2016 South Florida Rising Star Sommelier Daniel Toral of 50 Eggs Inc.

2016 South Florida Rising Star Sommelier Daniel Toral of 50 Eggs Inc.
April 2016

Daniel Toral went to the Culinary Institute of America to pursue a career in food, but his first wine class—and a sip of Riesling, in particular—changed that trajectory. After graduation, Toral worked as a food runner at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. That early, serious immersion into world-class hospitality hooked Toral on the front of the house, and he continued his formal education at Florida International University’s School of Hospitality, graduating in 2006.

A native of Venezuela, Toral felt at home in Miami and began his wine career in earnest at Karu & Y downtown. He then spent two years developing a regional, all-Italian wine list as restaurant manager of Fratelli Lyon in Miami, and he worked as the beverage director for Sustain Restaurant + Bar. Moving up the ladder on South Beach, Toral took on the role of head sommelier at The Setai in 2012 and then Lippi Restaurants in 2014. In the meantime, he passed his Advanced Sommelier Exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Now at 50 Eggs, Toral oversees wine lists for Yardbird (Miami and Las Vegas), Swine, and Spring Chicken, and he was among the Miami Herald’s “South Florida Food 50” in 2015. In addition to representing Miami in the U.S. Guild of Sommeliers’ Top Somm competition, Toral won StarChefs 6th Annual Somm Slam in New York.

Interview with South Florida Rising Star Sommelier Daniel Toral of 50 Eggs

Lisa Elbert: How did you get your start?
Daniel Toral:
I went to CIA, and there’s a wine class that I took there. It was the hardest class I could have taken, and I started reading and studying wine. It came really naturally to me though—it was the perfect match. I loved the idea of tasting wine I had never tasted before, and remembering all of those names made it that much more exciting. Jean Trimbach was speaking, I drank a glass of Riesling for the first time, and it was so expressive. It changed my life. I didn’t think I would be suitable for a wine profession because of my accent. I was always very self conscious of my accent, but when I started working front of house at Per Se as a food runner, I got to see the world outside of kitchens and never looked back. 

LE: Who’s your mentor?
Paul Roberts. He’s the first master sommelier that I met and worked for. He was a huge inspiration because he was a perfectionist in every way. I had never seen anyone be that particular with anything front of house. Laura DePasquale was one of the first people to teach me about wine in regards to food. Those are the two people who I admire in the industry.

LE: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
The real difference between Miami and New York is that the staff here isn’t as eager to learn. So, it’s a little hard to teach them. And this is a very transient town: there’s a lot of tourists coming in and out, especially at this location. It’s extremely tourist driven. We don’t feel the lull of summer like other restaurants—we’re always busy. It’s challenging because there’s never any down time. The thing is, the things that I want to drink and the wines I want to put on my list, no one knows them here. There are a lot of buyers that are not in the know. I can drink whatever I want, but when it comes to putting them on lists, sometimes things don’t sell. In New York, things sell. It’s good and bad: if it doesn’t work in the restaurant, whatever, I’ll keep the wines and drink them myself. But that’s not the idea. There’s also a lot of restriction with the amount of wine available, as well as auction restrictions.

LE: What’s your five-year plan?
Ideally, I would love to stay with the group. They’re the fastest growing group in South Florida, and they’re extremely creative. I think I could do what I want to do with them. Everywhere I’ve worked has closed, and I don’t think that will happen with this group. They’re growing really fast. It’s ideal to stay with them.