Anyone who knows me knows I like Jazz - especially on Sunday mornings while cooking breakfast and reading the paper. Kind of goes hand-in-hand with that good cup of coffee to pull everything together. This week, I picked up a couple new additions to the vinyl collection, including this great quality LP by Les McCann.
I have been a fan of Les for a number of years and am always on the lookout for his albums and those of his contemporaries from the early to late 1960s. I like the usual up-tempo style, which is soulful and bluesy in its nature, but definitely moving. Something you can tap your feet to, bu t is not overly random and chaotic as much of the jazz of the era can be. I like good background music, and this fits the bill.
The sounds of Les on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, Ron Jefferson on drums, and especially Joe Pass on guitar is a complete package from relatively early in these musician's careers. The vibe is simple and fun, which shows int his music. Really good stuff throughout, with great feeling to the majority of the tunes, especially This for Doug (Ron Jefferson), Maichen (Leroy Vinnegar) and the album opener, On Time (Les McCann). The album finishes on a bit of a departure with the short but fast paced So What (Miles Davis), in which the slightly more chaotic style begins to emerge. Good tune, but I like the bulk of the album better.
The other thing I really like about these older records is the jackets have words - real words - that tell us something about the music, the musicians and the setting of why they are together making this album. When you get a download these days, you do not get the complete album, which back in the 1960s meant getting the liner notes and back cover stories.
This album from Pacific Jazz has just that, back notes written by John William Hardy. Now, I am well aware that the notes are meant to sell the album, but there is really good information about the music and the musicians and what is happening at that moment in the industry and their lives. It's a capsule of the era, and these notes are nearly as much of the album experience as the music. We get the insights of place and time - kind of like drinking a good bottle of wine, maybe? - and that is what jazz is about, isn't it? The music of that place and time, by those musicians. Can only be done then and there and never really done the same again. Kind of like terroir.
Check out this album by Les McCann if you can find it. I see some listings on the web for it, but I do find that Les has produced a number of albums which almost always turn up in the record shops and flea markets. Grab them up - they are good listening, especially when cooking a good meal to go with a great bottle of wine.
I was having a conversation with one of our newer banquet servers after a large wedding event, and I asked how everything went, how was service, etc. This person informed me that everything went really well. They guests completely enjoyed themselves and felt the event was great. I asked how the staff was doing as there are a number of newer employees in the mix, and she said everyone did really well, but that there was some frustration during the event behind the scenes.
It appears that some of the more senior servers were trying to jump the lines for pick-up of plates and it was throwing the other servers as well as the kitchen off as tables were not getting served in proper order and plates were being mixed up. This added to the stress of the kitchen as there were two wedding receptions being catered simultaneously. She told me this was really a problem until one of the bosses (an owner actually) came to the kitchen, at which point everyone started to really jump up their service level.
In fact, this server told me that the floor manager told everyone that they needed to step up their game now that the owner was their as they didn't want to look bad in front of him. This is where I stopped the conversation as I really did not appreciate this message. I pointed out that the guest's experience and the service level should be no less just because there is no one looking over your shoulder or calling you out for potential mistakes or slack service. The response from my newbie server was, yeah, but everyone steps it up when the boss is around. We went back and forth on the tenants of providing top-level service no matter what, and I think I got my point across, but it was a little frustrating for me to hear that the message driven home from the manager was simply reinforcing that it is ok to not work at your best level except when the boss is on deck, so to speak.
This is not how I teach standards of hospitality, nor is it the expectation of my company to provide different levels of experience and service. The guest is paying for and expecting the best service, no matter who is there or not. They are actually paying a lot of money to our company for providing a top experience. Hopefully my message was delivered, but just in case I recommended - almost insisted - that the server read a couple of books and also listen to a podcast by one of the authors as a reinforcement of hospitality standards.
The first couple of books are books I have been loaning out and touting for years - both by Edmund Lawler and Charlie Trotter, called Lessons in Service by Charlie Trotter and Lessons in Excellence by Charlie Trotter.
These are great books for anyone in the hospitality business as they really give insight into what had driven Charlie Trotter to be and run the best restaurant in the country. They are quick reads and should be in the library of anyone looking to be in hospitality and service. I also recommend the Lessons in Wine Service, which is part of the same series.
The other book which is a long time part of my library, is the Danny Meyer classic, Setting the Table. This is a book which is closer to me in several ways, than others. Danny Meyer is of course one of the premier restaurateurs in the United States and since the mid-1980s has been the creator of many top locations in NYC, as well as the now global monster Shake Shack. As someone who has been in the restaurant business for a number of years, this book has given me a foundation from which to learn and create my version of how hospitality can and should work. Danny basically turned the restaurant world on its head 30 years ago, and this book details how he managed to do that.
As I said the book, or at least Danny Meyer himself, is someone who I am a little closer to in more than just reading. I have met Danny several times and seen him speak, but more importantly, my boss used to work with Danny in their earliest days. He then went on to open and create a restaurant group, which I now work for, where many of the ideas of proper hospitality and service overlap with what Danny has put forth in his work.
This was reinforced to me recently when I came across the Podcast called I'll Drink to That by Levi Dalton - episode #363, in which Levi interviews Danny. I really like IDTT in general for its style and topical nature, but it is especially interesting when Levi interviews someone from the industry beyond winemakers. Don't get me wrong - the winemakers are great and Levi's questioning style is fantastic, but I am often looking for good insight into more than just wine production and such. I like broader industry information, which we all have to deal with at one point in time or another. I have recommended this podcast (#363 specifically, but also IDTT in general) to several of my employees - again usually with hospitality in mind - as an easy way to reach them and encourage them to think differently about where good service should come from.
I'll Drink to That also happens to provide a very accessible platform for insight and learning. I usually tune in while walking the dog in the morning, and it gets me thinking about the day and what I can do to improve my business practices. I also learn a lot and pick up ideas for wines to check out - very useful, and I have made some new industry connections simply through this interview list. IDTT is available for download and listen on a number of services, just follow the link to the main page www.illdrinktothatpod.com.
So to conclude, my point is that there are messages delivered every day to service staff about what we do, but not always why we do it. I find it extremely important to understand the basics of great hospitality, but providing that service level at all times, not just when the boss is around, is key to the best guest experience.
By the way, the newbie server happens to be my 19 year-old daughter who is working several jobs while on summer break from college. Setting the bar high for service standards is really important to me and my role in the industry, and she is doing a great job of picking it up.
Add these great reads on hospitality and service to your library:
I got a little mention in the Palm Beach Post this, in an article on the relevance of and attention by drinkers to Bourbon. The article is a quick read and gives some insight into what is happening with the market right now in the Palm Beach area for Bourbon.
Spent a little time today speaking with Tony Rynders of Tony Rynders Consulting, Tendril Wine Cellars /Child’s Play Wines, Tour de Force Wine Co. Some may also recognize Tony as the former winemaker for Domaine Serene, back in the early 2000s when they were basically the most highly decorated Oregon winery. Pretty serious, upper end wine maker, working in an area of production that I generally prefer to personally and professionally drink. He also spent time at Argyle, Hogue, and various wineries around the world.
The focus of our conversation was about some wines that Tony had produced and had an opportunity to sell as a private label; something we will work with from time to time, but not too often. He had some samples sent out to me and we tasted over the phone.
I have never met Tony face to face, but he was very approachable over the phone and we discussed the market situation on the East Coast and the ins-and-outs of the wholesale network as well as the retail landscape, a bit. The wines are great, unfortunately he had already sold the one that seemed to be most viable for me from a pricing point of view, but we are working to see what opportunities are available down the road for me and my group.
Along with the "opportunity" wines, Tony had forwarded out a bottle of the 2012 Tendril and 2014 Child's Play Pinot Noirs - these notes are below. The main label he produces right now is Tendril, and Child's Play is a slightly lower price-point item geared to the on- and off-premise markets. Tony's wines are great, but generally not cheap. The Child's Play Pinot Noir would be a retail item in the $30+ range, and Tendril Pinot Noir is more in the mid-$50s. Again, Tony is generally a premium wine-maker, and his wines range up the $100 retail level.
Unfortunately, at least for the time being the wines are not available in any of my markets (CT, MA, FL), but Tony is looking to possibly expand. Issue being though is all the wines are relatively small in production, so not a lot of juice to go around. Tendril does have a limited wine club, which for East Coast buyers would probably be the easiest route in obtaining these wines, and if the 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (which I am enjoying right now) is any indication of the other wines, then I think any serious Pinot Noir enthusiast should take a hard look at getting on this list.
Here are the tasting notes for the Tendril and Child's Play Pinot Noirs...
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.
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