In the morning I put final touches on magazine and newspaper articles I am writing and edit a press pitch for a prospective programme I conceived. I also bounce between yearly budget adjustments for Tantris, make notes on the current inventory to place orders when I arrive at the restaurant and finalise allocations per email with various winemakers.
Then I head directly to the restaurant. At Tantris I check in with my assistants and make sure mise-en-place is ready before spending the following twenty minutes at my desk catching up on emails from guests, party requests, special events & tasting invitations, winemakers, etc. I look over the stack of recommendations which must be written and sent to particular upcoming parties and quickly flip through my cellar notes, preparing our weekly delivery of wines from our off-site storage. Which wines have run out over the weekend, which wines need to be sold through to make space for incoming orders, which wines have reached their full maturity and which wines should be left in storage until next week, month or year. Not to mention which wines we may need in large quantity for upcoming parties, buyouts, etc. I check the wine list for what needs to be deleted from the wine list and update what new selections need to be added, printing new copies and changing out pages before evening service. I finish my purchase proposal for the domains I recently visited in Burgundy, and take the spreadsheet to the office of Jean-Marie Brousse, our F&B director. He is an invaluable member of our restaurant and crucial to this part of my day. He monitors our off-site storage and arranges the logistics for all of my ordering, compiles my budget proposals, and most importantly, pours on his French charm with those hard-to-reach winemakers. Nobody can say no to Brousse.
At 12:00 lunch service begins. This consists of typically between 40 guests on a Tuesday and 120 on a Saturday. With lots of business folk in the mix, things have to be fast and flawless. I leave the tail end of service for my assistants to finish up, and I greet a British film crew who have just arrived to begin filming a piece on the World’s Best Restaurants. As the native English speaker in residence, translation with a knowledge of our inner workings is of the utmost importance for getting the proper message across, not to mention being a central figure of the feature myself.
Taking a break from the filming, I receive my copy of the week’s menu and have a quick chat with chef Hans Haas regarding preparations and tasting through the sauces. I head down to the cellar for inspiration and write the suggested wine pairings for the 5-course and 8-course tasting menus, paying extra attention to quantities and availabilities for the optional “rarity" selections as well. All the while, talking through the pairing process with my new assistant so he learns my palate and mentality, not to mention going through the steps of mise-en-place and service with him along the way. At 16:45 I hand the menu over to the ladies in the office for printing and a copy to my assistant. Then I assist with mise-en-place preparation for the evening, decanting selections which require it, chilling champagne and whites to the proper temperature. Pulling rare vintages and allowing them to temper for regular customers with tastes for old and very fine wines.
I return to my desk briefly to phone Felix Eichbauer, the owner, regarding any particularly special tables requiring special wine pairings or bottles for that evening, glance over special hand-written menus for a handful of chefs’ special customers and sketch a rough wine pairing according to their personal tastes should I know them well.
Dinner time, the most glorious part of the Tantris day. Never, anywhere in the world have I witness such a culinary delight to be enjoyed by the co-workers alone. We are spoiled rotten. Black cod, lobster, venison, you name it. Chef Haas has a massive heart and truly believes that hard work should be rewarded, and he treats us like he is cooking for his own family, every day.
At the staff briefing I run through the week’s wines for the service brigade, explaining cuvées, provenance, interesting anecdotes about the winemakers and summarising the flavour inspiration for the pairings themselves.
At 18:30 Piedro Petronelli, our Tantris veteran and captain of 43 years, opens the doors and the first tables file in. Evenings with less than 100 covers are becoming more and more of a rarity, but despite the relatively diminutive size of our kitchen brigade (normally around 13) the restaurant seems to handle hundreds of customers per day as though it were business as usual, which it is. Never ceases to amaze me. With 35 tables in the restaurant, service at Tantris is anything but boring for the sommelerie. With multiple tables drinking anything from Magnums of 1986 Lafite, to verticals of Vega Sicilia going back to 1968, to aged Ramonet Montrachets and DRC La Tache by the glass via Coravin, prioritisation is a vital element of our function. I have to keep an eye on all 35 tables, knowing what they are drinking, where they are in their meal, finding out who they might be and reacting à la minute to special requests, menu alterations, dislikes, etc. while still keeping service at a good clip.
As the last tables pay their bills I mix a few cocktails for some regulars enjoying a digestif at the bar and clean up. After that I’m back in the office to begin preparation for the weekly Wine School which I host every Saturday in our Sommelier’s Lounge above the bar. I plan the tasting order of 12 wines, speak with the sous chef Siggi about which cheeses to order for that class, and make printouts for the guests’ information packets. I take one last spin through the cellar, unpack the last few boxes from the day’s deliveries and make mental sales/ordering/wine list notes for the next day.
At 2:15 I change and head home, grabbing a bottle or two from my personal stash in the cellar.
Find out more about wine tastings at Tantris by visiting www.tantris.de