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The 411 on Sommeliers

Sommeliers have a more important job in the culinary world than you think.
Sommeliers have a more important job in the culinary world than you think.
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As you probably already know, there are tons of different careers available in the culinary industry. From line chefs working in restaurants to private chefs and even food bloggers, the options are endless. There is one career, however, that not many know about. It’s also probably the most awesome of all careers in the food world, because this professional gets to enjoy the best of both worlds. Those worlds are ‘food’ and ‘wine,’ and the job in question: ‘The Sommelier.’

Unless you fancy fine dining and elegant bottles of wine, you probably don’t know what a sommelier is and have never come into contact with one. A sommelier, or simply a wine steward, is the person whose job it is to have a great overall knowledge of wine and food.

First and foremost, a sommelier works with the chef of a restaurant to compile a wine list or menu that is presented to customers. They must select a wide variety of lower-cost and pricier wines of many different kinds, along with a house wine that accurately reflects and pairs well with the cooking style of the restaurant’s cuisine. Sommeliers even work with restaurant wine buyers to bring unique or special bottles of wine to their establishment. The selection may be based on the style of cuisine prepared at that particular restaurant, certain events, or even the change of seasons.

Sommeliers of today work in upscale restaurants, helping guests select the wine that will best pair with their taste and the meal they have ordered. Or, they may help select a wine that will provide a good contrast to the particular meal the customer is having. Sommeliers also helps chefs pair wines with dishes they will be serving in their restaurants. They may even be required to be knowledgeable about the beers, ales, ciders and after-dinner cigars that are offered at the restaurant they are employed at.

Once a sommelier has helped a guest select a bottle of wine for their meal, they are in charge of ordering this bottle from the cellar and its preparation before serving it. This may include decanting the wine if it is an aged red wine, and pouring a small amount for the guest to taste before they order the rest of the bottle.

Although anyone who loves to drink fine wine with their meal can put on a white coat and call him or herself a sommelier, there really isn’t one direct route for them to follow, should they wish to pursue this as career. There are many sommelier competency exams offered throughout the country that will certify someone as a wine professional. (The International Sommelier Guild even offers a Master’s degree program with the end title of ‘Grand Sommelier’ for those who complete the course.) It is even possible to find a restaurant that will pay for or compensate for the cost of a sommelier-training program to anyone who is interested in this path.

To begin a career as a sommelier, one might serve as an assistant to a more experienced sommelier, and then eventually work independently in choosing wines for restaurants, along with developing relationships with chefs and wine suppliers. Oftentimes, sommeliers work freelance and serve as wine consultants for multiple restaurants or restaurant groups.

If becoming a sommelier seems like something that might interest you, why not start your culinary training with Star Career Academy in Syosset, Long Island? Their hands-on Professional Cooking programs will give you the training you need to land a job in the culinary industry ­– from where you may continue your learning to become a sommelier.