Victoria James

Victoria James

Beverage Director & Partner for Cote Korean Steakhouse

The hospitality world was something that clicked with me as a teenager working in a greasy-spoon diner. Whether you are a sommelier, bartender, manager, server, or busser -- bringing joy to others through hospitality is what ties us all together. I always loved making others happy, and today, I use beverage as a tool to do so.

I've learned that the key to a healthy work/life balance is to be okay with saying "no" to things. At the beginning of my career, I said yes to everything; I thought it was necessary to build my skillset. Now my focus is on balance and my health. I exercise, eat lots of greens, drink lots of water, and monitor my alcohol intake carefully. Also, I make time for relationships that are emotionally healthy and supportive.
Positivity and love are what I look for when hiring team members. I can teach someone to be a sommelier, but I cannot teach them to have a heart. The people I hire are good people first, reliable professionals second, and curious and humble.
The essential skills to succeed in this industry are patience, empathy, and a broad understanding of different cultures and current events. I manage a team of over 100 persons and interact with over 300 guests a night. I have to be able to understand many different viewpoints and backgrounds and how to make them all happy.
I keep my team motivated by listening to their needs, giving them the tools they need, making them feel special, and most importantly showing them their growth potential. I try my best to serve my team every day by always, always remaining positive.
I think that for too long, my education was much too narrow, focused solely on passing wine exams. I became a better professional and sommelier when I started participating in philanthropy, my local community, and I learned how wine fits into the bigger picture. If you don't fully understand how you can create a positive impact on the world with your passions and skill set, your education is a waste.
I couldn't do this job without my team.
As a Beverage Director and partner in a restaurant, reading food and wine publications is essential, but I highly encourage industry members to become well-rounded. Read the newspaper, the New Yorker, pick up memoirs and novels. If we cannot relate to all of our guests on their level and build connections, how are we going to serve them exceptionally well?
"Always remain humble" and "Find a way to love everyone" are two pieces of advice that have always stuck with me.

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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