John Ragan

John Ragan

Master Sommelier and Director of Wine & Restaurant Operations for Union Square Hospitality Group

I continue to be inspired in this industry by its boundless creativity, constant evolution, and unending dedication all focused on simple moments of pleasure.

I learned early on in my career that respect is the ultimate compliment.
It has been said that teaching is the best way to learn. I love watching people learn about wine and undoubtedly be reminded what is really important and what isn’t. Learning what is essential is a great education.
When I'm mentoring young professionals I remind them to never keep score. Always try and be the first to give more - you will be the first to get more in return.
After college, I moved to Napa Valley on a lark. I planned to stay for a summer but did not go back. Working with others so passionate about food and wine was all I needed to take the plunge.
If I could go back to the earlier stages in my career and give myself one piece of advice, I'd remind myself that people are not one size fits all, everyone has a different motivation, all of them valid.
We are charged with helping people enjoy themselves - That isn’t always easy but it should never be too hard.
I keep my team motivated by setting lofty goals with them and then chipping away at those goals. There is nothing better than showing someone where they were a year ago and where they are now.
I thought I knew quite a bit about restaurants when I met Danny Meyer but I soon realized I really didn’t know a thing. Danny, Richard Coraine and the entire USHG family had so much faith in us while we were trying to reinvent Eleven Madison. Courage of convictions and bestowing faith in others is the best way to attract and retain passionate and talented people.
My Grandfather, who was a restaurateur, was one of my mentors. It was amazing to see how beloved he was in his town, even long after he had retired. It proved the point that any great restaurant is a cornerstone of a community.
Yannick Benjamin was a force of nature when we were studying for our Master Sommelier exam. Yannick was a daily reminder of the dedication needed to get over the hump and to our goal.
Victor Fontana was a legendary restaurateur in Kansas City and another mentor of mine. I worked for him for most all of high school and college. Though he had a beautiful family, he always made us feel like his family as well. You always want to do right by your family.

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