I believe it is very difficult to think of being a Sommelier without having been a Server. Serving for 14 years, before having the confidence or wherewithal that I could be Sommelier, gave me the ability to work well with the whole team, be able to time wine and food pairings efficiently and feel confident throughout the years by gaining a foundation of wine knowledge.
I feel so lucky to work with wonderful people and incredible products. We are able to offer food and wines we love and our guests are able to see we enjoy what we do. It's a very fulfilling and rich lifestyle. I think of myself as the customer when I'm working. I spend a lot of time listening to them, hoping to satisfy their desires with what we offer, even if it's out of the norm. Honestly, without these incredible guests believing in us, we wouldn't be able to do what we love. Chefs and service professionals must keep this at heart and not compromise our integrity, but have an overall goal as a community of people together.
As we started expanding, plus I started a family, I was able to grow our wine and management teams. We are so much more effective now. One person cannot run a restaurant alone, by any stretch of the imagination. It's really fun to share knowledge, tasks and ideas and gain the trust of our whole service team, as well as customers, as a group. I'm immensely proud of the growth and hard work they've all put forth to keep us all thriving in what we do. There's always a ton to learn.
Restaurant work is day to day. Every day is a fresh start and requires us to always keep looking forward to possibilities and the work at hand. We knew we wanted to serve pizza and wine. I love service and wanted to combine elements of the fine-dining training I was accustomed to with the fun, warm energy of wood-fired pizzas and a celebration of the great ingredients of Northern California.
I realize that I have a hard time turning off my service meter. I cannot tell you how great it is to get a coffee, buy groceries, patron any cafe or restaurant and witness great service. I am a firm believer that intelligent, friendly hospitality and service creates a better community on a whole.
I remember being too lenient as a boss when we first opened A16 because I was just so happy that people wanted to work with me. The thought of me being upset with someone was a running joke. It was unsustainable, but we sure had a good time while it lasted! We had to instill rules such as, showing up to work on time, doing side work etc. as our organization continued to grow.
Some of the things I love about the humanity of our restaurant life is that everything we do comes from the heart. You can taste it in the food, feel it in the room and see it on a wine list. Just like people have their favorite flavor of ice cream, style of pizza or type of wine, we get to share a common thread of humanity and strive to keep raising the bar of excellence in our way. I love what I do.
Does doing what we do come without challenges? Not at all. But, being a part of the solution and the positive, creative force is a good place to be. There is a lot of chaos to embrace and multitasking to achieve, but it is fun and a good challenge.