The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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1 14  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2017 To say Michael Ploetz has done a lot is a vast understate- ment. He began his career in food, wine and hospitality at age 14, washing dishes at Peggy Sue's, a genuine, old-school diner in Ankeny, Iowa, a town of fewer than 20,000 at that time. He got a prestigious degree in hotel, tourism and restaurant management, then spent six years working for the Four Seasons hotel group in Chicago and Jackson Hole. He participated in the launch of José Andrés's trend-setting Bazaar restaurant in Los Angeles. As GM, he launched Andrés's Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. A lover of Northern California wine country, he worked at Solage in Calistoga, leaving only when Michael Voltaggio called, needing a Corporate Director of Operations for Ink in Los Angeles. At the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills he was Director of Food and Beverage Operations, overseeing the relaunch and modernization of The Belvedere. During this time, he man- aged a team of 30 managers and 120 employees across the hotel's multiple concepts, including The Club Bar, The Living Room and The Roof Garden, home to a pool and known for serving hundreds of glasses of rosé. Ploetz condensed a 750-label list down to 300 wines that were selected for their higher acidity and pairability with food; the entire drinks list, coffee and tea included, was ordered from lightest to heavi- est, enabling both staff and guests to confidently peruse lesser-known producers. Ploetz had to opportunity to design a cocktail menu for the first time, one of the many new challenges that attracted him to the role at The Belvedere. But when he and his wife had a baby girl 14 months ago, they thought it was time to move to Northern California. "We just thought it was a more appropriate place, more real," he noted. It looks like NorCal just lucked out. Servers or bartenders who are not passionate about their restaurant or bar's food and drinks. Wines by the glass that are not balanced. I want to enjoy my glass of wine on its own or with food. Poor acoustics in restaurants. I want music to be part of the experience and to feel the energy but still have a conversation. Farm-to-table for the sake of being farm- to-table—all food is grown on farms! I'd rather hear a story about the product or the inspiration behind a dish. Using techniques for the sake of the technique. Does the dish or cocktail get better because of the technique or is it only a gimmick? Great happy hours! It's a good day when you can go to happy hour in the afternoon and a second happy hour late- night, which is even better! Late-night happy hours are perfect after working the floor during service. The local movement is awesome! It's great to see businesses, especially restaurants, continue to source locally for everything from the candles in the restroom to the menu covers to the cider on draft. Refined service in casual environments. I love that servers are knowledgeable and focus on service details in casual spots. Restaurants that take care of and cater to parents—now that I am one! I used to take this for granted and now really understand the importance of catering to families. THE "5" LIST MICHAEL PLOETZ'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES MICHAEL PLOETZ'S TOP FIVE FAVES TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . Bartenders who take the time to understand classic cocktails. Don't get me wrong, I love how creative bartenders are, but I appreciate it when a bartender can get a classic cocktail right. MICHAEL PLOETZ INDUSTRY INSIDER photo by Lara Hata

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