definition of Sommelier


A letter from a Sommelier to future Chefs of America:
By Madeline Triffon, Wine Director, Unique Restaurant Corp.

The delicious burden on young chefs today is to learn all they can about wine. As we move into the new century, the restaurant challenges are apparent: Americans are dining out a great deal and are drinking more wine. However, not very many restaurants can afford full-time wine professionals to take on all the weight of their beverage programs. This means that it may very well be the executive chef or sous chef who is the management presence at staff lineups making specific wine recommendations for the daily specials.

As time-consuming as culinary responsibilities are, there can’t be an excuse for not learning the basics of food and wine harmony, as well as making sure you are crossed-trained in all aspects of product knowledge. Go to wine tastings, insist that your back-of-the house staff is included in all beverage trainings, have daily dialogues with your the front-of the house colleagues about new beverage options and how to tie them in with the food. Recommend wine and food together on the menu! With or without descriptions, this is the single most powerful tool a restaurant can employ to give the customers what they want: direction. Make it easy for your guests to enjoy the best you’ve got to offer.

A wonderful, unseen but palpable spin-off from this type of effort on your part will be the dissolving of the front-of-the-house/ back-of-the-house wall that exists in the minds of many restaurant professionals. It’s perpetuated largely by myth and inertia and small-minded thinking. Celebrate food and wine together!

reprinted with permission from Exploring Wine: The Culinary Institute of America's Complete Guide to Wines of the World, by Kolpan, Smith, and Weiss, 2nd edition (John Wiley and Sons, forthcoming)
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