Mission statement – WINE EDUCATION
When I first started this blog, people asked me, “What is your blog going to be about? Wine blogs are a dime a dozen, what will make yours different?” The answer is plain and simple, Wine Education. There are many reasons why I enjoy what I do, but mostly it comes down to wine education. As a young boy, I always saw myself as the teacher in front of the classroom. I didn’t do my homework and I wasn’t very good at taking tests. However, I always paid attention in class. In the back of my mind as I listened to the teacher’s lesson, I would daydream about how I would give the lesson differently so that the class would understand it more effectively.
When I started college I was interested in going into education until the day that I worked in my first public school in the early 90’s. It was a pinnacle time in the public school system. The Rodney King and LA riots were going on and teachers had their hands tied behind their backs. I saw my future in this field as one of a policeman, not a teacher. Not being fond of policing 12-13 year olds, this drove me down another path, the restaurant business.
In the restaurant business, I am constantly challenged to educate myself, my staff and my guests. I love turning people on to the world of wine and teaching them something new. My greatest pleasure comes in watching “green servers” who are clueless about wine, later become wine lovers. One day they are rolling their eyes at me when I talk about aromas, taste and structure, and the next they are bragging to their friends at the corner wine bar about the 13 grapes of Chateauneuf-du-pape. I love it!
Wine education is not always easy. As your elementary and high school teachers will tell you, it is difficult to educate someone who does not want to learn. Trying to teach people who have no interest is next to impossible. You might ask, “why would this be an issue for you? Wine is not mathematics.” Unfortunately not every employee in the restaurant is keen on learning about wine. Some servers are intimidated by wine. Others don’t drink and don’t see the value in learning.
You say, “just show them that their check average will increase by so much if they learn more about wine.” That might work in a slower restaurant, but in a high paced, always full restaurant, this is more difficult than it looks. Reason being, they are already making good money; regardless of their knowledge. They can get by with shear volume and walk home with a satisfactory wage every night. So why should they learn about wine? In here lies my greatest challenge, trying to get these servers excited to learn about wine.
There are also many servers that have a passion for what they do, and educating them is a lot easier. This sort of person either loves to drink wine or sees the monetary value in knowledge. What ever their reasons might be, they want to learn. The challenge now is to teach different types of pupils, those that want to learn, those that are intimidated and those that could care less. My strategy is to make the subject interesting and give the student a purpose to learn.
How does one go about this? I want to make wine education fun, interesting and creative. I believe that we learn about the world around us by comparing it to what we already know. Pulling from our experiences we learn about new topics and create new experiences. What I have done in the past is to make the servers use there own creativity and personality in learning about wine. For example, one year we added 10 new wines by the glass. Servers were put into teams of 4-5 people, and each team was given one wine to present to the group. The team that gave the best and most informative presentation won prizes. It was awesome! One team had a graphic designer and they created a detailed board with images about the wine, region and tasting profile. Another team had musicians and they wrote a song about the wine and sang it to the group. Not only did this create a comradery between the teams, but they learned about all ten wines.
Making it fun, letting the pupil put a bit of themselves into the learning process and getting creative with education is my goal. As I stated before, if the pupil can draw from what they already know, the learning process is that much easier. I know I can teach those that want to learn. What I am going to focus on is trying to teach those that have no interest…that is a challenge and a half! So what do I want to do with this blog? I want to look at wine in a different way. I plan on using wine pairings as a tool to educate. I see myself stepping out of the realm of food and wine pairing and getting more abstract and pairing wine to the world around us. Comparing wine to other things that we already know, will hopefully, engage the pupil to look at wine differently and get a better understanding. It might seem a little complex, but stay tuned to future posts and see where I am headed.
The first post will be pairing art and wine, coming soon.