How women-owned bars and restaurants are ‘holding each other up’ for Women’s History Month

Jamie Leeds (middle) is the chef and restaurateur behind Hank’s Oyster Bar. She also serves on the executive board of Regarding Her. (Courtesy Regarding Her)
women chefs
Alison Friedman and Kim Schaeffer are hosting other bakers (left)
A yellow cake from Liberty Baking Company, which is located in Fairfax. (Courtesy Regarding Her)
The owner of Bisnonna Bakeshop will be selling her baked goods at a pop-up event on March 10. (Courtesy Regarding Her)
Pizzeria Paradiso is even teaming up for a Ben’s Chili Bowl pizza collaboration. (Courtesy Regarding Her)
women chefs

More than 40 bars and restaurants around the D.C. region are celebrating Women’s History Month together — and you’re invited.

The third annual Women’s History Month Festival is the biggest celebration to date. It’s organized by the nonprofit group Regarding Her, which started in Los Angeles and now includes the women who own bars and restaurants in D.C.

“This is a tough time in the restaurant business right now and especially in this area,” said Jamie Leeds, the owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which has locations in D.C. and Northern Virginia.

She also serves on the executive board of Regarding Her.

“We’re holding each other up and trying to help each other bring in more business so that we can continue living the dream of being a restaurant owner,” Leeds said.

Regarding Her is about supporting the next generation of women looking to make their mark in the food industry, Leeds said.

She’s been in the restaurant business for decades, but said she almost went in an entirely different direction with her career.

“When I started almost 40 years ago, I mean, I wasn’t even sure if I should get into this business because there were hardly any women. This was back in the 80s,” she said. “Now, things have changed, but they really haven’t changed enough.”

The organization is hoping to help foster mentorships in a business that has long fallen short in the number of women in leadership positions.

“We really watch out for each other, there’s no question about it,” said Leeds.

More on Women’s History Month:

From collabs to classes, here’s the festival lineup

More bars and restaurants owned by women are popping up around the DMV, and many of the biggest names — Amy Brandwein, Katherine Thompson, even Virginia Ali — are among those participating in special collaborations and events this month.

“For example, on March 10, you can visit three top DMV bakers while they pop up together in Liberty Baking Company’s Fairfax studio,” Leeds said. “Preservation Biscuit in Falls Church has a variety of women owned businesses collaborating on different biscuits — biscuits, sandwiches all month.”

Pizzeria Paradiso is even teaming up for a Ben’s Chili Bowl pizza collaboration, which will include a half smoke, chili and yellow cheddar. Beyond the collaborations, some restaurants are doing special dinners, ticketed events and even educational experiences.

“When we do the collaborations in Hanks Old Town, we usually have an educational component where the chef is coming out and explaining the dish or how the dish is done,” Leeds said. “Sometimes, we invite the guests to come back into the kitchen to see how things are actually done. We usually have a sommelier, a wine expert to talk about the wine pairings.”

For more of a hands-on experience, the festival is also offering classes that teach participants how to make dishes such as dumplings and pupusa.

“It’s more of an experience to be able to have a memory, to make memories with people and to learn something together,” she said.

You can run through the full calendar of events online.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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