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October 29, 2009

Certified Sommelier and Corporate Chef Jen Flock

As a rule, when I start a project, I like to dive right in and get to the point. But I realize that in this case that may not work. You may be wondering why on earth you would come to me for advice on food and wine; Who am I?

I have been in the food and wine industry in some capacity since I graduated from high school (just to put it in perspective, sometime in the near future will be my 20th reunion, gasp!). I started in the kitchen; I found that cooking jobs were pretty easy to come by and paid the rent while I went to Art School. After leaving Art School, I stayed in the kitchen full time. I ended up being persuaded by one of my chefs to get a degree. To make a long story short, (because who needs to hear me ramble, right?) I enrolled at Johnson & Wales in the Culinary Arts program in Providence, RI and took a test which allowed me to get my degree in one year.

Shortly after graduating I took at a job at Portland’s beloved Fore Street Restaurant. I’ve always had this insatiable desire to learn everything I could about food. Sam Hayward is a walking food encyclopedia and it was incredible to pick his brain. While I was there I did this crazy thing, I started having babies. When my first daughter was born I started training in the front of the house, the hours were a bit more flexible for parenting.

So here begins my love affair with wine. I was already committed to food,  I had spent  years learning and reading and submerging. As a salesperson (server) I had to give that same attention to wine. I couldn’t go to a table of guests and sputter nonsensical rants about wine if I didn’t know what I was talking about. So I started to read. Every time I opened a bottle, my husband and I would grab the Atlas and look it up. Then we would look it up in books. I couldn’t stop, I would become ravenous at the amount of knowledge that you could acquire about France alone.

When I moved down to Virginia and took a job at The University of Virginia at the Darden Business School, a friend introduced me to her friend who happened to be a Master Sommelier. I had already been studying for years on my own. She encouraged me to go forward and take the courses. Now for those of you who have no idea what a Master Sommelier is, let me explain.  There are around 180 in the world. Of those around 15 are women. There are 4 levels of courses and exams, with each level getting harder. I have passed the first two, with hopes of taking the third next year. I’ve included the link at the end of the page to their website should anyone have interest in more reading.

I’m back in Maine now working for Browne Trading Company in Portland. We have a wine room with thousands of bottles in it, from $9 to a number that you don’t want to see in print (if this were a movie it would be that scene where one guy writes a number on a piece of paper and slides it across the table to another guy whose eyes bulge as he reads it). I not only help with the selections in the wine room, but also act as their Corporate Chef. The world of food and wine becoming harmonious in one store.

I think that brings us up to date and for anyone who is still awake, I can let you know my intentions. I want to be a resource for our Maine Community for all things wine. Let’s say a “Dear Abby” of sorts. I will post an assortment of wines, wine and food pairings, and recipes. I want anyone to feel free to ask away.  No question is a dumb question, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll research and give you the resources from where I obtained the information. And if there are no questions, then at least I may become your resource for solid recommendations for great value bottles from all around the world.

Links to enjoy:

http://www.mastersommeliers.org/

http://www.forestreet.biz/

http://flockandvine.blogspot.com/

http://www.brownetrading.com/

Jen Flock is a Certified Sommelier, Cook, MF&L columnist and blogger, mother, and is always thirsty.

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