You might’ve seen Jordan Salcito’s lovely self on the floor of many a New York City restaurant. She’s spent time at some amazing spots including Gilt, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel and most recently Crown. She’s currently working on a new restaurant project set to open in early 2013 with her husband, sommelier Robert Bohr. Jordan is certainly a lady about town and one to know. And I’m obsessed with her black Tory Burch dress with the sheer sleeves!
How did you become a sommelier?
Indirectly. My grandfather, whom I never met, grew grapes and made terrible wine in his backyard. My dad, who was thirteen when his father passed away, associated wine with his father and in turn, I associated it with my grandfather. At a very early age, wine for me represented a connection to my past. It always held allure.
My ah-ha moment occured at the La Paulée de Nièges in January 2006. Daniel Boulud (to whom I will always be grateful and for whom I’d been cooking the prior several months) invited me to work with him at the Burgundy-inspired wine event in Aspen, Colorado. I was petrified that I didn’t know enough to hold my own, but I read everything I could about the region and its producers. In Aspen, I met some of Burgundy’s most legendary winemakers and was able to try benchmark wines dating back to the 1920s that these winemakers and their ancestors had produced. Burgundians are among the warmest people in the world. They are also exceptionally good at preserving their stories. And their wines are delicious and compelling. The final night at that event, I asked Jean-Pierre de Smet of Domaine de l’Arlot if I could work harvest at his estate, and he agreed. Since then, I’ve been able to work harvest each year at various domaines. Working harvest made me want to become a sommelier. The best way, for me, to share these wines and their stories is on the restaurant floor.
What’s your daily uniform for work?
It definitely changes depending on the restaurant. At Eleven Madison Park and Gilt, I wore my hair pulled back in a bun and sported a suit with a pressed button-down. Crown was a fashion-forward environment, so I could be more whimsical – dresses and heels. For the next restaurant, set to open in March, the uniform will evolve again. I like my outfits to resonate with the space and channel the restaurant’s overall message.
Clothing: I am and will be forever smitten with the black dress. It’s just easy. And it masks potential spills, an occupational hazard. All last winter I wore the gorgeous “Gertrude” dress, by Tory Burch. It manages to be chic, flattering, and comfortable all at once. Also, it was texturally beautiful – sheer silk arms and a velvet band at the base of the skirt. Maje makes a brilliant little number called the “Madison” – I wore it so much this summer that I went looking for a second one and they were sold out across the US. Also excellent – tunics, particularly those with pockets. They’re great with leggings, dangly earrings and heels.
Jewelry! – I tend to have serial relationships with pieces, and I like them to be versatile enough that they can go with just about anything. For service, my current object of obsession is a pair of dangly wheat earrings by Aurélie Bidderman. She takes individual wheat stalks and dips them into gold. Her emphasis on authenticity and backstory mirrors two of the things I love most about wine. And her aesthetic is just beautiful.
Shoes: Oh my. I had the most wonderful pair of shoes. They were a casualty during a tragic cellar flooding last May, and when they started to warp I finally tossed them. These shoes were black, suede and satin peep-toe slight-platform Hermes pumps, and they went with literally everything. And they were comfortable! They also lasted about 2 years longer than they should have (well done, Hermes). I bought them at Ina, a store in SoHo where you can find brand new or like-brand-new pieces for a fraction of their retail price. Go there, and ask for Squirrelly. She’s the best.
At EMP and Gilt, I wore the slightly-heeled Danskos. My friend Jane and I have talked about launching a company that makes attractive, comfortable footwear for women in our industry – it’s a void that needs to be filled!
Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?
Off the floor, practicality reigns. When binning wine or changing the list, I wear jeans, Converse All-Stars and a comfortable top – usually some sort of sweater. In the fall, I embrace the cold weather and my sweaters are cozy, gray and black – but by February I wear the brightest colors I can find.
What are the 3 things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?
1. wine key
2. cellar key
3. little black torchon – inspired by John Ragan, who enforced this mise en place at Eleven Madison Park, and it’s brilliant. I use one throughout the entire night instead of having to go through 50 white napkins.
Three things a somm should never do or wear?
1. Chew mints or gum during or right before service. (Your palate is shot for at least an hour).
2. Flirt with a guest who is on a date. (I’ve seen this happen, more than once, which is why I’m putting it in here.)
3. Sandals. Not hygienic, and someone will shatter a glass next to your foot sooner or later.
What you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?
I try to stay healthy after a shift. If the kitchen is open when I finish, I’ll order one of the lighter appetizers from the menu, so that I can stay familiar with the flavors in play. More often than not, the kitchen has closed so I’ll grab an apple and curate a snack from the pantry – a slice of cheese, Marcona almonds, dried figs, dark chocolate pieces. I can also never resist a good salad. I know that sounds boring, and that I’m supposed to say I want to go home every night and eat a big piece of pork belly, but before bed, I want vegetables!
I also have a glass of wine, either from a bottle leftover from a table, or something we’re pouring by-the-glass. It’s a great way to check quality and just stay in touch with the selections. And usually, that glass is Burgundy or Riesling.
Sabering a bottle of Champagne in her wedding gown. Like a boss.
Top photo credit: Noa Griffel for Tory Burch. All other photos provided by Jordan Salcito.