We are not order takers. Our job is to provide an experience with poise and hospitality. Being hospitable doesn’t always mean saying yes. Sometimes what the guest wants and the experience that we offer aren’t always the same. And that’s okay.
It has been in my experience that passion invokes passion. Excitement invokes excitement. These emotions are contagious. Keeping my team inspired means staying inspired myself. I don’t buy product I don’t believe in. So being passionate about each and everything that we offer means I have a staff that can tell stories about everything we offer. Whether that is a personal experience, the story of a wine maker, the history of a distillery, or the storied past of a
particular brewer. And that speaks wonders for staff education. The power to take something as seemingly arbitrary as a wine choice, and bring it to the human level. That is moving. And motivates me and those around me to be passionate about what we do and why we do it.
I look for people with a willingness to learn, and a passions for something. That passion doesn’t always have to be related to our industry. There isn’t much that we can’t bring full circle in restaurants. I also firmly believe that the impression that is left within 20 minutes is all I need to decide what my guests will feel interacting with someone. Are they easy to talk to, can they explain themselves and their experience with clarity and diction, do they have a very basic understanding of hospitality, and finally will they fit with my team. If they make it that far, then I will offer them an opportunity to spend a day in the lions den. There are people who are naturals at what we do, and there are people who yearn to be good at it. Those are the ones I look for.
I have an undying sense of curiosity. I always want to know what’s going on here in Atlanta, what people are doing in Charleston, New York, New Orleans, DC, Philadelphia, Seattle. I keep up with other cities, and listen to a ton of Podcasts. Wine for Sophisticated Homies has been on my list a lot recently. I prefer to throw a bit of punny humor in what I do, and their playful dispositions always make me laugh and think at the same time. I’m constantly reading, Guildsomm is a great resource for staying up to date on trends, reinforcing what you already
know, and allowing you to dig deeper into that which you don’t fully understand yet. And being interested in different parts of what we do. I’ve been increasingly interested in vineyard training recently. I find it fascinating. So I’ve gone down that rabbit hole, for better or worse for people listening to me talk.
For some people, reading other people's wine lists or cocktail menus are all they need to push them further. I need more than that. A quiet hike just after the rain has always brought me clarity and inspiration. I look back a lot at my past, and memories, to find inspiration for what goes on my wine lists. If a bottle doesn’t invoke an emotion, bring me back to a specific place in time, or remind me of something very specific, I have very little use for it. So constantly experiencing life and just getting out there in the world is my main inspiration for doing good work and bringing new things to the world.
Well most people in my position would say a wine key, or shaker tins, or a good stir spoon. But I can never seem to keep a wine key in my possession for more than 20 minutes and I still have a job. So, probably, pockets. Ya know, to keep the wine keys I can never hang on to. And all the foils from the wines I open using someone else’s wine key. The beauty of modern fashion is dresses and skirts that come equipped with pockets.
A thoroughly read copy of the Wine Bible is always a great reference. Especially with the new edition on the market. The Flavor Bible, a stained copy of PDT, I always have a copy of Somm Journal in my possession, and a weekly edition of PUNCH in my inbox. Imbibe magazine has long been one of my go to’s for bar trends and emerging possibilities. Guildsomm, again, is one of my go to references.
I believe that every position I’ve held over the years, and each restaurant I’ve worked in, has given me different experiences. I wouldn’t be the person, or Sommelier, that I am today if I didn’t have each of those experiences under my belt. So all of them. I wouldn’t have the love I have for wine if it weren’t for Nicolas Quinones at Woodfire Grill. My passion for food and simplicity changed dramatically while working for Billy Allin at Cakes and Ale. I learned so much about management and cost control while underneath Shelley Sweet at the General Muir. I learned corporate buying and business budgeting while working for Concentrics Restaurants. During my time at Staplehouse I’ve learned so much about dedication and personal fulfillment.