Interview with Chef Stephane Colling of The Modern - New York City

September, 2007

Antoinette Bruno: You developed an interest in wine at a very young age, growing up near vineyards in Alsace. What role did your parents plan in sparking that interest?
Stephane Colling: When I was a kid my parents loved to talk about wine, but I wasn’t interested in wine, I was interested in fruit juice. My older brother was the one who did the experimenting in the kitchen. I loved sports, but after I badly injured my knee I started spending a few weekends working in the front of house of a restaurant. When I was there, I noticed that everyone always came to see the sommelier – he was the most popular guy in the restaurant. I wanted to know the guy everyone wanted to know, so I asked him to explain his job to me. That was my introduction to wine.

AB: Where have you worked previously?
SC: I worked at Au Crocodile, The Waterside Inn in Bray, England, The Castle at Tarrytown, Compass in New York City, and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. I also served as the Sommelier for France’s Ministry of Defense.

AB: What courses have you taken? Awards won?
SC: I went to Centre European de Formation Professionnel Part Alternance (CEFPPA) d’Illkirch-Graffenstaden in Alsace. This is the best restaurant in France Baccalaureat Profesionel de Restauration, Oxford University. I was also recognized at The Castle by the James Beard Foundation and Wine Spectator, and I won the 2002 Wine Spectator “Best of” Award of Excellence at Compass and Wine Spectator Grand Award at Alain Ducasse.

AB: What is your philosophy on wine and food?
SC: It has to be fun and attractive – nothing should be set in stone. It should be something different, unexpected and intriguing. I taste wines everyday. I like surprises. A great wine should push you forward.

AB: Do you favor Old World or New World wines? Why?
SC: I love Old World in one way and love New World in another. I have no issues with going back and forth between them.

AB: Tell me about a perfect wine and food match that you discovered.
SC: Shiroso Crusted Cod Fish with Cocoa Beans with Pinot Noir is one of my favorite pairings – the texture and flavor together are amazing.

AB: What wines do you favor for your cellar at home?
SC: I’m partial to Alsacian wine because it’s my hometown – I’m so far away from home, so drinking it brings me back to my roots. Otherwise, I’m flexible about where my wine comes from. I’ve tried some great wines from Long Island all the way to Virginia.

AB: What are your ultimate career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
SC: I like wine making. This is my second year doing it. I like the life of a sommelier, but wine making is also exciting to me.