15 Minutes with Sarah Wasson

sarah wasson
Photo by Rachel Valley

Sarah Wasson
AGE: 35
DAY JOB: Managing partner at Mulvaney’s B&L
HONORS: Participant in the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program

Your family has a long history in the restaurant industry. How did that upbringing shape your notions of hospitality?
My lineage is that my grandmother owned a diner in the Central Valley and my mom [Bobbin Mulvaney] ran a catering company before teaming up with my stepfather [Patrick Mulvaney] to run the B&L. When I was little, I played underneath my mom’s prep table all day, so it has always been part of who I am. I feel very fortunate to have had much of my foundation be at the B&L. The culture there is steeped in the feeling of welcome, the feeling that ‘you belong here.’ Through my upbringing in hospitality, I’ve been hard-wired to be aware of the vibe in the room, and I have this anticipation of needs before they surface. I think that has translated into my vision for community betterment and my own unique path of service.

You’ve already established a name for yourself in terms of activism within the hospitality industry. Why was that important to you?
My upbringing taught me how important it is to stand up for yourself and your people at the same time as taking care of guests. My big debut was just a few months ago with our Friends of Roe fundraiser at Mulvaney’s. It was an incredible first event and just magic how everything came together. I brought on the perfect partner, Rosa Leonardo, and many ladies at B&L pitched in to help. We organized the event in three weeks, had 250 guests and raised more than $30,000 for Planned Parenthood and Access Reproductive Justice. It was a real testament to our community.

For you, does running a restaurant have to be fueled by a greater sense of purpose?
I literally can’t do anything without a sense of purpose. I can’t go to the grocery store without thinking about it. I’m just fascinated by the bigger connection there is to us all.

As a parent, when you think about leadership and purpose, what do you imagine passing on to your family?
It’s a huge, important piece of who I am. I gave birth to my daughter around the time of the pandemic and a few days after George Floyd’s murder. We were in the beginning of highlighting what’s not working in our society. My daughter was born into an explosion of chaos and truth. That defines who I am as a mother. I’m here to push for change to make it a better world for her and for everyone else. My intention is to do more work for community betterment, and I feel fortunate to be able to do that work through the restaurant.