Lov Carpenter hasn’t gone on a job interview at a bar in nearly two years, but she hasn’t forgotten the struggle of job hunting while black.
“I’ve had a lot of frustrating experiences where I’ve gone on the interviews and had really great feedback from employers and owners and managers, and I find out they’ve given it to a 21-year-old white girl with no experience,” she said. “For a while it was happening so often that I was doubting myself and started to go to the bars, later on, to see who they had hired. It was a regular trend of seeing a white face.”
A Seattle transplant, Carpenter is the lead mixologist at Blue Plate Catering and a brand ambassador for Hella Cocktail Co. She worked at Cafe Spiaggia before departing in 2016. Carpenter said she stepped away from behind the bar because she felt she couldn’t get jobs in high-end craft cocktail bars, so she decided to make her own path. Still, she is conscious of her privileges.
“I am a light-skinned biracial black woman, so I know … I’ve been lucky to have some really amazing experiences that darker-skinned people of color and black people haven’t had,” she said.
Carpenter and other black food and beverage professionals face a unique set of challenges while working in one of the most segregated cities in the country. Despite these obstacles, they work to provide more inclusive spaces and visibility for other rising chefs and bartenders of color. Part of this work means having candid, difficult conversations about their experiences, from barriers in hiring to treatment from customers.
“The challenge of being black in this industry sometimes may come from a guest … it’s very quick and it’s not so much where someone is outright direct with it,” said Greg Innocent, beverage director for Bassment, a live music lounge in River North.