Been trying to diversify and represent a variety of US cities in this here series. So, I’m so happy we are following up Austin with Boston’s Colleen Hein, Wine Director of Eastern Standard. Classy lady alert!
How did you become a sommelier?
I have been working in various types of restaurants for well over a decade now. It was, however, when I began at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square-a bustling brasserie a stone’s throw from Fenway Park in the fall of 2005 that I really began to take an interest in wine. At the start of my serving career at ES, I was also finishing up my schooling for a “real job” in skincare and aesthetics. However, I found myself too attached to the hospitality industry to leave and decided shortly thereafter to dive head first and fully into a restaurant career. I knew I needed a niche, a piece of the pie that I could call my own, and in turn moved into a management position that would later groom me into taking over the wine program -and yes, in turn leaving all that I had invested an enormous amount of time in behind.
I have completed and received certification for the four levels of the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Program at Boston University. I have passed the introductory course through the Court of Master Sommeliers, with the plan to receive my official certification this July. I seek as many courses, classes, and tastings outside of the restaurant as much as possible, though it is still within the restaurant’s walls and amongst the staff that I still find the most growth and reward in my position.
What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?
My look as undoubtedly changed over the years! There was a time when heels were the norm in my daily wardrobe but alas, my feet could only take so much. Now, cute flats (multiple in black) that have subtle details that I can tie into my accessories are my go-to foot ware. Blazers and slacks, always –turtlenecks and sweaters in the cooler months, and brightly colored breezy dresses in the spring and summer. I must rock my Michelle rose gold watch and always a bright matte lip in red/orange or pink.
Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?
For the most part my wardrobe stays the same throughout the day though I do tend to keep a sweater or blazer on hand to toss on if I am spending an extended amount of time in the cellar, which also doubles as my office – it keeps an appropriately chilly temperature! I will usually bring a change of clothes if I am counting inventory as I am often either crouching to count lower bottles lying down deep within the cellar shelves or perched on top of a ladder counting stashed cases.
What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?
- My way too geeky giant clip board with daily to-do list on top.
- Burt’s Bees pomegranate lip balm.
- Bobby pins for the occasional re-pinning of my French twist or bun.
Three things a somm should never do or wear?
1. Assume which one person will be in control of ordering wine at a table. Whether guests are a bit skeptical or pleasantly surprised when I approach to talk confidently about my wine list, I like to read the table as well encourage group effort on choosing the bottle(s) – after all, it’s a very important decision that can be fun if the responsibility is shared by all!
2. Wear too high or absurd of a heel (my former self would guffaw at this!)
3. Wear long necklaces that can take a dip in a guests’ food or beverage- yes, it has happened.
What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?
I tend to sneak what is looking good on a given day from the raw bar on the half shell i.e. oysters and clams. Steak tartare accompanied with a glass of light red I’ve given a good chill to usually fits the bill if I need a bit more of a protein kick after a long day. But never frites- they are a major weakness and of course you know you can never have just one…
Photo by Kristen Teig