The SOMM Journal

February / March 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 34 of 132

{ real somm stories } Bill Elsey, refining the pursuit for high standards of service. Bill Elsey WINE DIRECTOR, PAPPAS BROS. STEAK HOUSE, HOUSTON by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle IT WAS ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO that Bill Elsey took a job with an Italian restaurant in a small town in the Texas Hill Country. From there it was a gentle leap to a nearby winery, where he worked in sev - eral capacities, eventually finding not only a knack for wine but also a true niche for it as well. Today, Elsey is Wine Director for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in downtown Houston. Of course, in between those mile markers Elsey had a journey, including some direct sales, winning the title of Texas's Best Sommelier, running a funky wine bar in Austin and becoming an Advanced Sommelier. He worked previously as Sommelier at the Pappas Bros. across town before being tapped for Wine Director of the franchise's newest loca - tion, which opened in November. "After a decade in the industry, I've grown so much," says Elsey, adding that he's certainly not done with his education. (Having passed his Theory, he'll sit for Tasting and Service in May in Aspen for the Master diploma). "And since I've been with Pappas Bros., I've learned so much through working with the volume of sales, the rare bottles and the pricy bottles." But those experiences could only take him so far when faced with building and maintaining a bever - age program for a company recognized for paying as much attention to its wine and service as it does to its cuts of meat. Elsey calls the work that went into getting the new place up and running as "the hardest of his career." After all, he says, the company invested "north of $750,000" to get the wine cellar to be grand-opening-worthy. Elsey recognizes that a steakhouse wine menu may not seem to push the avant-garde, and his challenge isn't so much food and wine pairing as it is customer satisfaction. "How much does the cus - tomer want to pay and how much does he want to play?" as he puts it. It's also an opportunity to refine his pursuit for high standards of service. "We're not stuffy. We're finely tuned. We're guest-oriented. So, we focus on the mechanics, how you move around the table, how you handle the stemware. But when communicating with the guest, we're never stuffy. There's no need to be that formal. Everybody's here to have a good time." With ten years under his belt Elsey says he's just where he wants to be, and the biggest surprise is that his job has become so fashionable. "I get asked often what level somm I am. People have a greater understanding of my job than ever before. They didn't used to know the term at all." 34 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - February / March 2016