SAN FRANCISCO -- Award-winning sommelier and wine industry changemaker, Tonya Pitts believes that wine brings community.
"Wine is family, even those that are not blood become family, through wine," said Pitts. "I often say sometimes bread is the stuff of life, but so is wine. It really is. It changes things, and it brings people together."
Tonya Pitts is the Sommelier & Wine Director of One Market restaurant in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry. She was named Sommelier of the Year for Wine Enthusiast's 2022 Wine Star Awards.
"There's tests, there are certifications, you can never taste enough. You're constantly tasting. And for me, even where I am now, it's inherent," explained Pitts. "Someone will put something in front of me, a glass of wine, a taste of wine, and I'm immediately thinking about what is this going to pair with? What can I present to someone, or even for myself, so I'm always thinking that way."
When first starting her career, Tonya was exploring a different path - one that would ultimately lead to wine.
"I was a pre law student living in St. Louis, Missouri, which is where I am from originally," explained Pitts. "On the weekends, (I was) working at a restaurant in a really nice area."
She added, "And that was the beginning for me. And it was really, really wonderful because there were so many different kinds of people. I'd never worked in a restaurant before, I'd never been around food like that before, because it was a French restaurant. And the wine list was wines from around the world."
A trip to San Francisco kickstarted Tonya's love for the city, where she now resides. Today, she brings her wine expertise to fine dining while championing for diversity and inclusion in the hospitality, food, and beverage industries.
"I came up during a time, when there were not a lot of women, there were not a lot of people of color that were doing what I'm doing. Although I had people that were in my corner that were cheering me on, that were mentors, because I had all of that from the very beginning," recalled Pitts. "Whether I realized it or not, I don't want someone to have to go through a feeling of being isolated or being alone within a room full of people. And I think that sometimes does happen and people feel that way. And I don't want that."
Tonya is a mentor through her founding role with Wine Unify, an organization bringing more diversity to the wine industry.
"I want everyone to be here who wants to be here, no matter their age, gender, or race, it doesn't matter. If this is what you want to do, you can do it," said Pitts.
For more information, watch the video above and visit here to learn more about Tonya Pitts.