Thursday, April 24, 2014

What does crazy wine guy Doug Frost say?

He says to have passion about what you do, people.

Based in Kansas City, Doug Frost is one of only a few people in the world to hold dual titles as a master sommelier and a master of wine. He's also based in Kansas City and making a living these days as a wine consultant to clients as diverse as United Airlines and Charlotte's Winestore.

Frost is in town for the Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend, so I ran over to Johnson & Wales to catch his lunchtime lecture to an auditorium full of culinary students. A few bits of wisdom from his talk, titled "Your Job Does Not Exist and What You Will Do About It":

"The most important person in a restaurant is pot washer. If pots aren't clean, ain't nothing getting done." Frost, obviously, worked early on as a dishwasher before figuring out that he belonged in the front of a restaurant, not in the kitchen.

On terrible bosses: "You're always going to work for someone who doesn't know as much as you. But you don't have to work for someone who's mean. If they're mean, get out."

No matter how fancy the food is or how great the ambience is, the restaurant business is really "just the simple act of handing someone sustenance." It's all about hospitality. When someone raves about a restaurant and you go and think it was just OK, it's usually because the person who loved had an emotional connection to it. They felt comfortable, or they felt welcomed. And that made the food special.

On trusting your own reaction to a wine: "You're not supposed to like what you don't like. What you don't like is what your body tells you not to like." Robert Parker's 100-point system, he says, is about selling magazines, not about deciding what wine you will like.

The trick to being a wine consultant isn't to figure out what's hot, it's figuring out what isn't hot yet. "To find the wine that's cheap and shouldn't be." That said, his picks for best places to look for up and coming wines:

Portugal's Duoro region (look for $12 to $15 wines from the Duoro), white wines from the Greek island of Santorino, wines from Spain's Toro, and sherry. Culinary people are the only ones who can really get sherry, but he wishes the rest of us would catch on.

Finally, in the words of Frost's friend (and my friend) Steven Olsen, the New York-based cocktail and wine expert: "Wine is just a condiment for food."