools. Serious stuff. No BS. Black eyes screwed deep in a bald head, no pupils. He regards things sideways, incredulous toward anyone who doesn’t come correct. It’s his whole thing. If Guy Ritchie cast a college basketball coach, it’d be Willard.” 

Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio that he particularly recalled the kind of support Willard gave him in one practice early in his Seton Hall career, according to Press Box Online.

“I remember a particular situation that happened in practice — came down the court and I was wide open and I didn’t shoot it,” Gordon said in the 2022 interview. “[Willard] stopped practice and he said, ‘You’re not at [UMass] anymore. I trust you. I believe in you. Shoot the ball.’ Ever since then, my confidence was through the roof, especially dealing with I had to deal with when I was at UMass with that coach to playing under Coach Willard and him telling me that specifically, he just let me play my game.”

Last July, Gordon posted on Instagram that after playing a few seasons in Europe for Cyprus and Germany, “I decided to end my career as a professional athlete.”

Gordon is now 31, and he told his followers he is working on a book about his life “on and off the court,” in hopes he might “help gay young people, student athletes in particular and others who are struggling to pursue careers in professional sports or any career paths they chose without fear or shame.” 

Since Christmas, he’s been sharing posts that include photos with his boyfriend, actor Scott Backman of Los Angeles, including one from last week, captioned: “Every time we’re together, it’s like falling in love all over again.”

Continue Reading

Out & About

10 LGBTQ events this week

Drag, dancing and kite flying among highlights



Events this week include, from left, an AGLA/Go Gay DC-sponsored Drag Show for Charity at Freddie's Beach Bar, Kicks & Giggles Glow Crazy party, and Bombalicious Eklaver brings her show to Cambria Rooftop. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Below are our picks for some of the most fun and creative things to do this week in the DMV that are of special interest to the LGBTQ community.

Drag Queen Trivia Tuesday

Tuesday, March 21
7 p.m.
Slash Run
201 Upshur Street, N.W.
Facebook | Reservations

Tara Hoot leads a game of trivia at Slash Run on Tuesday.

Daddy Issues

Wednesday, March 22
9 p.m.
915 U Street, N.W.
Instagram | Website

Crystal Edge leads the weekly drag show at Kiki on Wednesday.

DC Boys of Leather – March Happy Hour

Thursday, March 23
6-9 p.m.
1410 14th Street, N.W.

Grab your gear and make your way to Trade for the March Happy Hour of the DC Boys of Leather.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Viewing Party

Friday, March 24
8 p.m.
JR.’s Bar
1519 17th Street, N.W.

Citrine leads the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 Viewing Party at JR.’s Bar on Friday.

Kicks & Giggles Glow Crazy! Blacklight-Glow Paint Party

Friday, March 24
9 p.m.
Green Lantern
1335 Green Court, N.W.
No cover

Kicks & Giggles bring you a glow-tastic time on Friday with a blacklight-glow paint party at the Green Lantern. There is a clothes check and there are free rail drinks if you are painted with glow paint between 9 and 10 p.m.

Good Times (Disco House Party)

Friday, March 24
11 p.m.
DC9 Nightclub
1940 9th Street, N.W.
$10 advance / $15 door
Facebook | Eventbrite

Cake Pop! and DJ Matt Bailer entertain on Friday with a feel good Disco House Party at DC9 Nightclub.

Candela! UPROAR’s Latinx Party

Saturday, March 25
9 p.m.
UPROAR Lounge & Restaurant
639 Florida Avenue, N.W.

UPROAR Lounge & Restaurant hold a Latinx party on Saturday with a performance by Ivanna V Love.

Cherry Blossom Kite Festival

Cherry Blossom Kite Festival (Photo by 3000ad/Bigstock)

Saturday, March 25
10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Washington Monument
Facebook | Website

The annual kite festival is back on Saturday by the Washington Monument.

Cambria Drag Brunch

Sunday, March 26
11 a.m.
Rooftop Cambria Capital Riverfront
69 Q Street, S.W.

Bombalicious Eklaver leads a fun drag brunch on Sunday with performers Jalah, Nadia and Amara. $35 covers the buffet and show, but bring your dollar bills to show your support to the performers.

Drag Show for Charity

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sunday, March 26
8-10 p.m.
Freddie’s Beach Bar
555 23rd Street S
Arlington, Va.

AGLA and Go Gay DC present a drag show for charity at Freddie’s Beach Bar on Sunday.

Continue Reading


PHOTOS: Freddie’s Follies 20th

Arlington drag show celebrates milestone



Freddie's Follies performers gather on the newly-named Destiny B. Childs Stage at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. on Saturday, March 18. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Freddie’s Follies had a 20th anniversary show at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. on Saturday, March 18. Performers included Destiny B. Childs, Monet Dupree, Patti Lovelace, Sasha Adams Sanchez and Ophelia Bottoms.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade