Carlton McCoy

Carlton McCoy

Master Sommelier, President and CEO at Lawrence Wine Estates and Co-Founder of The Roots Fund

The people I work with keep me level headed, grounded, motivated, and excited about my job. The nature of the business is stressful - keep it fun. I’m a clown and everyone knows it. If I can get the staff to smile once per shift, that’s success.

Watch, understand, and be open-minded to the dynamics of your workplace. Put your head down and listen, go in humbly, and stay quiet until you understand. That’s how you get the most experience and gain longevity in a position.
When I’m mentoring others, I tell them that they shouldn’t expect anyone to hold their hand. I’ll coach you, but you have to do the work. If you want to get into wine, read the books and do your research. Be self-motivated and have discipline. Everyone has to find the best approach that works for them.
There is a misperception - People think that you know everything about wine after passing the Master Sommelier exam. That’s not the case - You have to continually learn. The Court gives you the foundation and now I understand what interests me and go deeper. My experiences will shape how I approach applying this knowledge to developing and managing a balanced wine program.
Early on in my career I learned when you get hired your opinion doesn’t matter for a long time. Work hard. There is no room for an ego in restaurants.
If I could go back in time, one piece of advice I would give myself would be to be more patient with myself. It’s a double-edged sword and the industry requires a lot of you. To be successful, you have to be fully committed to what you’re doing.
My workplace and the people I work with keep me motivated. This industry has an abnormally high turnover rate (50%), but there are core, anchor people who have been here for years -Those are the people we all lean on.
Jay Fletcher has been a great mentor, in both the industry and in life - He has been the biggest influence. Paolo Novello taught me the basics of classic service mechanics and took a leap of faith and refined me. Andrew Myers got me into wine and took the time to teach me. Eric Zeibold taught me how to manage business. And I learned the importance of a really disciplined and structured foundation from Jonathan Benno, at Per Se. But a mentor doesn’t have to be someone who you’re involved with often. It can be someone who sets an example in what they do for and in the industry- for example Raj Parr and Bobby Stuckey.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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