RYAN WILLIAMS C.S.
I'm pleased to announce the start of a Vin de la Table focused interview series of those professionally involved in the delicious art of food and wine pairing. Inspired by a friend Keith Stevenson, who, after a Vin de la Table post asking readers what they'd like to see more on this blog, sat down at the wine bar where I work and said, "Well, I was thinking,....."
His idea was that I should ask people intimately involved with matching food and wine in their profession, such as wine directors and vinophile chefs, about their most surprising, but excellent, food and wine pairing experience. Needless to say, I thought that it was a great idea and am happy to explore this venture. In addition to employing Stevenson's idea, I'll be throwing a few other questions in the mix to meet the interest of readers, and so we'll know a bit about the person and professional behind the answer.
I hereby announce that this day, July 17th, 2008, marks the first of a series, titled, "Surprising Professional Pairings."
Actually, I was hoping that we could work together to come up with a better title than the one that I sadly labored over. While effective, it's not... interesting. Ideas are very welcomed in the comment section of this post.
The series kicks off with a short interview with one of the sweetest men I've met in wine, Ryan Williams. Williams works as Assistant Sommelier and manager at Ana Mandara, one of the most awarded, inventive, and all-around favorite Vietnamese focused restaurants in San Francisco. If you'd ever been to San Francisco and seen the competition, you'd know that this is a title does not go without defending. William's is passionate about wine and is always seeking out new ways to deepen his already extensive pool of knowledge. Best of all, he helps to dispel the myth that sommeliers or wine directors are intimidating, unfriendly people. There are few people that I'd rather ask for help with a thick wine list.
Here is the man himself, Ryan Williams, C.S.
What led to your career in food and wine?
My love and passion for both. I have been cooking since the age of 9 and wine since I was 22. I am currently 42 so that's quite a bit of time. I really love everything about both and would cook for family, friends, and others till it became a request for functions and events. As far as wine after my first visit to Napa in the late 80's I fell in love. I met so many different winery workers who eventually became friends and I would arrange wine tours for friends and associates in limos with the breakfast and lunch being provided by my catering company and we would have a great time. When I realized there was a career path, especially in the wine arena, I began to pursue my passion and here I am.
You work at Ana Mandara, what is said to be one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S.
How did you end up there?
What positions do you fill at the restaurant?
What impassions you about Ana Mandara?
My pursuit of the hospitality industry initially was going to be in culinary arts. I visited several schools and one stood out. Professional Culinary Institute (PCI) in Campbell, CA had a wine program. It is the only one in the world where after completion, Court of Masters, one accreditation body for sommeliers, comes and administers the first two levels of exams and if passed declares you a certified sommelier. This was amazing so I signed up. It is taught by Master Sommelier David Glancy. After passing the course and both exams I became a certified sommelier. As an alum, we receive job announcements from David. One came across from Joanna Breslin, Wine Director of Ana Mandara Restaurant and third level, Advanced Sommelier, of a need for an Assistant. I found the website to be great and the wine list outstanding so I inquired to David.
He made the introduction to his friend Joanna, I got a series of interviews and am now a proud member of the Ana Mandara team.
I am a Manager/ Sommelier/ Assistant Wine Director. A mouthful.
What I love about Ana Mandara is the family environment, the great staff, both front and back of the house, the consistently phenomenal food,and the outstanding wine list, which stands on its own but is even more so outstanding for a Vietnamese Restaurant. Rarely do you find such variety, quantity, reasonably priced, and most of all excellent quality wines in restaurants with our cusine.
What are the two most surprising food and wine parings that you've experienced in your career?
The first would be truffle popcorn (Michael Minna) with a Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru "Clavoillon" 1999. UNBELIEVABLE! I will give details later. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water.
The second was a ginger creme brulee (Ana Mandara) with Casta Diva Cosecha Miel, Muscat 2006. AMAZING and unexpected.
If you could share one bit of information about food and wine pairing with Vin de la Table readers, what would it be?
There are so many rules and practices such as high acid and/or sweet wine cuts spicy food, and the ancient red with meat, white with fish but my overall advice is drink what you like and like what you drink, then everyone is happy.
Thank you Ryan, for your generosity and time with this interview.