At The Wing, A Who’s-Who of Women in Food and Wine
The new Los Angeles location features dishes from Nancy Silverton, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, Julia Sherman, and more.
As culinary director at The Wing, Dani Dillon is aiming to create more than just Instagram-worthy menus filled with trendy avocado toast-equivalents. By thoughtfully choosing the chefs, winemakers, and artisans she teams up with, she hopes to represent the full culinary ecosystem of cities like Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. The menu in Los Angeles, the seventh home of the female “community and coworking” space, features dishes from chefs like Nancy Silverton, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, and Melissa Perello, as well as shout-outs to beloved California brands like Cowgirl Creamery, Sqirl, and Mother-in-Law’s kimchi.
“When we highlight chefs that are big names, we want to balance it out by including individuals who don’t get a lot of media attention, or by highlighting a project that could use support,” Dillon says. “I think about how The Wing can use food & beverage to increase visibility by representing women who are otherwise underrepresented in a lot of food and beverage media.”
To that end, the West Hollywood menu includes a mole rojo black bean soup from Elizabeth and Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza. Ten percent of the proceeds from each dish go to Homegirl Café, a non-profit organization that helps previously gang-involved and incarcerated women learn work skills through working with food. This charitable tradition is mirrored on Wing menus across the country, all of which feature one dish that supports an organization that supports women. “We wanted to make sure that the dish speaks back to the community [at Homegirl Café], so it was a natural pairing. It’s a really beautiful larger message.”
Although each of the dishes have Dillon and her team’s unique twists woven in, some, like Nancy Silverton’s kale salad with marinated white anchovies and ricotta salata, are based on cult-classic items from the chef’s own restaurants. Many have deliberately vague components, like the market fruit in Melissa Perello’s tomato salad, in order to take advantage of California’s bountiful produce and adjust based on what’s in season. “The flavors are all based originally in a woman’s hands and minds, even if we play with them,” Dillon says. “It represents so many different people, some hyper-local, some broader.”
For the beverage program, Dillon challenged herself to build a list entirely comprised of women winemakers in California, like Megan Glaab of Rhyme Cellars, and Samantha Sheehan of POE wines. “I found it a lot easier than I anticipated,” she says, laughing. “Now when I’m in a wine shop or another restaurant, I look at the list and it’s almost strange not to see some of these women represented.”
When creating the menu, Dillon, who started working in kitchens when she was fourteen, cast a wide net in terms of the chefs she reached out to. “There’s a lot of camaraderie across the industry, and that sense of community is something I came up in.” She also translates that sense of community into The Wing’s own kitchens, where staffers are regularly encouraged to contribute specials (which they’re credited with) to the menu. “It’s meaningful that the kitchens we run in house are free of the sexual assault and the sexism in the kitchens I came up. I sometimes forget that other people might not be used to a majority of women operating around a very different set of values in terms of kitchen culture. I forget how incredible that is.”