Part 3: Sommelier & Manager. The reprise of a 2010 magazine interview (in five parts) with one of my favourite people, sommelier Sebastien Le Goff.
Le Goff was inducted into BC’s Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2012 and is currently the Service Coordinator for Cactus Club.
Brix: When did your education as a sommelier begin?
SLG: When I arrived in Toronto I needed to find a job. I really enjoyed Vis-à-Vis [Jeremy Choo’s restaurant in Singapore] and wanted to get back to that. So I got a job managing Wildfire Grill.
After about four months I realized managers are a dime a dozen. But if you have something else you have added value. I always enjoyed wine—Jeremy put the bug in me—tasting it, reading about it and learning. So in 2001 I got my diploma.
Most people will be a sommelier, but I like more than just the wine aspect. I like being involved with the business side of it. In restaurants you need to be on the floor to make money, but you have to spend a bit of time in the office to save money. It’s very interesting to take a restaurant from the red and put it back into the black, to restructure the organization—staff, purchasing, eliminate waste.
Brix: Do you have stories about delightful or difficult clients?
SLG: In Toronto a guest would come every Friday night (like wages) with her husband and two children. Every week she would send back her main course, but every week she would come back. I thought this was crazy. It took six months for me to have the courage to ask, “Madam, why do you keep coming if every week you complain about the main dish and send it back?”
“Oh,” she said, “the food is very good here. It’s just a matter of principle. I want to keep you guys on your toes.” This was something I had never experienced before or since. But when you have someone who comes every week, you forgive, right?
Some people have a relationship to food and wine that is very, very complicated—allergies, anorexia—you never know that. You might take their attitude the wrong way, but it’s nothing personal. Some servers are in tears when the customer isn’t nice to them.
Ninety-nine percent of people are just happy to go out. You have to remember that less than one percent are out to look for something wrong, and maybe they do that all the time in every aspect of their lives. You shouldn’t worry too much about it. Deal with it in a professional manner. Be kind, be polite but don’t focus on that.
Brix: Could you comment on big versus little spenders?
SLG: Be warm, welcoming, so that there’s no barrier about how often people come or how much money they spend. Someone might not spend a lot but have a big voice and influence a big group of people. You just never know. You shouldn’t discriminate.
Wine: Sommelier Sebastien Le Goff Part 3
This interview first appeared in
Brix: Where people, wine and travel mix (Volume 4, 2010)
To read the entire interview click here: LE GOFF 4 TWOW.
Photo used with Permission of Claudette Carracedo.