My name is Jessica, and I am a sommelier in San Francisco. I have been studying wine for 5 years. This past week has been eye opening to me. I am appalled at the amount of hidden sexual harassment in this industry. Everyday this week I have woken up to new stories exposing more scandals of our "leaders" in the wine industry simply abusing their power.
I have been verbally harassed by managers, coworkers, and guests throughout my time in the restaurant industry. I have worked in multiple michelin star restaurants where the culture is horrendous, and I am so sick of this behavior being the "normal". I was harassed as a line cook at 20 years old, and I am also harassed as a female sommelier at 24. I knew I would have challenges, but to have leaders HIDE these accusations to keep their elite status?
It is unbelievable. I am disgusted that I feel "guilty" for having to tell someone to stop saying innaprorpirate remarks towards me. I shouldn't have to tell someone to stop commenting on my outfit. I am shocked and heartbroken to hear all of these stories from my fellow colleagues, and I am demanding change and equality.
This is not the first scandal the Court of Master Sommelier has dealt with, and I am sure this is not the last either. I was disappointed in the Courts lack of a response during the Black Lives Matter protests, and I was disappointed in their "response" to equality. As a young female sommelier I am so disappointed in our industry leaders for creating such an unsafe environment for people in this industry. I am appalled that this has been a secret among our industry "elite" for years. I am actually disgusted, but sadly I am not shocked.
Let me say this again: I. am. not. shocked.
I have personally worked alongside 2 Master Sommeliers in San Francisco- both who have been respectful and caring towards me as a young woman in this industry. I have also met a fair share of Master Sommeliers who I IMMEDIATELY got a weird vibe from, and I knew I did not want to be alone with them. That's weird, right? I felt weird being in a room alone with someone I am looking up to as a role model in this industry? I look back and realize now my intuition and gut feeling was not wrong.
As a woman I feel at a disadvantage as a Sommelier. Despite my certifications, experience and hard work people treat me differently than my male colleagues. Even guests assume I am a hostess, and never want to talk wine with me. I have to prove my knowledge, and it's bullshit. I feel like I have had to climb every uphill battle to prove to people I am a "sommelier".
I want our industry to be better. I need it to be better. Working in restaurants is tough enoughalready. The mental and physical strain is inconceivable. The long hours, the stress of service, the mental strain, and to top it off the added anxiety of working during a damn pandemic. AND TO ADD: sexual harassment, rude comments, inappropriate touching?
I want woman to join this industry without any fear of sexual harassment. I want women to be treated fairly. I want to go to work and not be worried that someone is going to comment on my appearance. Respect should not be earned. I should not have to gain respect from male colleagues or guests. I have worked hard, and I shouldn't have to "prove" myself.
I am here to say I don't condone the way The Court of Masters Sommeliers has handled this scandal. I don't appreciate the fact that these men were able to "resign". I hate that these women felt obligated to do these things in order for acceptance or advancement through this organization.
I want to thank every woman and person who has come forward with their story in order to positively change this industry. Your bravery will not be forgotten! There needs to be change, and if that means starting over then I am 100% for it. Thank you for fighting for what is right.
All the best,