WILSHIRE RESTAURANT | Los Angeles
33-year old Matt Straus started cooking in the kitchen as a teen.
After college he discovered his passion for the front-of-the-house.
Straus has held service positions at Campanile, L'Orangerie,
Sona and Grace, where he performed the duties
of wine director. He is decidedly anti-certification, believing
it promotes elitism in the wine community. For Straus, drinking
is the primary facet of experiencing wine – not the swirling,
and certainly not its pretentious nature. He credits L’Orangerie’s
noted Maitre d’ and personal mentor Stephane Clasquin with
opening his eyes to the importance of maturity in wine. Now at Wilshire,
Straus thrives on the opportunity to pair wines with Executive Chef
Christopher Blobaum’s California-Mediterranean cuisine. His
wine program at Wilshire focuses on value, bio-diversity
and bottle maturity. His mission is to convince other wine directors
to stop committing ‘wine genocide’ and let their young
How to Tell Your Parents That You’re
It is not exactly a typical profession.
It may require a fairly serious conversation with loved ones.
The most important thing to remember, in the anticipation of a such
a talk, is the joy of our particular workplace. There can be no
escaping the hardships—and your intimates will assuredly address
them—but the key is to transfer the action from the service
floor, the magical dance steps, the instantaneous lockstep coordination
with co-workers, the intense satisfaction, the unspeakable ’76
Chambolle-Musigny at table 43, to your every expression and manner.
We are an amalgam of public servant, apothecary, performer, tastemaker,
rogue provocateur and pleasure therapist. We seek to treat people
suffering from the darkest malaises, and to draw out of them little
waves of hope that maybe, with the service of just the right bite
or sip, the world could be justly ordered. We encounter fierce indignation
from those in the throes of profound misery. And to be turned away
from an unmoved table, retreating somberly and gently cradling a
bottle of Monsieur Foreau’s blazingly vibrant chenin blanc
can cause in us the worst feelings of defeat. Ours is a life of
the most mountainous triumphs and the most cavernous loneliness.
I myself have a recurring nightmare that in my old age I’ll
be seated at a great banquet table, full of beautiful cheeses and
fruits and vegetables and meats, and a sea of the world’s
greatest wines, and that I will find myself utterly unable to find
another person to join me in taking repast. The horror of such a
scene has stirred me from more than one night of blissful dreaming,
and there is no use denying that a part of it is embedded in my
consciousness. This is thankfully so—for any man who possesses
no sense of tragedy can hardly expect to live an enriched life.
What is essential is to persevere, and this is a skill which stands
at the top of any list of the virtues which necessarily accompany
a successful career in the domains of service and edible nourishment.
In the midst of momentary instances of doubt, dysfunction or apparent
bleakness, we reside in a space which is most often more charmed
than commonly imaginable. Any discussion of the particular nature
of a life in food service is best launched from this perspective.
Ours is a world not only of tastes and smells, but one in which
the very processes of thought are inspired by shimmering sauces
and that one product—wine—which seems to be more powerful
than any other in cultivating reason and grace in people. To look
out across a dining room full of open wine bottles is to envision
a parallel universe, in which people hold hands and walk barefoot
under a hot sun, in which men and women speak to each other with
love and empathy. It is to imagine a place which, in a word, could
not be a more soothing tonic for the afflictions of the avarice
and bustle of the modern world.
This, we say, is our world. This is our vision and these are our
dreams. Come, have a seat, and let me fill your glass.