“Discipline, respect, organization and the ability to master skills are key in the kitchen. If you are a good soldier, you can be a good professional cook…I can’t imagine a career that is better suited for veterans.”
After tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earning a Master’s Degree from Columbia University, Marines veteran Ben Lubin was looking for two things: a job in International Relations and a really good cup of coffee.
Instead, he discovered a new passion and—tapping his military skills—created a career he loves. Today, he is the owner of a successful wine and tapas bar, The Blind Monk, in his hometown of West Palm Beach, FL, armed with a Sommelier Certification and Grand Dîplôme from International Culinary Center in New York City.
“I finished my tour, started the process of finding a job” and decided to drive across the country during the search. Being out on the road was amazing, “but it can be isolating unless you reach out to people. Every town I visited, my goal was to find a coffee house and from there a great bar or restaurant. You meet and experience what the town is about and you realize that the food, wine, coffee are the connectors.”
After weeks of good eating and interviewing, he got two job offers. As fate would have it, the one he accepted fell through. Rather than leaving him discouraged, he decided to build what he enjoyed on his travels — a friendly, unpretentious neighborhood place where one can experience the pleasure of drinking fine wine and beer.
In 2010, with little experience in the culinary industry, Lubin opened The Blind Monk Wine Bar & Tapas in his Florida hometown. Initially, he focused completely on the beverage program, hiring a sommelier and a cicerone on staff. When he was ready to open the kitchen, he hired a chef consultant. Almost instantly he realized he wanted those skills himself.
“At first, I wanted to stay close, but when I started investigating local options I saw the price of ICC was about the same so I decided I might as well go with the best. Also, the six-month program was key,” referring to the school’s reputation for excellent fast-track (almost boot-camp-like training).
After completing the Professional Culinary Arts program in 2013, Lubin made significant improvements in both the menu and physical space which led them to receive the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and also be named Best Place for Great Value. Relying once more on his staff to cover, Lubin completed ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training program and earned his Certified Sommelier accreditation in 2013.