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“Be hopeful.” With Karina Michel Feld & Jordan Salcito

I’m hopeful because of Black Lives Matter — America has woken up to the injustices built into our social/cultural infrastructure. Millions more Americans are now aware of these inequities and actively want to rebuild our nation into one that is just for all. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. […]

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I’m hopeful because of Black Lives Matter — America has woken up to the injustices built into our social/cultural infrastructure. Millions more Americans are now aware of these inequities and actively want to rebuild our nation into one that is just for all.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Salcito.

Jordan Salcito is the Founder of RAMONA and Bellus Wines and a wine veteran with over a decade spent in the industry. She is a Master Sommelier Candidate, a Wine Enthusiast “40 Under 40,” and a 2018 and 2019 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Istudied English Literature and philosophy in college but always maintained an interest in the hospitality industry and ended up writing a restaurant column and attending culinary school after college. I lucked into a position on the opening team at Wylie Dufresne’s groundbreaking restaurant, wd~50, which opened my eyes to the possibility of a viable and fulfilling career in restaurants.

Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant, DANIEL, offered me a culinary internship and in the processes, I fell in love with wine. Daniel invited me to cook at a Burgundian wine event in Aspen, Colorado — La Paulée de Neiges the January following my internship — and nine months later I was wearing Wellies and rubber overalls, harvesting grapes in the rain in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits.

Soon after, I joined the wine team at Eleven Madison Park. John Ragan, the wine director, encouraged me to take sommelier exams through the Court of Master Sommeliers and demanded an incredible level of rigor and focus. John is a relentless and remarkable teacher.

I accepted the job as Beverage Director at Momofuku in 2013, just days after I swore I had finished working in restaurants. But Momofuku presented a dream opportunity, and my own creative process thrived in the environment Dave (Chang) built there.

When we reopened Momofuku Ko in 2014, our goal was to create a world class wine program and put Momofuku’s wine identity on the map as a global fine wine destination. I was studying for the Master Sommelier exam at the time and focus across all parts of my career was very fine wine focused. Other colleagues would unwind at night over a cold beer, a beverage that has never appealed to me. I wished for a delicious, organic, low-alcohol spritz-like beverage that matched my value system and ultimately decided to create it.

RAMONA is named after my littlest sister’s childhood alter ego and represented my alter-ego to a decade in fine wine.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

There are so many! The moment I decided to created RAMONA was essentially the moment I realized I was (unexpectedly) pregnant. Motherhood was the Great Unknown for me, and while the pregnancy terrified me in many ways, it was the change-agent I didn’t know I needed to take stock of my life and my goals and to ultimately start the company I dreamed of.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

To be clear there are so many projects that people I love and am inspired by are working on that will impact the world for better in immediate ways. (My sister runs an NGO called NomoGaia for example).

That said, our brand values are very important and one thing that I’m particularly happy about is our commitment since Day One to eschewing chemicals & pesticides and working exclusively with sustainable methods and organically farmed grapes. And when we launch new products or services, we try to tie them to building funds and awareness for causes we believe make the world a more equitable place. For example, we will launch our direct-to-consumer campaign in support of the Independent Restaurant Commission. RAMONA was born from my roots in the restaurant industry, but more importantly, independent restaurants are critical to the health of our nation. For example, independent restaurants employ 75% (11 million people!) of the 16 million workers. Independent restaurants are also the number one employer of single mothers and formerly incarcerated individuals. And 61% of woman got their first job at an independent restaurant!

We’re also launching a podcast in September and just released a new product, the Dry Grapefruit Spritz a lower-ABV/calorie option, in July in response to consumer demand and changing drinking habits.

Initially we’d earmarked funds for a launch campaign but decided to reallocate them in support of organizations that champion causes important to each of our guests. We felt as though this was in better alignment with our internal mission, to create a trail of (positive) disruption wherever we go, surprising, delighting and bettering our community.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am so grateful to everyone I have worked for and within the past, but to name a few people who have truly helped me get to where I am today, I have to call out:

Rajat Parr is the ultimate wine mentor and champions endless curiosity. He opened the door to countless introductions and tasting visits and encouraged me to continually probe and ask the questions I might have otherwise been afraid to ask.

My husband Robert is brilliant and derives joy from helping others. He is an incredibly strategic thinker (he studied game theory and law in college) and is the ultimate sounding board. I consult him for every big decision.

My parents gave me my foundational value system and work ethic, and they sacrificed their lives enormously so that my two sisters and I had every opportunity they could afford.

I’m fortunate to derive strength from a group of close girlfriends that have certainly informed who I am now and how I value myself and my time!

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

Every day presents different challenges, but the biggest for me is providing emotional support to my four-year-old and allocating enough time, love and attention to my business, children, my marriage and myself — everyone and everything that needs love and attention to grow.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We try to have open conversations about feelings, needs and boundaries. We have a lot of family dinners these days, so the challenge is finding one on one time with each other. My four-year-old, Henry, and I used to have Friday night pizza dates but these days my husband and I alternate bedtimes with the boys and build in an hour or two for ourselves on weekends. On weekdays I’ve been building in time for short workouts — even 15 minutes is enough to recenter one’s frame of mind!

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

(same as above)

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

I try to structure my day in a way that stacks the great majority of my work — from sales calls to meetings and even training new hires — in the morning. This way, I can tackle the timeliest things on my to-do list while my older son, Henry, is at camp and while my 9-month old naps.

This leaves my afternoon more flexible to dedicate to play time with both of my boys, baking bread (where my older son practices writing his name on the loaf one letter at a time) and other educational activities. It also helps that Henry has his own schedule posted in our home, which makes it even easier to balance scheduling.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

I’m lucky that quarantine has allowed me to make time for things my hectic life as a mom/CEO wouldn’t ordinarily allow for. Bread baking and gardening with my older son Henry are new practices that require time, attention and focus — much like meditation but with a tangible productive benefit.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. I’m hopeful because of Black Lives Matter — America has woken up to the injustices built into our social/cultural infrastructure. Millions more Americans are now aware of these inequities and actively want to rebuild our nation into one that is just for all.
  2. I’m hopeful for the potential Biden/ Harris presidency come November! Biden represents a return to decency and humility, and Kamala on the ticket represents a ticket that champions progress, intellect and grit.
  3. I am hopeful when I see my two boys play in the grass because it reminds me that there is power and potential in future generations.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I derive comfort in knowing that we are all in uncharted territory and no one has a tried and true playbook. One thing my four-year-old and I have been practicing at bedtime is a parent-and-child guided meditation. It’s helped him to sleep more easily, as lately he’s been afraid of having bad dreams!

I’ve been listening to podcasts that offer examples of courage and leadership, as those qualities are lacking from so many public officials right now. Jon Meacham’s new podcast “Hope Through History” has been uplifting and inspiring, as has Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us.”

I also love Melissa Wood Tepperberg’s workout series. She is a mother of two and creates workouts that can be done anywhere with either a couple of props or one’s own bodyweight, and she brings peace and presence into every workout.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo Da Vinci

I learned to practice this theory from my mother, actually. At every turn, when I told her I dreamed of doing something she encouraged me to go out and give it a try. It was an excellent exercise in managing rejection, on some level, and on another it created my foundational understanding that in fact I have a lot of power to design the course my life and affect change on a broader scale.

How can our readers follow you online?

@Jordansalcito

@drinkramona

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