Meet Chip. He started working in the food and beverage industry when Anthony Bourdain was still doing No Reservations. He quickly realized that his love was heavily biased towards the beverage side of the house, so he worked his tail off to become first a bartender, then a bar manager, and finally the beverage director of a small restaurant group. He lives and breathes beer, wine, and spirits. He’s a renaissance man of the 21st century.
The coronavirus has put a damper on Chip’s career, for the moment, but he is using it to be wildly productive.
“When we reopen, each of the four restaurants in the group I work for will have completely new beverage menus,” he says via email. He couldn’t be more excited. We asked him to tell us more about his life.
How often do you get to travel for work?
More than should be legal! It has obviously grown in scope each year that I’ve had the title of “beverage director.” No one is throwing money at waiters, bartenders, or even bar managers to take expenses-paid trips abroad. But once I had that director title on my business card, I found myself sitting across the table from reps at tastings hearing the words, “How would you like to go to… X?” With the X generally being Europe or Mexico, and sometimes California.
Do your employers consider this to be vacation time or work time?
It depends on how long the trip is and if any of my bosses are going, too. If an owner and I are going to sample a bunch of breweries in Southern California or Oregon for a long weekend, there’s no question that it’s just another day at the office. But if I’m going solo to France for two weeks, I’d better not plan any personal trips for a couple of months. But I still get to take some non-work-related trips each year, which is important to me for my work-life balance. As fun as these trips are, there’s a lot of work-related stuff that goes on during them.
Do you have to pay for any of your expenses yourself?
Usually what happens is they’ll pay for airfare and provide lodging, and then we’re on our own for meals. Or it’ll be some variation of that. I’ve had to pay for airfare before but the lodging and meals were free. Well, I’ve had a free checking account since I was 18, so I’m fine.
Where do you like to travel for beer?
Hands down: San Diego. There are a lot of places that claim to be the craft beer capital of the world, but I think San Diego is really on the bleeding edge of all things IPA. I also like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco–all of the West Coast towns. I also got to travel to Belgium two years ago, and as you know, Belgium is one of the birthplaces of beer. It was amazing.
What about spirits?
Oaxaca is maybe my current favorite. Mezcal has really taken off, and you can only get mezcal from Oaxaca. The food is great there, too.
Favorite place for wine?
I’m a sucker for Napa Valley because I always want to eat at the French Laundry, Chef Thomas Keller’s place. I also just really like California wine. I’ve been to Spain recently on a wine trip, though.
How does someone get your job?
I’d say passion and luck. I have been passionate about bar programs since day one. Sure, the food side of the restaurant industry is great, but I took to drinks like a duck takes to water. So I really threw myself into learning about our beverage program and then learning about the beverage industry beyond what we did at the restaurant. The bar manager saw that and pulled me into a bartending role as soon as there was an opening. And that’s the thing: You can be as passionate as you want to be and work as hard as you want to be, but there has to be an open position. It was the same when I became a bar manager.
Now, the beverage director job, on the other hand–I was the first one in our group. They were creating that position when they offered it.