Who we are
Founder and Executive Director
Erica is a wine professional and community organizer from Buffalo, NY and based in DC. She has spent years exploring wine through her dining experiences and work at wine-forward restaurants. Her time at a Michelin star restaurant and natural wine shop allowed her cultivate a greater wine knowledge through tasting and rigorous training. As she sought to continue to empower guests through their dining and wine purchasing experiences, she found that these establishments upheld many of the inaccessible selling practices that often left guests with inhospitable experiences. She decided she wanted to work in food and beverage in a way that acknowledged her passion for connecting to and empowering community. Now she works for herself making wine more accessible to BIPOC folx and creating experiences that allow for the exploration of wine in safe space.
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Kapri Robinson is DC's 2017 Cocktail Queen and has been a part of the beverage community in DC for almost a decade now. While spending her time being a bartender, educator and event organizer, she is also the president & founder of Chocolate City's Best (CCB). Kapri has gone on to win cocktail competitions and has been acknowledged on multiple platforms. Kapri has been welcomed onto Good Morning Washington twice as well as featured in a two-page article in the Washington Post Express. Kapri has also been welcomed onto many podcasts, including All The Fly Kids, and spoken to magazines, such as Edible DC. Kapri continues to lead seminars on hospitality and empowerment. She also educates her peers on cocktail knowledge and strives to create opportunities for Black and POC industry members.
The Road to Empowering the diner: our stories
Empowering the Diner was born from my frustrations with the lacking diversity of food and beverage events, education, and dining experiences. When I asked others, diners, uber drivers, and folx I interacted with on the daily (mostly BIPOC), they all had the same complaint: exploration through food and beverage is inaccessible. I had found so much joy in my journey of exploration through food and, specifically, wine. It helped me to expand my imagination as I was tasting things I had never known, things I never imagined. Still, it wasn’t easy to explore and I had to learn a new language to be able to advocate for myself at the dining table, at the cocktail bar, and on the other end serving folx looking to partake in the same dining experiences I was excluded from as a Black queer woman. This complaint of inaccessibility resonated with me deeply. Food had been a big part of my upbringing. My father always cooked even when we didn’t eat together as a family. He was creative and to eat his food genuinely felt like a loving experience. I wanted to bring that sense of acceptance and love to food and beverage experiences coming from outside of the home. I wanted to make something more nurturing and informational without the stuffy elitist language and principles. That is when I began working on Empowering the Diner. The name says it all. I want to empower folx as they seek to explore their palettes and guide them using their own language and experience in asking for what they want to try and better understanding what they like. I want to bring folx together in conversation rather than telling them what they are supposed to like, taste, and partake in. If we let others gatekeep our access to exploration it is difficult to grow and expand. I refuse to let that continue. So here is Empowering the Diner (ETD) for my aunties, cousins, friends, uber drivers, grocery store clerks, high school teachers, sisters, and my mama. This is for my community. This is for BIPOC first. This is for us.
I was first approached by Erica in early 2020 about Empowering The Diner. She came to me as a way of collaborating on an educational wine project. As we spoke about it’s possibilities we continued to speak about the lacking areas with education in this industry. How education is not accessible to certain communities, that what we’re being taught is mostly through a euro-centric/colonizer lens, and where was the Black and Brown representation in educational leadership? It was not our first conversation about accessibility complications in our industry. So Erica decided to get to work and she asked me to be a part of this journey. I cannot be more humbled by the work we will be doing in Empowering The Diner. I believe in dismantling what we considered to be the norms of this industry. I believe in then building a more inclusive, accessible, and equitable foundation for Black and Brown people. I was fortunate to have been given the opportunities that came my way as I continue my industry career and I want to open/create doors that constantly give more opportunities to people that look like me. Empowering The Diner is going to do that for more than just my industry. We will be committed to breaking down the status quo’s, palate and behavior stereotypes. And for this I am beyond ecstatic!