Food & dining

Getting Salty

Getting Salty with Katrina Jazayeri of Juliet

Katrina Jazayeri
Katrina Jazayeri

Katrina Jazayeri came to Boston from Texas by way of San Francisco, first as a bartender and then as the manager of Cambridge’s late, lamented Belly Wine Bar and the Blue Room. Now she runs Union Square’s Juliet — which the Globe called a “jewel box” — alongside partner Joshua Lewin. The restaurant focuses on social justice as well as on food. Juliet eschews tips in favor of a profit-sharing model for staff and will host a public salon series on topics like sexual harassment in the workplace in the coming months. “We hope we see regular faces, and we hope it’ll be a reason for people to come out and meet us for the first time. We want to be a resource for discussions that are really timely and become advocates,” Jazayeri says.

What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? On the same trip to visit my sister here, I had two very contrasting experiences, both memorable. I ate my first raw oysters at Eastern Standard. Also, I went to the food court at the Super 88 out in Allston. This must have been in 2008 or 2009.

What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I’d like to see the tipped minimum wage eliminated. It has a history of being an oppressive practice and has negative repercussions on the industry as a whole, I think, because of its effect on workers and particularly women and people of color. It’s a dangerous and negative practice, and we’d be better off if we saw it eliminated.

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It has several implications. There’s the inconsistency of wages. At the finer dining restaurants, service staff might do fine over the course of the year, but it’s very inconsistent, and you can’t plan for it. You might have some busy shifts or some slower shifts. It leaves the staff open to preferential treatment: If you get the good shift, you get more money. If you’re forced to work lunchtime, because you have children, you might not make as much money. It leaves people open to abuses that are out of their control. We’ve eliminated tips at Juliet, and based on our year and a half, we’ve cultivated tons of regulars. Our staff is treated with dignity, and they pass that on to the guests.

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How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? I’ve only been here for five years, but I moved here at a time when the industry was really starting to boom. From personal experience, my restaurant work was around the Kendall Square area. That has been a microcosm of what I think is happening all around the city — massive growth and so many more restaurants. I read somewhere that 75 new restaurants in Boston will open between now and the end of the year. Neighborhood-wise, you see Kendall, which has just blown up with all the first-floor retail.

What other restaurants do you visit? We love visiting BISq [in Cambridge]. They do a great job and have a fantastic wine list. Their food never disappoints. For comfort food, we love Vinny’s [in Somerville] for great homemade pastas.

What’s your earliest food memory that made you think, “I want to work in restaurants?” My parents met as waiters at a tennis club resort in Texas. I have all these secondhand memories of restaurants that painted this great romantic picture and tons of food memories — my family on both sides is very food centric. But it wasn’t until after college, thinking about social justice, food, and health that I started to see restaurants as a great laboratory for some of the social justice work I wanted to do.

What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? I went to New York for a birthday trip during a massive snowstorm. We had plans to go to a fancy restaurant; I think it has a Michelin star. Most of our other reservations had been canceled. We went back and forth with them — can we move it? Can we come at a different time? We could have canceled, but they said to come. We were the only guests. A bunch of deliveries hadn’t come. The menu was just wrong. The whole experience was just awkward and not at all what it should have been. The best thing would’ve been to tell us not to come. As owners, I’m sympathetic to that. Those are the hard choices you have to make, but you have to put your guest first.

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How could Boston become a better food city? Take advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit of academic institutions and foster entrepreneurship. We’ve seen Boston take on sourcing, and I’d love to see it translated into workers’ rights issues and bringing in all the smart people to work through some of the challenges that we face.

Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Classic, conscious, and curious.

What’s the most overdone trend right now? Small plates. I’m tired of small plates. I want a big plate.

What are you reading? Alice Waters’s new book, “Coming to My Senses.” A guest recommended it to me.

How’s your commute? It’s amazing. I can walk five minutes down the hill from my door to the restaurant.

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What’s the one food you never want to cook again? So, last year on a trip home to visit my parents, I decided to make traditional cassoulet from start to finish, from butchering to rendering fat to chopping, all of that work. After a long day of cooking, the food was good, but now I’m happy to leave it to Josh and the team.

‘I’d like to see the tipped minimum wage eliminated. It has a history of being an oppressive practice.’

What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? I miss a great spicy salsa! Coming from Texas, none of the chips and salsa I have around here has ever been spicy enough.

What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? Belly Wine Bar and the Blue Room, where I got my start. I miss them very much but am glad we still have Central Bottle to visit those guys.

Who was your most memorable customer? One of our regulars is a preeminent brain scientist who loves music and can map the depth of Spotify off the top of her head. She’s become a collaborator on our playlists.

If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? Alive & Kicking lobsters for a big bowl of steamers.

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com.