29 November 2017

at home chez la vieille

Early the other evening a client came into the restaurant and ordered a glass of Beaujolais primeur. There were few other clients at the bar at that hour and I decided to fill the air by delivering a short aria about Guy Breton's quixotic dedication to creating the greatest vin de primeur each year - his painstaking quest to perfect a wine type that almost nobody is willing to respect, let alone pay real money for. To create a perfect primeur is like solving a Rubix cube blind-folded in under 90 seconds, only less profitable.

To my surprise, the client was actually listening, and asked follow-up questions. When I mentioned that I wrote a wine blog, and its name, he was astonished, because he had been reading it for the last seven years. Before he left, he quite reasonably suggested I write something to inform readers what it is I am doing these days.

So here we are. Since end-August I have been managing a restaurant in the 1st arrondissement of Paris called Chez La Vieille. It's owned by the American chef Daniel Rose, who I first met years ago, back when my friend Josh Adler of Paris Wine Company worked for him at Restaurant Spring. The short version of how I returned to the hospitality industry is I found myself at loose ends last summer, having utterly failed to make sufficient money writing about food and wine for the previous year. When in mid-summer Daniel sent a message asking if I knew anyone who'd be a good fit to manage Chez La Vieille, I volunteered. Of course, I knew it would mean I'd have to cease penning fanged critiques of other Paris restaurants. That came as a relief at this point. I have spent so long explaining what goes wrong with restaurants and wine lists. Now my job is to demonstrate what can go right, or, more precisely, to draw clients' attention to the few aspects that do go right, to distract them from the train-wrecks, wild-fires, and five-car pile-ups that are part of the nightly routine at even the most successful restaurants.