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Interviews

Know Your Sommeliers: Paul Solomon

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20/09/2023 Paul Solomon, Director of Operations at Vistro Prime Restaurant & Vie Restaurant On Sommeliers Role

Paul Solomon is a dedicated people person who embraces a hands-on, servant leadership approach. He has a profound passion for food and beverage, and his goal is to share his knowledge and experiences with both staff and diners to enhance the overall dining experience. Having lived in Europe for five years and traveled extensively, he possesses valuable insights into food, beverages, and various cultures. His daily mission is to ensure that guests feel genuinely cared for and leave with a memorable sense of hospitality. Paul provided responses to the interview questions that followed.

Your current place of work?

Vie Restaurant & Vistro Prime Restaurant

Image: Vistro Prime

Tell us about yourself.

I work as the Director of Operations for award-winning Chef, Paul Virant, overseeing both of his suburban Chicago restaurants.

Why did you want to become a sommelier?

I was fortunate in my 20s to travel and live in Europe. While doing so, I became fascinated with wine.

Questions you would ask a customer who doesn't know anything about wine?

Would you like to try a sample?

What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier?

Personable, Attentive to Detail, Knowledgeable, Fun.

How I would train my new staff member in their first 7 days of them joining.

I would taste through the by-the-glass pours with them to make sure they could speak to the style of the wine.

What methods do you use to grow wine sales - top line? Please explain with examples.

Let guests try a sample, and try to offer alternatives when guests are set in their ways on a particular wine.

What methods do you use to grow net profits?

Staff training, having staff utilize our sommeliers.

How do you self-learn and improve your skills?

Books, Magazines, Wine Events.

What's the best part of your job?

Sharing special wines with guests or making a celebration special for a guest

How do you elevate the guest experience? Please give 4-5 examples and insights here.

Learn their names, write them a note, bring them an extra pour or dish, and send a complimentary item.

Your favourite TV show right now?

Ted Lasso

An unforgettable wine experience for you - tell us the whole story!

My "ah ha" wine was a bottle of Paolo Scavino Barolo from 1998 paired with a duck breast in plum sauce. It blew my mind! I had the pleasure of meeting, Elisa, the winemaker a few years later and told her that her family wine was the one that picked my interest and started me on my wine journey I was invited to dinner later that evening with her as her guest!

What are the biggest faux pas that customers tend to make when ordering and drinking wine?

I do believe guests should drink what they enjoy but often times they drink a wine that may be too bold for the dish or cuisine.

Any favourite food and wine pairing suggestions for drinks enthusiasts?

One of my all-time favorite pairings is Port and Blue Cheese. I also love Brunello with Florentine-style steak!

Your favourite book?

My favorite current read is "Unreasonable Hospitality".

What's your personal career goal? And how are you investing or planning to get there?

I thoroughly enjoy the work I do of leading and overseeing restaurants. Maybe overseeing my own operation or consulting in the future would be fun!

Image: Paul Solomon (Source - Facebook)

Give us one good story that you remember of a customer and you.

Being fortunate to travel.

How can suppliers work with you to drive sales?

A featured BTG pour.

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Can you share with us an example of a solid wine program?

A solid wine program has a range of selections at an array of prices with a mix of respected producers as well as some eclectic or unique options.

What are the four main things you focus on daily?

Setting my team up for success, taking care of guests, being organized, and working with integrity.

What are the points you look at when selecting a new wine for your wine program?

Is it a balanced and complex wine? Is this something I like or more importantly the guests will like? Is it a value wine (quality for price)? Is there a unique story behind it?

According to you, what makes a good sommelier, and what qualities do you look for when hiring a sommelier?

I believe that a good sommelier views their role as one who is first and foremost a servant and is at the disposal of whatever will make service effective. If the sommelier is needed to bus tables, they will jump in. If they are needed to help polish glassware, they will assist. When a guest has questions about wine, they will work to have an authentic encounter with that guest to help them find something they will enjoy.

What do you look for when you have to evaluate the effectiveness of the wine program?

I think an effective program is able to have a range of options from classics but also something special that guests may have never tried before.

A unique opportunity to present your wines to America's top sommeliers. The wine scores are benchmarked for on-premise channels by top sommeliers, master sommeliers, wine directors and restaurant wine buyers. Enter Your Wines Before March 15, 2024, To Save.