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This is an excerpt from Restaurant Wine, issue 110, Nov/Dec 2005.


Jannae Lizza’s Wine Training At Passionfish Is Fun & Customized


Jannae Lizza
Wine Assistant
Passionfish
Pacific Grove, CA

As Passionfish’s wine program expanded over the years (the wine list has grown from approximately 35 wines in 1997 to 400 today), it required
ongoing attention to server wine training. Although he devoted time to this, Ted Walter, as chef and wine buyer, was already stretched thin with his time.

But a solution appeared in the restaurant out of the blue, when Jannae Lizza was hired as hostess, soon after the Walters purchased the restaurant. Lizza is a self-starter, who had learned to bake at the café she had previously worked at in order to save that restaurant money. She says, “When I learned how much we were paying for apple turnovers, I said, ‘I’m going to learn to make these’”. And she did, and went on to plan menus at the café, as well as teach
baking to others.

She became interested in learning about wine when she was put on the floor as a server (today, she is a manager two days a week and a server the other three days). “I didn’t know anything about wine. The other servers told me not to worry about it, but to recommend Ridge and Silver Oak, because everyone knows them. But I told them that we have a wine list and we should know everything on it, not just one or two wines because they are popular.”

Immediately afterwards, Lizza took the wine list home and went online to find tasting notes and other information about every wine. She copied the notes onto the wine list, then posted this on the wall at the servers’ station in the restaurant [see page 11]. “I thought everyone else might be interested in what I came up with. For example, one wine they had made only 300 cases of. I thought that was a selling point.” Servers began to refer to the notes, and the maps that followed, to help them talk about the wines with customers.

Her next innovation: posting a wine question of the day on the line, where food is picked up [see page 10]. The question usually was one she herself had been asked by a customer or a server. “Whenever a customer asked a question I wasn’t sure about-How does a rose Champagne get its color?-I would go home, look it up, and then post the question and the answer the next day for the staff. I figured that maybe some of them knew the answer already, and maybe some of them didn’t. But I wanted to share the information, to make it readily available.” (The question was printed on the front of the page, the answer on the back.)


This is an excerpt from Restaurant Wine, issue 110, Nov/Dec 2005.
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