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Vajra Stratigos
Fifth Group Restaurants
King Plow Arts Center
Suite K102
887 W Marietta St NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 815-4700

Wine Tips »

Interview:
Antoinette Bruno:How did you develop an interest in wine?
Vajra Stratigos: When I was ten years old, I was working with my family in restaurants. I come from three generations of restaurateurs, and my dad was really into wine. I don’t see much difference between beverage and food. The food side leads into the beverage side. I trained in food, in the kitchen, in both savory and pastry.

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Sommelier Vajra Stratigos
Fifth Group Restaurants | Atlanta


Biography
Vajra Stratigos is the multi-talented, multi-tasting beverage director for The Fifth Goup, an Atlanta restaurant group with five restaurant concepts around the city. Much of Stratigos’ experience comes from his family of Greco-Italian restaurateurs who put him to work at age 10; since then he has worked the back and front of the house at restaurants around Boulder, Colorado, trained with a pastry chef from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, worked with Bernard Lefoy of Il Fournil in France and Paolo Marccini in Avezzano, Italy. The "Daily Bread" bakery concept that he helped develop while in Boulder was ultimately purchased by While Foods Market, which led to a tenure as the head of the specialty department (wine, cheese, and specialty goods) for Whole Foods Market in Plantation, Florida.

Stratigos approaches wine from a practical, playful, interactive level. He takes a 360° view of the pairing process, taking every factor of the situation into account, and throwing fun elements into the mix – like small wooden coasters for the diner to take home, stamped with information about the wine that they held. Stratigos has completed level two of the sommelier certification program from the International Wine Guild, as well as an intermediate level wine certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and a Society of Wine Educators CSW certificate. He also designs the cocktail education programs for all Fifth Group restaurants and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.  

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Interview Cont'd
AB: Did you attend culinary school?
VS: No, but I trained in kitchens and staged in Italy and France.

AB: Describe your fondest wine memory.
VS: There were two occasions when I went to visit friends in Provence. Fields of thyme and lavender flanked the house – really beautiful. They had a cottage with a wooden table and stone floors. Neighbors would come to dinner bringing bottles of wine with no labels. I was in my early 20s – it was such a wonderful, formative experience.

AB: Where have you worked previously?
VS: For four years I was a consultant with Whole Foods in Florida. I was part of the opening of Nobu in Vail, and also worked with Real Restaurants in Vail. A few of the directors from Real Restaurants broke away and I worked with them on a few projects in Colorado, one in particular where I was hired to consult on a pastry menu then ended up running the restaurant – 15 Degrees.

AB: What courses have you taken? Certifications?
VS: I finished Levels 1 and 2 with the International Wine Guild and earned the intermediate level wine certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. I earned my Society of Wine educators CSW certification in 2006.
     
AB: What is your philosophy on wine and food?
VS: I try not to take anything too seriously. I want wines to be accessible. I think about how your surroundings can affect your sensory perception of a wine, like who you are dining with and your environment.

AB: Do you favor Old World or New World wines?
VS: Old World wines – they have great subtlety, underpinnings, and nuances.

AB: Favorite wines?  
VS: I love wines from Austria, Alsace and Northern Rhone. Also the wines of Michel Chapoutier.

AB: Favorite wine resource book?
VS: James E. Wilson’s Terroir; Oz Clark’s Wine Atlas

AB: Tell me about a perfect wine and food match that you discovered.
VS: Sauterne with bread pudding and medium-rare roast beef.

AB: What wines do you collect?
VS: Northern Rhones.

AB: What languages do you speak?
VS: A little bit of French and Spanish

AB: With which person in history would you most like to share a bottle of wine? What would you pour?
VS: Alan Watts, the contemporary theologian. We’d have magnums of Josko Gravner’s Bregg.

AB: What are your ultimate career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
VS: I’d like to be on board with a company or group that is developing solid concepts and giving people pleasure and enjoyment.

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  • Our Rising Stars and Why They Shine

  •    Published: September 2007

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