KATHr YN KJArSGAArD IS A FreeLANCe FOOD wrITer BASeD IN OAK PArK, ILLINOIS.
third-level test now. “The test forces you to step out of your
comfort zone and learn the whole list,” he says. “It gives you
more of a worldwide view.”
Hon says a career as a sommelier requires dedication of time and
energy. “You have to build layers and layers of foundation in knowl-
edge. It’s like any position in a restaurant. You don’t just learn from
books, but also from visiting wine regions and talking with guests.”
Becoming a sommelier is expensive, and one can spend thou-
sands of dollars pursuing the required education. Some restaurants
help pay some or all expenses, but it is not common that all costs
are covered, says Hon. “It’s like any education that you pay for, but
you are working full-time, too. It’s a big commitment.”
Marantette reminds his staff that food and wine should
be enjoyable, and tells them, “Don’t let the test overtake your
psyche and emotions.” He also tries to relay that in terms of
wine and service in general. “When you set out to pursue the
somm certificate, you have to be diligent about studying.”
He adds that studying wine is an ongoing education. “Wine
changes—it’s biology. Wine laws are always changing, too.
You have to stay up to speed.”
At Jimmy’s, Van Wagner receives financial help to cover
certification. He says the restaurant believes in education and
that it translates to better service. The staff has taken educational
trips to France, Italy, Spain, Napa Valley and Oaxaca, Mexico.
They also have visited Ireland and Scotland for whiskey trips.
Eastern Standard is providing some financial resources for
Whitney in terms of wine tasting and travel, but he is paying
for certification. “The company has been generous, and it helps
a lot,” he says. “And, they have put me in touch with certain
people in the industry,”
Whitney tells staff who are interested in pursuing certification
and the sommelier career path that it takes time and self-discipline.
“You have to start at the beginning of the book and understand the
dry side of wine, the agriculture and the winemaking process from
vineyard to production,” he says. “Then, you have to understand
things such as the regions of Germany and France.
“But you must enjoy it, too. You are missing the point if you
are just crunching and cramming.”
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