At the recent amazing Chicago Gourmet event, I found out we’re lucky here in Chicago to have a school that trains restaurant professionals in the fine points of recommending, say, the perfect merlot or cabernet to go with that thick-cut strip steak you just ordered. Don't you want somebody like that waiting on you when you're forking out the bucks for dinner?
Happily, it isn’t only employees of 4-star establishments that get to go to these classes. “The idea is to make it easy and affordable for any industry person who wants to learn about wine,” said Serafin Alvarado, Master Sommelier. I talked to him after he'd finished teaching the one-hour seminar on champagne at Chicago Gourmet. Alvarado, who conducts classes at the school, initiated the program nearly ten years ago when he first started with Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, the school sponsor.
The goal of the school is to provide continuing education and professional development for trade members who want to improve their skills – and potentially improve their career. “We time and price these classes to be affordable and accessible for individuals,” said Alvarado. The classes take place in downtown Chicago from 2 to 4 pm once a week – a time that works well for many industry work schedules. And the price - $30 for a single session or $60 for a 3-week package – won’t break the typical restaurant professional’s bank.
Participants learn by tasting and discussing each wine in a relaxed atmosphere. “I don’t believe in imposing my opinions on anyone,” said Alvarado. “We encourage open conversation about what we’re tasting.” And attendees often sample some of the finest wines available in each category. “Our vendors are generous in supplying us with fine varietals and vintages. After all, graduates of these classes will be recommending these products to customers.” He says it’s not unusual for names like Dom Perignon to show up in a session.
Classes are open to any restaurant employee, from servers to bartenders to managers, and they're held at Signature Wine & Spirits, 250 N. Artesian Ave. For more information about the School of Wine and Beverage Service, call (630) 685-3000, ext. 3621.