Sommelier Timothy Penick of SugarToad at Hotel Arista - Biography

Naperville, IL

April 2011

Timothy Penick got his introduction to the restaurant industry at age 16, at Outback Steakhouse (“We all had to get started somewhere!” says Penick.) Recognizing a serious passion for the industry, Penick studied Hospitality Management at Purdue University, where he quickly became interested in wine and gastronomy. As his “foodie”-hood progressed, Penick watched his fair share of food television, finally stumbling onto—and becoming smitten with—the greats of American cuisine: James Beard and Julia Child. Penick got himself a copy of James Beard’s American Cookery, and followed that up with any and every cookbook he could get his hands on.

Penick’s passion must have shown through, because right after college he landed a job at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, running food until he was ready to drop. Thankfully, the chef eventually let Penick in the dining room where he assumed the front-of-house mantle “Timothy.” After tasting a 1983 Margaux prior to kitchen service one night in 2004, something clicked for Penick. When he was appointed to the wine team in 2006, he became a self-described “cellar rat” (admittedly still torn between the front and back of house), beginning his wine journey in earnest.

After a few short stints at Chicago restaurants toward the end of 2007 and into 2008, including a stint at Moto, Penick returned to his hometown of Naperville to join the team at SugarToad. After several months, Penick was appointed sommelier, taking over wine responsibilities for both SugarToad and Hotel Arista. When he’s not pairing passionately, Penick writes a monthly column for a local newspaper, Positively Naperville, updates his blog, and basically absorbs anything and everything wine (including wine). And on days off he reads classic American cookbooks, patronizes antique stores, supports local brewers, and gardens.