Sommelier Rob Harpest of Bouchon - Biography

Los Angeles, Napa

March 2014

A server position right out of college at Outback Steakhouse had Rob Harpest memorizing two-word descriptors for a generic by-the-glass program. While that wasn’t revelatory, the experience piqued his interest in wine. Harpest went out and bought all the wines from the list so he could taste, compare, and make some kind of personal connection.

While in Las Vegas, he plunged head first into the wine world, participating in the opening of the Aladdin Hotel. A move to California found Harpest making frequent trips to Santa Barbara vineyards, and working at Morton’s Steakhouse as a bartender and wine captain. Harpest briefly left the company for a stint at a Hollywood steakhouse, but Morton’s drew him back with a beverage manager position at their downtown Los Angeles location. Seeking further challenges and more freedom with his wine list, Harpest took his skills to Chef Suzanne Tracht’s Jar, where he spent 5 years immersed in the industry. It was the best time he’d ever had running a beverage program—small, comfortable, with room to explore and an amazingly loyal clientele. Tasting regularly with his mentors, including 2010 Rising Star Chris Miller of Spago, Harpest continued to hone his skills.

Since his formative experience at Jar, Harpest spent two years as sommelier and beverage director with Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air before Bouchon came calling. At Bouchon, Harpest combines his love of wine with lessons learned from his travels and life in the industry—from the home of the Bloomin’ Onion to the house of Thomas Keller. In 2014, he earned a StarChefs Rising Star Sommelier Award for his work at the restaurant.