Meet Katrina Jazayeri
Owner and wine commander of Juliet + Co.
When Katrina founded her restaurant and hospitality company, Juliet + Company in a small storefront in Union Square, Somerville, she was turning her background in social justice and engineering, and her interest in public health into a dream come true — a restaurant that pays its staff a living wage. In 2019, Katrina opened Peregrine at The Whitney Hotel in Boston’s Beacon Hill, presenting a personal and curated selection of wines, hand-selected, featuring prominently small vineyards and winemakers, women-led wine production, and sustainable winemaking methods. This week, the team at Juliet announced their Kickstarter campaign to move the restaurant into a larger space next door.
Q: What was your first job in the restaurant industry?
A: Technically, it was as a marketing job at a locally sourced catering company. But my interest in food and restaurants came from an internship with a community organization in NYC called Make the Road New York, where I helped organize restaurant owners who supported paid family medical leave legislation.
Q: What made you want to open your own restaurant? Does that still drive you?
A: I want to achieve two goals through my work: 1. To spend each day doing what I enjoy, cooking/serving/hosting people, and 2. To leave my community a bit better, a bit more equitable than I found it. I considered many different career paths, but never felt like picking just one, so running a business seemed like it would provide the variety of work that would hold my interest, and it certainly has done that!
Q: How have you been keeping your team motivated through this difficult, unprecedented time?
A: We committed in the beginning of the pandemic to look for the bright spots among the darkness, so recommit, not turn away from what has always been important to us – create a safe, exciting, and collaborative workplace. In the past year, the team created new virtual dining programs that reinvent the immersive dining experience we are known for, published an illustrated cookbook compiling recipes for quarantine cooking, curated and opened a retail store to showcase some of the non-food products our team creates, and many more innovative endeavours. I think the small role my partner and I can take credit for in all of that, is working to build a company where we put a premium on participation, where we ask our teams to dream big and express themselves through their work, and five years in, we’ve attracted people who thrive in such an environment.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a woman in this industry?
A: I feel like I have a responsibility to call attention to, and work to change the systemic inequity AND inequality that persists in the restaurant industry. I believe economic justice is at the heart of so many downstream problems we face as a country, and for our industry, the wage system that makes income dependent on tips, means that women will continue to bear the brunt of the harm. Being a woman in this industry means standing up against injustice.
Q: In terms of female representation, what changes, if any, would you like to see in the industry in the next ten years?
A: (I) started answering that in the answer above, (but) I’d like to see the tipped wage abolished. Incomes should be predictable and guaranteed. For too long this slavery-era provision has been protected at the expense of some of the most vulnerable populations. There is always pushback, threats of job loss, etc. but if there is a way for an industry to bounce back from a global pandemic (yes, it took some government help) then I think that over a period of time businesses are smart enough and nimble enough to find a way to invest in the people who make their businesses possible.
Q: Do you cook at home often? If so, what’s been your favorite meal to cook during quarantine?
A: For the first time in a while (maybe 5 years) we started cooking all our own meals at home. I love to cook, but we spent so much time in the restaurants that we ate most of our meals there. One of my favorite meals is a clambake/crawfish boil–because you can use your hands–so we did a lot of shellfish and seafood thanks to our purveyor delivering to houses and not just restaurants.
Q: How do you envision the last year might shift how restaurants are operated, or the industry as a whole, going forward?
A: I think we’ve seen what we’re capable of in a new way. Things we would have said were impossible or not even worth considering, have found followings during this time. I hope that restaurants stay bold and innovative, and I hope that the industry and the public remembers how essential the people working inside the restaurants are, and take steps to protect them in the future.
Q: What does your restaurant model look like these days in terms of what you’re offering, how you’ve shifted, and how patrons can support you?
A: At Juliet we’ve created an at home dining experience called Restaurant Without Walls, that takes the menu seasons and themes we used to serve as a prix fixe menu, and brings them into our guests homes while we help you cook your way through the menu and share stories and inspiration along the way over zoom. One of the other big hits at Juliet has been the Murder Mystery series created in collabration with one of our long time teammates Nora Connolly, these events are one of our new Juliet for Teams offerings.