The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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ACCOMPLISHMENTS "Quite a Ride" CARLTON MCCOY'S INCREDIBLE JOURNEY FROM D.C.'S TOUGHEST NEIGHBORHOOD TO MASTER SOMMELIER STATUS by David Ransom T : PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LITTLE NELL his past May, Carlton McCoy became only the second African American to earn the distinction of Master Sommelier from the prestigious Court or Master Sommeliers, a super-exclusive group with only 211 members worldwide. "It's an incredible honor," said McCoy from his office at Aspen's The Little Nell, where this summer he was also named Wine Director of the Five Star hotel long known for having one of the country's great wine programs, "and it's been an incredible journey to get here." Growing up in the notorious SE neighborhood of Washington, D.C., an area long considered the city's "murder capital," McCoy found solace and direction helping prepare food for his family's church, and was eventually introduced to C-CAP, the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, an organization founded in 1990 by cookbook author Richard Grausman that provides culinary career opportunities and scholarships (over $40 million to date) to "at risk" high school students. Through his work with C-CAP, McCoy gained a full ride through the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he focused on the service side of the business, and upon graduation, moved to New York City to work in such restaurants as Aquavit, Craftsteak, and Per Se. He traveled to Italy and Japan for a time, before movCarlton McCoy. ing back to D.C. to work at Eric Ziebold's Cityzen in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he caught the wine bug and worked under Wine Director Andrew Myers. While working at Cityzen, McCoy started working his way through the different Master Sommelier exams, and while attending a symposium in Denver after passing his Advanced Certification (the third of four levels), accepted a job offer to join The Little Nell's wine program, where he been for the past three years. "It's been quite a ride," said McCoy, who at 29, is also one of the youngest to reach Master Sommelier status, "and to be named Wine Director at The Nell in the same year, a place which has had an astounding 11 Master Somms come through its program, is icing on the cake." An admitted "Burgundy freak" with a self-described "Chablis fetish," McCoy also hopes his achievement can help inspire others, and looks forward to giving back to the program that gave him his start. "I worked hard to get here, but really owe it all to C-CAP. If it wasn't for them, I have no doubt my life would be very different." 84  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2013 TP1013_066-107.indd 84 9/23/13 10:35 PM

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