Dining Guide - Page 66 - Taking the lead (3)

Dining Guide
- Page 66
Taking the lead (3)

became a wine connoisseur. She started at Wine Spectator Magazine, which put her through wine school. She eventually realized that she was more fascinated with picking out wines and mixing spirits as opposed to writing about them.


“I never thought that’s what I was going to do. It’s your environment. I grew up in South Africa very poor. My parents were not educated and they had seven kids,” she said.


Mathabane-Pool said that a lack of access and exposure are the major obstacles preventing black women from entering the industry and ascending through the ranks. She believes that women will begin to get more exposure when companies begin to hire them.


Tony Foreman, a partner at the Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, hired both Mathabane- Pool and Bar Vasquez’s Charisse Nichols for their unique skill sets. He’s angered by the treatment both have experienced.


“We’ve had guest interactions that were not good frankly because of bad misogynistic and racist behaviors on the part of guests. It infuriates me,” he said. ”And I know they [black women employees] can handle themselves, but I’m also pretty happy to step up when required.” Nichols takes it in stride.


“Have my feelings been hurt by guests? Yes. Have I been disappointed by the way people have chosen to behave? Yes. But then I look at my personal social life and all the friends I have from different ethnic groups. It’s proof that not everyone is a racist,” she said.


Putting women in general in leadership has been important to the company, according to Foreman, who noted that half of the general managers in his company are women. Nichols is the company’s first black woman general manager. “I have my one narrow view of the world. The only way I have a shot at broadening it is to broaden the leadership within the company— and broaden the people that participate on our team. That means age diversity, cultural diversity, and lifestyle diversity. That stuff is such a big deal. It makes us so much stronger.”


Foreman is perplexed why black women in leadership positions are such a rarity in Baltimore restaurants.


“It wouldn’t occur to me not to have different kinds of people,” Foreman said. “I think that owners sometimes struggle to have confidence in people who are not like them.”


Rather, he said, restaurateurs can learn from expanding the diversity of their teams.


“I’m not afraid of those differences. Frankly, I take advantage of it.”