7th Annual StarChefs Somm Slam
Congratulations to Sommelier Ryan Arnold of Lettuce Entertain You, who had the swagger and pairing savvy to win the 7th Annual StarChefs Somm Slam. Led by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, 12 of the best beverage professionals from across the country competed for the title—all in the grape-soaked swirl of the 11th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress.
Ryan Arnold | Lettuce Entertain You | Chicago, IL
David Bérubé | Bar Boulud | Boston, MA
Michael Duffy | Burger and Barrel Wine Pub | New York, NY
Amanda Fraga | The Genuine Hospitality Group | Miami, FL
Dean Fuerth | Betony | New York, NY
Jason Huerta | Counter 3. Five. VII | Austin, TX
Max Kuller | Fat Baby Inc. | Washington, DC
Parag Lalit | Sixteen | Chicago, IL
Brian Phillips | Darden | Orlando, FL
Kat Thomas | Hakkasan | Las Vegas, NV
Cameron Tyler | Quince | San Francisco, CA
John Wabeck | Spoon | Pittsburgh, PA
Dan Pucci | Wassail | New York, NY
Corkscrews sharpened, Day 1 kicked off with 12 somms answering rapid-fire theory questions. After showing off their nerdiest wine knowledge, competitors split into two groups, and Chef Jeffrey Hansen of Santé presented a dish to pair to each. Then the race was on to the wine cellar to make the best selection and return to the audience judges to sell, sell, sell. The six somms who displayed the most poise and knowledge in defending their pairing moved on to Day 2.
Day 2 got cut-throat quickly. A blind tasting immediately cut one competitor. The remaining five somms were grilled on esoteric wine trivia, with only the top four moving on and plunging into two more rounds of pairings. The somm with the biggest (wine-soaked) brain, best palette, and that little extra on-the-floor magic won the day, saboring the 7th Annual Somm Slam title and bragging rights for a year.
In addition to full bragging rights for the next year, the Arnold won:
- A spot to join industry professionals on an organized trip to visit wineries in Chile (all travel-expenses paid), provided by Wines of Chile
- An all-expenses paid trip to the Avignonesi winery in Italy (In honor of their affinity for women in the wine industry, the highest performing female will also recieve an all-expenses paid trip to the winery.)
- One Magnum of Château Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé en 1855 provided by the Graves Wine Council
All competitors will receive one magnum of Graves Cru Classé provided by the Graves Wine Council.
Somm Slam Official Terms & Conditions
The Somm Slam is open to wine professionals including sommeliers and beverage directors. Applicants submitted an online application to be considered. Selection is determined by StarChefs and is based on work experience, pairing philosophy, and examples of specific wine pairings. Those chosen to judge receive a complimentary pass to all three days of the 11th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress ($550 value). Each judge and competitor are responsible for any and all travel and lodging expenses.
The Competition will take place on the last two days of the Congress:
Monday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 25
12 competitors will compete on Day 1. The top 6 competitors from Day 1 will advance to Day 2. Judges will be responsible for tasting a sample of the dish and wine pairings chosen by each contestant. Judges will list their feedback on a ballot provided by StarChefs, and cast their votes for the most successful pairing.