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Turner Hall welcomes first ever female Black-owned restaurant owner

The restaurant will be a teaching kitchen that partners with food entrepreneurs to collaborate.
Posted at 6:47 PM, Aug 26, 2022

MILWAUKEE — Emerald Mills is the first-ever female Black-owned operator of the Turning Tables Tavern and Eatery located in the Historic Turner Hall.

"I definitely feel like I am a part of history and that this mission is so much greater than me and greater than anything I could have ever imagined," said Mills.

"It was really important for us that this important center here downtown reflected who Milwaukee is today, not just who Milwaukee was way back in 1882. So to have probably the only Black female-owned and operated restaurant here in downtown Milwaukee was just fantastic," said Emilio De Torre, Executive Director at Milwaukee Turners.

Turner Hall
Historic Turner Hall

Mills, the founder of Diverse Dining, wasn't always in the restaurant business, but found it an avenue for change.

"I started to realize through my public health work over 20 years that a lot of the health poverty and disparities had to do with segregation. After 20 years of work, the needle wasn't really moving," said Mills.

She eventually transitioned into launching her organization Diverse Dining. The program features events and experiences bringing people of all walks together over a meal.

"My goal in bringing people into communities and neighborhoods where minorities lived and ran their businesses was not just to have the conversation for people to relate to each other but also to provide revenue for these smaller businesses."

Through her work helping consult restaurants across the city, she noticed a gap in resources that could help mentor up-and-coming chefs.

"I learned that a major issue for minority food-based entrepreneurs is having kitchen access."

Emerald Mills

According to the National Restaurant Association, only 8% of restaurants in the country are Black-owned. Through Turning Tables, Mills hopes to help change that statistic and increase minority ownership in restaurants.

"The concept is that we provide everything from back-end support to up-and-coming food-based entrepreneurs and chefs."

The restaurant will be a teaching kitchen that partners with food entrepreneurs to collaborate.

"Food-based entrepreneurs get to showcase what they're doing and their ideas as they also get to be surrounded by a community. So we are mitigating a lot of risks for them."

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