Beverage Director-Parent Interview: Haley Moore

A mom of two shares her perspective on food, dining out with kids, and balancing family with a restaurant career.

Source: Amy Osborne / Special to The San Francisco Chronicle

By Joanna Augenbergs

Typically, a restaurant job entails unpredictable hours, late nights, hectic schedules and limited benefits — making it a difficult career for those with families. Yet there is a recent evolution toward a more child-friendly restaurant culture, especially in cities like San Francisco (where laws have been passed that make parenthood more feasible). Haley Moore, beverage director at SF’s Salt House, Town Hall, and Anchor & Hope restaurants, sits down with Nibble+squeak to chat about this growing trend and how she juggles family and restaurant life.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you end up as Beverage Director at not one but three amazing SF restaurants?

I began working in restaurants when is was 15 after a trip to Paris sparked a deep interest in food, wine and service. I went to San Diego State and got my degree in Hospitality Tourism Management with an emphasis in Restaurant Operations. I worked in various positions in both the front and back of the house during those years. After returning from Culinary School abroad, I went back to serving at a restaurant in Oakland called A Cote. Jeff Berlin was (and still is) the Wine Director there. His list is extremely esoteric. Rather than Zinfandel, he has Plavac Mali from Croatia. He really taught us how to talk about wine. He also made me realize that I wanted to dedicate my time and efforts to learning as much about wine as possible. I passed the first two levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers exams while at A Cote. In 2007, I went on to become a sommelier and then the Wine Director at bacar, which was really a wine-centric restaurant in the late 90’s and early 2000’s in SF. I inherited an amazing cellar there and learned a tremendous amount just opening and tasting through so many old gems. I then went on to run the wine program at Spruce as their Lead Sommelier. During my time there, we got our first Michelin Star and grew the wine list from 1,400-2,700 selections nearly overnight. They now have a Grand Award from the Wine Spectator, which is a huge achievement. I became the Beverage Director at Town Hall, Salt House and Anchor & Hope in 2012.

What advice would you give other women trying to break into the food and restaurant business?

It is such a great business to be in. Regardless of gender, be ready to do a lot of hard but rewarding work. I think that if you want to be a parent and work in the restaurant business, you just have to take into consideration how much time you want to have for your kids. It is a business that requires you to work nights, weekends and holidays. This schedule works great when they’re little and can even circumvent daycare needs! But once they’re older, it can become more challenging. It is incredibly important to find a company that actually values work-life balance, which is easier in theory than in practice. Making sure that your career goals coincide with your personal goals is mandatory or it just won’t work.

Tell us a little about your boys. Are they good eaters? What was their first food?

Hunter is 2 and Miles is 4 ½ months. Miles is 18 lbs and is wearing 9 month clothing, so yes, he is a good eater 😉 but hasn’t started solids yet. I can’t wait to start feeding him! I went a little crazy with Hunter’s baby food experience. He was eating bone broth, liver, beef heart and all sorts of weird nutrient-dense things before he was one. Now that he’s a full blown toddler, he’s a bit more picky, but mostly eats what we eat. I love that when I cook lamb or goat, he’s quick to grab a T-bone or chop and chow down on it. It makes me smile.

 

There is a picture of you with 4-month-old Miles in a carrier as you work the lunch rush at Town Hall. We think it’s great that SF restaurants are becoming more progressive about supporting families and parental leave. Do you think this trend will continue?

I really hope so. I think most restaurants are supportive in theory, but it is complicated in practice. My position is unique because I don’t typically work the floor. This allowed me more flexibility the first few weeks returning from maternity leave. If I had been holding any of my past positions, this would not have been possible. I intentionally chose my career path knowing that I wanted kids and that, if I wanted to stay in restaurants, I needed to find a position that would allow me some flexibility.

Has becoming a parent changed your cooking style and/ or eating habits? Do you have any family dining traditions you can share?

I have always loved to cook and dining has been at the center of our family for a long as I can remember. I read a book called ‘Super Nutrition for Babies’ early on with Hunter and became obsessed with cooking nutrient dense meals. I batch cook on Sundays so that we can have ‘real food’ all week.

As far as dining traditions, setting the table with my dad for holidays was a big one. I always loved getting out the nice china and the real silver. He taught me the importance of setting the table correctly, that it sets the tone for the meal. Now that I have boys, I am grateful that this came from him. It is definitely something I plan to pass on in hopes of raising forward-thinking men. Hopefully they won’t just gawk at my minor obsession with plates! 

Nibble+squeak’s passion is helping parents share and enjoy experiences with their children when it comes to food and travel… Do you get out with your little one often? What’s your perspective on dining out with children?

We do! We took Hunter to San Sebastian when he was three months and then to Japan before he was one. We, of course, love to dine out as well. When we traveled before kids, we always noted how, especially in Europe, there were kids out until all hours of the night even in the nicest restaurants. We’ve tried to follow that model as best we can.

I have always tried to make it a point to make parents feel comfortable with their kids in our restaurants, especially new parents. I will never forget how I felt the first time we took Hunter out to dinner. He was 5 weeks old, and I had to nurse him (what felt like) every two minutes. I was so nervous about him ruining everyone’s time if he cried. We were met by sweet smiles and couples reminiscing to us about what it was like when their kids were that little. I have learned that most people have gone through this parenting thing, and that most people feel empathy and compassion towards new parents and little ones, so my take, is go out, enjoy yourselves and let the kids go to bed a little late sometimes!

Do the boys get to eat at your restaurants often? What’s their favorite dish?

We live in the East Bay, but they do come in from time to time! Hunter loves any meat with a bone, so the ribs at Town Hall are a favorite.  

Aside from Salt House, Town Hall and Anchor & Hope – where else do you like to eat out with your family?

We love A Cote in Oakland for a million reasons. It is also where I met my husband. Jeff has three boys of his own, so he’s amazing at entertaining the small people so that we can drink. 😉 We also love dopo, a Sicilian restaurant in Oakland. John and Kayta have kids as well. Their place is so charming and the food is incredible. A16 in Rockridge is also a favorite, especially when we can see Shelley, the OG Wine Mama.

 

 

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