Ryan Arnold of Lettuce Entertain You Wins 7th Annual Somm Slam



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Ryan Arnold of Lettuce Entertain You Wins 7th Annual Somm Slam

Twelve of the country’s top sommeliers competed in a real-time pairing test at the StarChefs International Chefs Congress


(Brooklyn, NY) — StarChefs announces the winner of the 7th Annual Somm Slam, which took place over the course of two vino-soaked days at 11th Annual International Chefs Congress. For  a mano-a-mano pairing competition, 12 sommeliers were selected out of 50 applicants, and they gathered in Brooklyn from across the country.


2016 Competitors

  • Ryan Arnold of Lettuce Entertain You | Chicago, IL

  • David Berube of Bar Boulud | Boston, MA

  • Michael Duffy of Burger & Barrel | New York, NY

  • Dean Fuerth of Betony | New York, NY

  • Amanda Fraga of The Genuine Hospitality Group | Miami, FL

  • Jason Huerta of Counter 3. Five. VIII | Austin, TX

  • Max Kuller of Fat Baby Inc. | Washington, D.C.

  • Parag Lalit of Sixteen | Chicago, IL

  • Brian Phillips of Darden | Orlando, FL

  • Kat Thomas of Hakkasan | Las Vegas, NV

  • Cameron Tyler of Quince | San Francisco, CA

  • John Wabeck of Spoon | Pittsburgh, PA


Emceed by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, day 1 kicked off with a written blind taste test and round of rapid-fire theory questions, followed by a wine pairings with dishes from Chef Jeremy Hansen of Inland Pacific Kitchen in Spokane, Washington. At the end of day 1, a group of 50 industry judges selected six somms to move onto the next round: Arnold, Fuerth, Huerta, Kuller, Thomas, and Wabeck. Day 2 started with a verbal blind tasting and more esoteric trivia, immediately cutting the two somms with the lowest scores. The top four somms then moved onto two more rounds of pairings with dishes from Chef Eric Montagne of Standard Foods in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ultimately, Arnold’s knowledge, swagger, and pairings (a Santiago Ruiz Rias Baixas from Spain and a 2013 Crozes-Hermitage from Costières de Nîmes) won the day.

“The coolest thing about the Somm Slam was meeting and learning from the 11 other sommeliers. As sommeliers and restaurant people, we're all so busy, and can rarely find the time to network with our peers. I feel like I formed relationships with the other somms that we'll keep forever. We all have this incredible new community from just two short days at the Chefs Congress."

All 12 sommeliers took home a trip to Bordeaux and a bottle of Graves Cru Classé, provided by the Graves Wine Council. Arnold also won a magnum of Château Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé en 1855, along with to trips to Chilean vineyards and the Avignonesi Winery in Italy. As the top performing woman in the competition, Kat Thomas also earned a trip to Avignonesi.


The Somm Slam is a real-time, mano-a-mano pairing competition that happens over the course of two days at the annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress in Brooklyn. The competition is judged by wine professionals, including sommeliers and beverage directors.

The 2016 Somm Slam was sponsored by Costières de Nîmes, Rhône Valley Wines, Avignonesi, Wines of Chile, Les Vins de Graves et Pessac-Léognan, S. Pellegrino, PacknWood, Wines from Spain, ARAEX Grands, Winesellers, Ltd., Château d’Esclans, and Cheese from Spain.



The StarChefs International Chefs Congress is an annual event where the world’s most influential and innovative hospitality professionals present the latest culinary concepts to 1,500 of their peers. For three days, attendees explore the most cutting edge techniques, trends, and products—all through this year’s theme: "What Is Progress?" This is the only event of its kind in the United States.


StarChefs has served the restaurant industry since 1995. StarChefs’s original culinary content is driven by in-person tastings and interviews across the world. Its mission is to catalyze culinary professionals’ success and give them the tools they need to overcome their specific challenges. In addition to featuring top chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists, StarChefs’ Culinary JobFinder is the leading job board connecting culinary and hospitality professionals to careers in the foodservice industry.


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Danielle Powell | danielle@starchefsinc.com | 908.616.7056