Tejal Rao: How did you develop an interest in wine?
James Tidwell:I studied trade and finance at LSU, and only started cooking as a hobby. My interest got more intense when I lived in Germany, especially in wine.
TR: Describe your fondest wine memory.
JT: My birthday this year. We opened some great wine from a friend's collection. Wine is all about shared moments with good people.
TR: What courses have you taken? Certifications? Awards won?
JT: I went to CIA and then took a diploma course at WSET. I am a Certified Wine Educator and I passed the Advanced Sommelier Exam of the Court of Master Sommeliers. My good friend Drew Hendricks and I founded the Texas Sommelier Association.
TR: Where have you worked previously?
JT: Before joining Four Seasons, I worked at Restaurant Serenäde in Chatham, NJ for three and a half years, and Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst, CA.
TR: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
JT: Lee Johnson is an early wine mentor and great friend. Maggie Gephard of Liquorama in the Hudson Valley was an early mentor too.
TR: List your favorite wine resource book and author.
JT: Hugh Johnson is a great wine writer. The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Sevenson is an essential reference book. I always try to read Decanter magazine as well.
TR: What languages do you speak?
JT: I am familiar with Spanish and I used to speak some German but I lost most of it...
TR: What is your philosophy on food and wine?
JT: Your mental attitude represents both you and your profession, so think accordingly.
TR: If you weren’t a sommelier what do you think you’d be doing?
JT: Cooking professionally or writing.
TR: Which person in history would you most like to share a bottle of wine? What would you pour?
JT: Thomas Jefferson, and I’d let him pour because I’m sure he had spectacular taste.
TR: What are your ultimate career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
JT: I’d like to do many different things. I’d like to teach and mentor. I taught an introductory wine class and I’d like to get involved in consulting private clients and writing while still being able to stay on the floor.
TR: What organizations do you belong to?
JT: I’m a co-founder of the Texas Sommelier Conference and the Texas Sommelier Association. I’m also on the Society Wine Educator’s board.