5 Questions with Sommelier Kelly Peterson Bates
Hi, my name’s Kelly Peterson Bates. I am the beverage manager and a certified sommelier here at The Boarding House at 720 N Wells in Chicago Illinois. For anyone that is not familiar with The Boarding House, we are owned and operated by Master Sommelier Alpana Singh. I work directly under her. We focus on a global wine list here at The Boarding House; it’s about 500 selections and it is curated to pair with Chef Tanya Baker’s contemporary American menu
Q1: Tell us about your journey to becoming a Beverage Manager at The Boarding House.
I’ve been working in restaurants since I was probably about 15 or 16. Started off at Red Lobster as a hostess and a busser and then ended up getting a serving job at a little Italian family-run spot, it’s outside of Baltimore, called La Cucina (it’s no longer there). But I served tables there all the way through high school and moved to Boston to go to college where I also waited tables to put myself through college. And that was at The Parish Cafe. That was more beer and sandwich driven, so we did a wine and beer tasting one day. So a rep from a company came in and did this wine tasting. Never had done it before in my life and I ended up calling out everything. She was asking us to go through and talk about what we smelled, what we tasted and afterwards she came up and was like, “Did you ever work in the wine industry before?” No, not at all, and she’s like, “Well you might want to look into this,” and she gave me a bunch of information. Court of Master Sommeliers was one of the websites she recommended to go and visit. Didn’t really do anything with it through college. I was focused on music, which is what I got my degree in. So then I moved to Chicago and got a job out here at Sunda, which is here in Chicago, and there the wine and the sake program was a lot more intense than I’d ever worked with so I really was really able to develop in the beverage aspect of things. So then I started taking it seriously. I bought a bunch of wine books, started reading it and within probably about a year of intense study, I went and took my Level 1 and my WSET 1 & 2 and then it just went from there. Found out that Alpana was opening up a restaurant and I applied and I got hired the next day. She called me personally and I’ve been here ever since.
Q2: What does your typical week entail?
It’s always hectic-crazy. Mondays I come in and focus on liquor and beer ordering. So I inventory and then put the orders in for what we need for the week. Tuesday is all non-alcoholic beverage as well as the first round of wine orders – which is usually whatever we’ve 86’ed and run through throughout the weekend. Wednesdays I usually set up appointments, do tastings with a lot of my reps and any kind of extra-curricula things that are presented for me to do. Every Wednesday at 3pm we have staff training here at The Boarding House so I’m in charge of running that. I prepare a little mini-lesons and we do an hour of intense study for them – blind tastings, things that are new to the list, just to kind of keep them engaged and learning. We have an awesome staff here that is very, very dedicated and they’re here every week so we do that on Wednesdays. Thursday is the rest of my wine ordering, as well as any other appointments that I have set up and then Friday is reprint-day; which is what I’ve been doing today. So you just get the list all cleaned up and ready to go for the weekend, and any new additions are placed on. Throughout the week I work the floor, 3 to 4 times a week. I actually have a section and work as a floor [Sommelier] throughout the building. That’s pretty much it. And then on my weekends I do all of my administrative from home – just setting up appointments for the next week and […] just kind of where i want the list to go and figuring out new additions that I want to put on for the week to come and really just cleaning things up. It’s really non-stop. In my spare time I’m studying – I’m taking my Advanced soon. So yeah, it’s just non-stop. You eat, sleep and breath it.
Q3: If you could have a glass of wine with anyone, dead or alive – who would it be, what would you pour and why?
Currently, right now, probably my brother – who’s not dead – thank god! He actually just found out, like a week ago, that he’s shipping off for basic training. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to him. It was just so quick and furious. So I wouldn’t minding sitting down with him and having a little glass of bubbles and saying cheers to his future in the Army.
Q4: Favorite touristy thing to do in the city?
Don’t have a lot of time to do touristy things, but whenever I do, obviously in the summer going to the lake – hanging out over there is nice. But my main thing is honestly just going and trying out all of the different restaurants. My husband is a chef in the city, so he and I have a very long list of places that we’re trying to check off. It’s hard because every week there are new ones coming on, so basically when we have time we just try to go through and do the whole eat around Chicago thing.
Q5: What food and wine pairing shouldn’t be missed on your menu?
Right now we’re actually just going live with this tonight. We have a Coravin system here and we’re going to be featuring Williams Selyem, their 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. That would go really nicely with the Peking duck breast that chef Tanya just recently added to the menu. We’ve had it on for about 3 weeks now, it’s delicious! It’s one of the best duck I’ve ever had, but with the Pinot it’s a classic pairing and it’s just going to go really nicely and Williams Selyem’s a classic. And we only have 5 bottles of the William Seylem, so that’s going to sell out quick. So if you want to get it, definitely do it within the next month.