The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 103 of 124

{ }  103 James Nicholas is handling the business side, Jennifer Puccio is the chef partner, Emily Luccheti is Chief Pastry Officer and they certainly make a great team. "Food we want to eat on our day off " is how she describes the cuisine, and yes you do see a lot of industry people in the restaurants. Nicole Blakely, who also worked at Town Hall, was brought on recently as Beverage Director, as well as Director of Operations. Lots of responsibility but she has a wealth of knowledge, having worked for a distributor, as well as two suppliers, in addition to several restaurants. When asked how she manages to be everywhere, she says she tries to be present and available, supportive at all times and not too busy for anyone. There is a real culture to invest in the staff 's future, just like Blakely's mentors Nick Peyton and Peter Palmer once did for her—give the wine directors the tools to get even more educated and to train the staff. When we met at Cavalier, my partner in crime, Master Sommelier Fred Dame was on site teaching a wine class. We both have taught several classes, for this group and soon some of the employees will be taking the Level I exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Blakely brought her education and training idea to Weinberg, who supported this with open arms. Even though it is a real time commitment, everyone is on board and seems very excited. Blakely has brought in some of the best teachers to enhance the wine and spirits knowledge across the board. The restaurants in the Big Night Group are Top 100 in the San Francisco Chronicle and Blakely wants to see a real wine culture at all four restaurants, which will translate to the customers. Wine sales have already gone up, which was part of the strategy and she now sees the staff more engaged in wine with confidence and excitement. Education will continue, Blakely says, "that will carry us all forward as a quality organization." We are drinking Laurent-Perrier, which is featured by the glass in all the restaurants. When asked how she chooses wines, Blakely explains that the process is twofold: She works with people she trusts, and when she has real partnerships where everyone wins, that is best business practice for all. Kim Beto is Vice President of Key Accounts for Southern Wine & Spirits of Northern California. The Restaurants Park Tavern was opened in 2011 and is located in North Beach on Washington Square Park. This very popular spot offers great food and wines and a relaxed atmosphere à la Gramercy Tavern in NYC. Cavalier, located in Hotel Zetta, is a London-inspired brasserie with a really sexy feel. The Crispy Coronation chicken sandwich is a must. Late night, if you are lucky enough to experience Marianne's, Cavalier's private speakeasy, then you are truly hip. (opposite page) Marlowe is a neighborhood bistro at 500 Brannan. If you haven't had the Marlowe Burger paired with Roederer Estate you are missing out. As Beverage Director and Director of Operations, Nicole Blakely oversees the bev- erage programs and operations for all the restaurants in the Big Night Group (seen here with Kim Beto, Vice President of Key Accounts for Southern Wine & Spirits). PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO COURTESY OF BIG NIGHT GROUP PHOTO COURTESY OF BIG NIGHT GROUP

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