Restaurateur Jen Agg, behind the popular The Black Hoof, Rhum Corner and more, has stepped up in more ways than one in 2021 to advocate for her employees and challenge a restaurant industry that has resisted change. One of the most vocal supporters of vaccine passports for patrons, she’s battled face-to-face with anti-vaxxers this year all while shedding light on sexism, abuse of power and racism within the industry.
By Ben Kaplan | Journalist
As usual, when there’s a hard job to do, it falls on a woman to get it done. When the food industry’s dirty laundry began to be aired — the lousy pay, nightmarish hours and harassment at the hands of bosses — it was Jen Agg, co-founder of the Black Hoof and author of I Heard She’s a Real Bitch, who used her platform to call out the city’s boorish offenders.
The Black Lives Matter banner on her front door at the Rhum Corner leaves nothing to doubt. Agg speaks her mind. Fighting words, especially on Twitter, is her verbiage of choice, and yet she’s also quick to point out trends and people she loves. (She was one of the first to bring attention to the deliciousness of MIMI Chinese).
A scenester, fashionista and wordsmith, she brought Dundas West some of the Ossington vibe and opened upscale cuisine in Kensington Market, and yet her real gift to the city has been an ethos that more restaurateurs should get behind.
An outspoken kingmaker whose taste reigns supreme, Agg can open a restaurant, pen a bestseller, rip apart a Globe and Mail editorial and still make it to Scaramouche in time to cop a great glass of wine. Whether talking about race or pay in the kitchen, staffing or Toronto’s next dining trends, when Jenn Agg talks, we all need to listen. It’s something, most often, no one else has the courage to say.
See our full list of Toronto’s most inspiring women of 2021 here.