The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2017

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130  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2017 The uneducated "educated" customer: These are the people who took a wine- tasting class once and think they know what they're talking about, when they're simply showing their lack of knowledge. "You must be drunk all the time" is a statement I get often when people find out what I do. If I were drunk all the time, I wouldn't be very good at my job, and consequently, your experi- ence would be sub-par. Lack of interest in trying something new. We are always rotating cocktails, beers and wines to encourage discovery! Lack of organization. As a bartender, this is a huge issue. You need to have your tinctures and bitters set up the same way, every time. Your juices and syrups need to be con- sistently set. If you aren't organized, you won't be ready for a busy service. Lack of aware- ness. Whether it's saying "behind" or knowing when your table's entrées are dragging or simply not stopping at the top of the stairs of the subway during rush hour. Being aware shows an engagement in life. Curiosity. A customer who asks smart questions during service is a highlight of any hospitality professional's shift. Invisible service. I might be in the minor- ity here, but when I'm dining out, I'm not a huge fan of getting personal with servers or bartenders. But when a server is paying attention and refills water at the right time, offers a drink menu for a second round without asking and so on, I'm happy. Honest feedback. If you don't like what I sold you, tell me! I'd rather open another bottle of wine and have the customer leave happy than be kept in the dark. Awesome regulars. To the people who come back, work their way through the menu in their visits and are a treat to have in the restaurant because they are respectful to the staff, I love you. THE "5" LIST PERCY RODRÍGUEZ'S PET PEEVES PERCY RODRÍGUEZ'S FAVES PERCY RODRÍGUEZ BEVERAGE DIRECTOR, LT HOSPITALITY, NEW YORK CITY by David Gadd TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . Meeting and exceeding expectations. I know I'm not per- fect, and neither is my staff. But we work hard toward perfection in the hope that you will leave our restaurants happy and excited to return. For Percy Rodríguez, who came from "farmland central" in the Midwest, reaching a top position in the Big Apple as Beverage Director of a major restau- rant group was due more to pluck than to luck. Rodríguez came to New York City for art, music and acting. He toured with a punk band (Future in Plastics—a wry nod to The Graduate) and got involved in the city's theatrical scene. As with so many in the arts, he took a service job in the restaurant industry, beginning as a barback under Dennis Mullally, well- known Bar Manager at Mario Batali's Otto. "I did a lot of glass-polishing," recalls Rodríguez. "It was a good educa- tion. That place really weeded out people who didn't work." His elbow grease paid off. He stuck with the Batali/Bastianich group, rising through the ranks, and even moved to Boston to open Babbo there. "Then Laurent came around," says Rodríguez. "Laurent" is Chef Laurent Tourondel, the French-born culinary powerhouse whose various restaurants, under the LT Hospitality banner, include those at Kimpton's Eventi Hotel in Manhattan's Chelsea district, where Rodríguez is in charge of wines and spirits at four separate dining and drinking venues. L'Amico, the hotel's flagship restaurant, is an Italian-influenced American café with a large wine list ("85 percent Italian, five percent Champagne and the rest domes- tic—either higher-end international vari- etals or more accessible Italian varietals grown in the States," says Rodríguez) and a focus at the bar on Italian liqueur, grappa and amaro—because "it's part of the Italian dining experience." More casual venue The Vine, which Rodríguez calls "an elevated lobby bar that kicks ass," serves an all-day menu consisting of small plates, salads and the like, and offers a selection of classic cocktails, craft beers and select wines. The Second Floor hosts events and activations of all kinds, ranging from corporate events and galas, weddings and mitzvahs to Broadway openings. The Hidden Bar is a stand-alone speakeasy where Rodríguez can practice state-of- the-art mixology. The Beverage Director sees the staff as "one big team working together" toward the same goal. "Education is an important aspect of the experience here," says Rodríguez, and he and his two full-time sommeliers lead two classes a month for staff, where the focus might be on a region, a varietal or a spirit category. The savvy Rodríguez knows that getting staff on-board with his wine and spirits list is essential to the bottom line. On presenting a new selec- tion, he says, "One of the first questions I ask is whether they like it." PHOTO: MATT PERRONE

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