Normal parents might get anxious when their college-educated daughter begins waiting tables. But my family is food-obsessed: When one of us mentions having dinner with a friend, the first question is not, “How is she?” but “Where did you go?” followed by, “What did you have?” Also, I wasn’t waiting just any tables: I was working at the world-renowned Per Se restaurant in Manhattan to pay my way through graduate school. When management offered me a promotion from back server to captain, I was delighted about the raise, which would help fund my next semester. But there was one caveat: Because I would now be selling and serving wine, my bosses at Per Se decided something had to be done about my deplorable enological knowledge. Apparently, when guests pay $275 for a nine-course tasting menu, they expect their captain to be able to describe wines as something other than “dry.”
Enter André Mack, a Per Se sommelier. He was asked to advise me on tricky wine pairings and school me in arcana like the legality of Burgundian estate planning.
One day, André and I agreed to meet at a biodynamic wine tasting. He tried to teach me about viticulture, but we ended up just chatting by the cheese table. Within weeks, our relationship moved from professional to personal. The romance was the worst thing that could have happened to our tutorials. Soon, they went something like this: