The SOMM Journal

May 2014

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32 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2014 { in service } WWW.TEELINGWHISKEY.COM has Arrived! ROUGHLY A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, MAHATMA GHANDI SAID, "That service is the noblest which is rendered for its own sake." The underlying theme of serving others because it is simply rewarding to do so speaks to our interconnectedness as human beings. Today, restaurant service professionals from servers to sommeliers are implored by managers and proprietors to make friendly and competent ser- vice a priority. Phrases like "from the warm welcome to the fond farewell—be gracious," a phrase I first heard from the legendary maitre d' Nick Peyton, and "every guest is a V.I.P." are routine and surface in training manuals and corporate core values. Cooks and hosts and barbacks are encouraged to smile, and to be friendly to all patrons in the establishment. In contemporary restaurant dining culture, this is a good thing. Some restaurateurs may place even more value on emotional intelligence than experience or skill sets. One manager explained to me, "I can teach them how to carry a tray, but I can't teach them how to be friendly. It has to be there." Nowhere is the microscope on service quite as scrutinizing as in the realm of fine-dining wine service. Sophisticated diners who care about wine are distracted and disappointed by untrained wine service. Wine service must be at once knowledgeable and friendly. Some diners can be overwhelmed by large wine lists; a supportive smile can put them at ease. Yet other guests possess collector-level encyclopedic knowledge and expect that the wine that they order will be decanted with aplomb and served at the ideal tem- perature in the highest quality and appropriately sized stemware and aligned with, but slightly before, the arrival of the food, which naturally is purported to be a perfect pairing. This level of service demands specific skills as well as a gracious tableside manner. Perfection remains an on-going goal, but the state of restaurant service in the U.S. has never been better. From casual to fine dining, management is emphasizing the training in the front-of-the-house. They are hiring warm people, who are passionate about service and genuinely desire to make the restaurant guests happy. Training the steps of service is secondary. Moreover, the position of the sommelier has evolved. We have arrived at a place where restaurant patrons in America expect knowledgeable, skilled, and above all, courteous service. And we are endeavoring to deliver it. "The position of the sommelier has evolved. We have arrived at a place where restaurant patrons in America expect knowledgeable, skilled and, above all, courteous service." Christie Dufault is a San Francisco–based sommelier and wine educator. She is member of the faculty at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, where she has been an instructor for ten years. She is also a guest lecturer at the San Francisco Wine School. Previously, Christie worked as the wine director for some of the nation's finest restaurants including Gary Danko in San Francisco, where her list earned the Grand Award from Wine Spectator. As Head Sommelier at Quince, Christie was awarded "Best Wine Director 2007" by San Francisco magazine. In 2009, Christie helped open RN74 in San Francisco, a Michael Mina restaurant. In 2012 Christie co-authored a cookbook, Two in the Kitchen, with her husband, the writer Jordan Mackay. The State of the Sommelier MODERN DAY SERVICE IS EVOLVING ALONG WITH CUSTOMER SOPHISTICATION by Christie Dufault Somm Journal June/July.indd 32 5/9/14 12:08 PM

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