This is the next story in a series about the women entrepreneurs and business owners along Upshur Street in Petworth. Join us as we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th with a special community event free for the whole family.
Dani Moreira could have never predicted that she would become Petworth’s carb queen.
Her path here was circuitous. She emigrated from Argentina, worked as an au pair in Mount Pleasant, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and worked at the #4 restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park.
And yet Moreira’s big break came while she was chopping zucchini on a table (sans cutting board) at a gig at Petworth Jazz Project. That table belonged to Andrew Dana, who now co-owns Timber Pizza with Moreira.
As Moreira describes it, Dana — who then ran Timber out of a food truck with partner Chris Brady —hired Moreira to help with a gig at the Petworth Jazz Project. Moreira, whose English was still limited, didn’t know what a “gig” meant. But, she knew she needed money; she had lined up a job at the ill-fated Shaw Bijou, but the fancy tasting-menu restaurant had run into opening delays.
The gig: cutting veggies to throw on pizza for hungry jazz patrons. Dana, who has no formal culinary training, was so impressed with Moreira’s chopping skills that he offered her a job at the brick and mortar location he was set to open on Upshur Street.
“I studied for all these years to make pizza?” she thought.
Undeterred, Dana offered Moreira equity in the business. That made Moreira pause.
“It was incredible because owners don’t usually offer part of the business,” she says.
Timber opened its doors in June of 2016 and was immediately popular, partly because it already had a steady following from its farmers market rounds. Then, in 2017, Bon Appetit magazine named Timber one of America’s 50 Best new restaurants, and the rest is history.
“It’s pretty cool to be an owner,” Moreira says. “I still sometimes don’t believe it.”
Moreira runs the kitchen at Timber, where everything is made from scratch, and is overseeing the opening of a second Timber concept in Ballston, Virginia. Along with Andrew and Chris, Dani is also an owner in the insanely popular Call Your Mother Deli in Park View. There are still lines at the door to get the oven-cooked bagels,
Moreira says she doesn’t dwell too much on the fact that she happens to be female; she sees her immigrant roots and her language proficiency as the bigger barriers to overcome in the workplace. She describes the intimidation she felt at first, coming to the United States and not being able to speak English. Moreira won a scholarship to the CIA, and afterwards got a job at Eleven Madison Park, but says that on her $7 per hour salary, she never got the chance to eat at the extravagant restaurant.
Now that she’s broken through, Moreira gets a sense of satisfaction working alongside other immigrants and showing them that there is a way up the ladder.
“I enjoy seeing all these women next to me and showing them there is a future,” Moreira says. “As an immigrant, showing other immigrants that they don’t have to be stuck washing dishes.”