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

Re:Her raises thousands for local female-identified businesses

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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.”

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Sports

Brittney Griner and wife celebrate birth of their son

Cherelle Griner gave birth to healthy baby boy earlier this month

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Brittney Griner (Screen capture via Instagram)

It’s a boy for Brittney and Cherelle Griner. The Phoenix Mercury center revealed the news in interviews with CBS Sports and NBC News. 

“Every minute I feel like he’s popping into my head, said Griner. “Literally everything revolves around him. And I love it.”

The couple officially welcomed the baby boy on July 8. He weighs 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

“That’s my man. He is amazing,” Griner told CBS Sports. “They said as soon as you see them, everything that you thought mattered just goes out the window. That’s literally what happened.” 

Griner, 33, corrected the CBS News correspondent who said, “You’re about to be a mom!” She told her Cherelle, 33, had already delivered the baby and that she preferred to be called,“Pops.” 

Griner told NBC News correspondent Liz Kreutz they chose to name their newborn son, “Bash.” 

The WNBA star said she is Bash’s biggest fan and is constantly taking photos of him. “My whole phone has turned into him now,” Griner told CBS Sports.

The baby comes as Griner gets set to play in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game and then head to Paris with Team USA to compete for their 8th straight gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games. 

“It kind of sucks because I have to leave, but at the same time, he will understand,” said Griner. 

Her time in Paris will mark the first time since the basketball star was released from a Russian gulag, where she was held on drug charges for nearly 10 months in 2022.

“BG is locked in and ready to go,” Griner told NBC News on Friday. “I’m happy, I’m in a great place. I’m representing my country, the country that fought for me to come back. I’m gonna represent it well.”

Griner also spoke with NBC News about her hopes the U.S. can win the freedom of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian maximum security prison on Friday. 

“We have to get him back,” she said. 

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Calendar

Calendar: July 19-25

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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Friday, July 19

“Center Aging Friday Tea Time” will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more details, email [email protected].

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Happy Hour” at 7 p.m. at Puro Gusto. This event is ideal for making new friends, professional networking, idea-sharing, and community building. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Saturday, July 20

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Brunch” at 11 a.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

“LGBTQ People of Color Support Group” will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ People of Color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgment free. For more details, visit thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc.

Sunday, July 21

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 6:30 p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italiano Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. Guests are encouraged to come enjoy an evening of Italian-style dining and conversation with other LGBTQ+ folk. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Funday Social and Games” at 3 p.m. at Moxy. This event is ideal for making meaningful new connections and informal community building, or just to unwind and enjoy the group happy hour. There will be Monopoly, chess, checkers, Jenga and many other games. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

AfroCode DC will be at 4 p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Monday, July 22

Center Aging: Monday Coffee & Conversation will be at 10 a.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choice. For more details, email [email protected].

“Queer Book Club” will be at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. The club meets on the fourth Monday of the month to discuss queer books by queer authors. This month’s read is yet to be announced. For more details, email [email protected].

Tuesday, July 23

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ Social Mixer” at 5:30 p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable. Guests are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. Admission is free and more details are on Eventbrite.

Coming Out Discussion Group will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a peer-facilitated discussion group and a safe space to share experiences about coming out and discuss topics as it relates to doing so. For more details, visit the group’s Facebook page.

“Genderqueer DC” will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a support group for people who identify outside of the gender binary, whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis. For more details, email [email protected].

Wednesday, July 24

Job Club will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit thedccenter.org/careers.

“Asexual and Aromantic Group” will meet at 7 p.m. on Zoom and in person at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. This is a space where people who are questioning this aspect of their identity or those who identify as asexual and/or aromantic can come together, share stories and experiences, and discuss various topics. For more details, email [email protected].

Thursday, July 25

Virtual Yoga with Charles M. will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breath work, and meditation. For more details, visit the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s website.

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Theater

Actor overcomes car accidents to thrive in ‘Beautiful’

Bobby Smith on the infectious happiness of Olney production

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Bobby Smith in ‘Beautiful.’ (Photo courtesy of Teresa Castracane Photography)

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’
Through July 25
Olney Theatre Center
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832
$31 -101
Olneytheatre.org

As Bobby Smith describes it, “not too long ago, some things tripped me up.”

In late 2023, the celebrated, out actor was involved in two very serious car accidents and suffered severe injuries. And then May brought the unexpected death of his beloved Vizsla hound Mabel, named for the heroine in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.”

So, for much of 2024, Smith had been spending time healing at his farmhouse in Ellicott City, Md. Until now. Currently, he’s back on the boards at Olney Theatre Center playing record producer Don Kirshner in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” a fun juke box musical about the early career years of singer/songwriter King from her Brooklyn roots to writing hits from an office in Times Square with her lyricist husband Gerry Goffin and on to Los Angeles solo-stardom.

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hey Bobby, you’ve been through a lot since we last spoke.

BOBBY SMITH: It’s been a whole lot. I spent the last seven or eight months either at home or going to doctor visits.

BLADE: How is it being back on stage?

SMITH: To be honest, it’s like learning to walk again.

BLADE: And playing the famously deadpan Don Kirshner?

SMITH: It’s good. I don’t do an imitation. Instead, I’ve created a character who’s not over the top; otherwise, it would become the Don Kirshner show and we don’t want that.

But because there’s not a lot of drama with Carole King, she’s a really kind, nice person, Don serves as a sort of catalyst. He pushes the story forward. He prods Carole to write more songs, to try different things. He doesn’t like her boyfriend.  Don the character doesn’t sing much but he’s always barking at people.

BLADE: Sometimes you forget just how many familiar songs King wrote: “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Up On the Roof,” and “Will You (Still) Love Me Tomorrow” for acts like the Shirelles and The Drifters. And later songs like “It’s Too Late,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” and of course “Beautiful.”  

SMITH: Yeah, it feels like she wrote every song known to mankind; the show tells you that, and we sing most of them.

BLADE: You experienced a highpoint during the rough times. In May, you won a Helen Hayes Award for playing Bruce, the complicated, manic depressive, closeted father in Studio’s production of Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.”

SMITH: I did, but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the ceremony.

Bruce is a sympathetic but difficult character. Ever since being born, people of a certain age, have had to fight our way into the struggle of being gay. It’s not so much a struggle anymore, or I should say not as much as it used to be, but now there are a whole lot more signposts that didn’t exist when I was growing up.

Over the years, people have randomly attacked me for not talking more about my sexuality. I’m not closeted but I don’t feel I have to tell everyone. I don’t share it with my land lady. I don’t need to say “I’m here and I’m queer. Here’s your rent.”

BLADE: You have been in show biz for decades now. What keeps you going?

SMITH: I’m not sure, sometimes I ask myself what was I thinking when I decided to be a professional actor? I feel like I’m making a bigger contribution teaching at Catholic University than I did my entire acting career.

Now that I’ve taken over the tap department, I’m full time at Catholic. I’m also teaching Acting the Text, Directing for Musical Theatre, and in the fall, I’ll add Musical Interpretation.

BLADE: In this summer of so many theatrical choices, why see “Beautiful”?

SMITH: Well, if you don’t already know Natalie Weiss who plays Carole, you should. She’s an amazing compelling, vocalist with one of the healthiest singing voices you’ll ever hear, no straining, perfect placement. 

Also, there’s nothing about “Beautiful” that’s going to make you feel bad, or put you in a place where you might think you need to talk to your therapist. That’s not going to happen. And it’s because Carole King is a positive human being; from an actor’s perspective, you feel great by the end of the show, and the audience gets that. The happiness is infectious.

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