What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
My number one passion is travel. I would have been a pilot if I didn’t need to be sedated before flying. I get the winter blues terribly each year, but as soon as I start planning my next adventure, I snap out of it.
Food and beverage and the subcultures around them I find invigorating. Exploring the food scene in a new city is my perfect day. I love rugby as well and played for 9 years, but with a baby now it’s hard be able to commit to the team.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting.
I owe a lot to Wegmans. I started bartending at Next Door Bar & Grill and thought I knew a lot about food and wine, but I didn’t, which I quickly learned. I was fortunate enough to work under some incredibly talented and passionate people which resonated with me. It was the first time I learned that one could have a career in the wine business and I wanted to be a part of that world. As far as difficulties go, look, we have fun in this industry, but there’s an underbelly of the this world that people don’t talk about. We stay out too late, we drink too much, we become incestuously close to our co-workers and as a result, marriages are tested, businesses fail and there’s more than a few DWI’s. Without getting too specific, it’s very easy to lose focus and your sense of self and I’ve worked hard to maintain the balance of enjoying this world, but not being consumed by it.
What is your biggest regret?
In high school I didn’t try out for the volleyball team, which I wanted to play on so bad because I was afraid to fail. At the end of the season the coach, who was also my gym teacher asked why I hadn’t tried out. I told her I didn’t think I was good enough and she said, “what? You would have started every game”. I try never to be my worst enemy like that again.
What’s your best advice to someone starting? What advice do you wish you’d gotten?
Get a mentor. There is no guidebook that says this is how you start a wine bar which left me with about a billion questions. Sometimes the stakes are too high for trial and error which makes for MANY sleepless nights. I wish I had reached out to more of the people in this business and picked their brains.
What inspires you?
One of the most inspiring things to me is going to a small place typically in NYC, but anywhere really, and seeing everything on point. The service, the music, the attitudes and job satisfaction of the staff, the decor, the bathroom… which always reminds me that you don’t have to be trying to gain a Michelin star or even a fine dining experience to expect excellence from yourself and your staff. I always come back motivated to be better than I was yesterday.
How do you balance all aspects of your life, especially with motherhood?
Oh boy. I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard as hell sometimes. A business is like a child in that it requires so much of you and if you have two things that demand 100% of you then one thing is certainly getting less. When I work until midnight or one and wake up at six, I’m definitely not the mom that I want to be the next day. But when I’m completely caught up with my son Soren, things fall behind with work. I just try to focus on being honest with myself about my limits and not beating myself up when I fall short.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
I love taking care of people. Inviting them into my home (Apogee) and finding them a glass of wine that they love and making sure they feel that I truly care that they enjoy their time with me. That’s a great feeling. Also industry wine tastings, especially in NYC are SO much fun. Really any event that I’m invited to drink for free is my happy place.
Name some local creatives that you admire.
Janine Wasley: owner of Avvino, whose focus and drive is infectious.
Demetrio Cavatassi: owner of Tapas 177, who has been in business forever and never gets burned out.
Stacy K Ercan: owner of Stacy K Floral who is not only super talented, but incredibly kind.