Boston’s women restaurateurs to host dinner and conversation Monday

SHERBORN, Mass. — Some of Boston’s top female restaurateurs are inviting the public to celebrate International Women’s Day and support women-owned businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic by hosting a dinner and conversation Monday.

“Let’s Talk Womxn,” a network that started among women restaurateurs in Chicago last year has since expanded to 12 cities across the country, including Boston.

The group gathers by Zoom, sharing ideas about how to survive the pandemic and, sometimes, simply commiserating with one another.

Jen Ziskin, who owns Heritage in Sherborn and La Morra in Brookline with her husband Josh, has been busy preparing to open her new Brookline tavern, Punch Bowl. But when she got the offer to join a Boston Let’s Talk chapter, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I just decided this was a force to be reckoned with. I did not want to miss out on this at all,” Ziskin said. “I was like, wow, this is a chance to really come together as a sisterhood but as a village to support one another.”

Ziskin, like nearly every other restaurant owner, has taken a big financial hit from the pandemic. Heritage was closed to the public from last March to June, offering takeout only. La Morra, the business the Ziskins opened 17 years ago, is down 75 percent.

“It’s been extremely hard,” Ziskin said. “I never thought there would be something that would keep people from going to the restaurant. Just never dawned on me.”

As Ziskin communicates with her fellow women restaurateurs, she recognizes the same struggle in each woman’s story. But she also feels empowered in an industry that has long been dominated by men.

“It was always, ‘Oh, this is the owner’s wife’. I still get that now. ‘This is the chef’s wife,’” she said. “I think it’s so hard for people to picture women in this powerful position.”

But Let’s Talk is supporting that goal of equality in the restaurant industry, Ziskin said.

On Monday, Mar. 8, 17 of the Boston area’s leading women chefs and restaurant owners will prepare four-course meals for anyone in the community to enjoy while joining a Zoom conversation moderated by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 30 local restaurateurs.

“You’ll hear about everything that’s happened during pandemic, what we’ve gone through as restaurateurs and how were moving ahead and getting thru this together,” Ziskin said. “I really want to focus on hope, what the future brings.”

The $85 dinners-for-two – a surprise menu including meat or vegetarian – will be available for pick-up at one of four locations Monday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Cocktails can be added to the menu.

Restaurateurs participating in the event will gather Sunday in Boston to pack up the various courses in an assembly line.

While the event is one of solidarity and community, it will also provide a much needed boost in business. By Wednesday afternoon, the Boston event had surpassed $30,000 in sales, Ziskin said.

“This is some economic relief for us as well. This is actually really going to help,” Ziskin said. “We’re really hoping everyone will rally around us… and enjoy our meal on Monday.”

The deadline to order meals is Thursday. A zoom link will be sent to guests who order.

To order or learn more about the event, click here: https://www.exploretock.com/letstalkboston/.

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