Somm of the Month: IST Graduate, Alan Lane

Written by Daisy Martinez

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing IST grad Alan Lane recently about his experience at ICC and his transition from a U.S. Army officer to a Certified Sommelier. His passion is so infectious; I decided to let him enthrall you with the story of his journey in his own words.

Early interest in wine: As an English Literature major at Auburn University in the 1990s choosing wine at the supermarket or even at wine shops was a mystery to me.  Red?  Yes.  White?  Not really.  Rose?  No, thank you.  I wanted to know more, but I didn’t really know where to start.  Those of us in the industry know that this a common predicament for many consumers.  “Windows On The World” was the first book I used to try and educate myself.  It wasn’t until I decided to transfer to the Reserve Component from the Active Duty Component as a U.S. Army Officer effective April 1, 2015 that I thought I would pursue a career in the wine industry following release from Active Duty.

alan-lane-sommThe Transition – In November of 2014 my Commander gave me permission to work part time in a local Colorado Springs wine shop, Coaltrain Wine, Spirits, & Craft Beer. I wanted to know more, to be better, and that’s when I read about the 10 week Intensive Sommelier Program at the International Culinary Center.  My wife, daughter, and I toured the New York campus.  I knew it was meant to be.  Under the direction of Scott Carney, MS and other Master Sommeliers our class worked diligently to master our craft.  We bonded, we got to know each other, debated, tasted, searched together in the city for new wine lists, retail shops, experimented with pairings, blind tastings, industry tastings, the lot!  Our class now stays in contact mostly via social media, and I have visited Napa and Sonoma with friends I met in the class, visit my friends from class in NYC when I’m in town, and this is one of the best parts of the program at the ICC.  The camaraderie of the Sommelier Program is the closest thing I have found to parallel the camaraderie and esprit de corps of the military.  There is a common bond, a common goal, and a common passion found in the both the wine industry and the armed forces.

 

Fruition – I’ve worked in retail, distribution, and hospitality in both New York City and Colorado Springs.  Currently, I work as the Sommelier at 2South Wine Bar in Colorado Springs, CO.  Working as a Sommelier, with the Chef, the owners, my co-workers in front of house and back, helping diners find the right pairing or simply a unique wine to enjoy that they’ve never had, that’s where I find satisfaction.  After deploying to Jalalabad, Afghanistan as an Infantry (Pathfinder) Platoon Leader in 2008-2009 I wondered if I would ever find the kind of kinship, the kind of common bond that I found with the Soldiers with whom I served.  The hospitality industry, the wine, spirits, and beer industry, they have given me the same opportunity to work closely with like-minded, driven women and men who share a passion for providing value added experiences to our clients, consumers, and diners.  Without the Intensive Sommelier Program at the International Culinary Center I don’t know how quickly I would have found my place.  My experience there was unforgettable, and I encourage anyone, especially veterans who are interested in a career in the industry to check out the ICC.  It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Student Life: The Importance of Mise en Place

Written by AJ Fusco
Professional Culinary Arts Student

I would like to start off by introducing myself and giving you a little background on myself.  I am a career firefighter in Westchester County and also attend ICC in the Professional Culinary Arts program.  My passion for cooking is just as strong the one I have for firefighting, which is what led me to the decision to become a “career adder.”  I have always had a second job while being a firefighter, and decided I would like to pursue something I truly loved.  Now, I have the best of both worlds!

One of the first things we learn at ICC is “Mise en Place”, or “to put in place”.  The emphasis my Chef Instructors put on this concept could not be greater, but rightfully so.  We all know the kitchen can be a volatile environment filled heat, smoke and the ever present danger of fire and injury.  And now that I think about it, the kitchen is very similar to being in a fire!  The intense adrenaline rush of service parallels those same feelings I get when operating on the fire-ground.  And just like cooking in a kitchen, being prepared as a firefighter is vital to a successful operation.  This is when I started to connect the dots between having your mise en place in both the kitchen and the firehouse.  

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We train in the firehouse to make sure we are prepared for whatever emergency may come our way.  The fire trucks are set up in a way so that equipment is organized together and easily accessible at any moment’s notice, just like having your ingredients and tools ready to go for a busy dinner service.  But before I started ICC, I admittedly was a messy cook in the firehouse.  Having all my ingredients ready to use was just not on my mind, which certainly didn’t help the situation of not knowing if an alarm would come in while getting dinner ready for a group of hungry firefighters.  That all changed when I learned about this thing called “Mise en Place”.  Suddenly, my meals not only tasted better but I was able to cook more efficiently in the unpredictable firehouse kitchen.  Countless times I have been prepping for a meal, when suddenly an alarm comes in and everything has to stop.  The oven and burners get shut off, and we are out the door, unsure of when we will be back to finish cooking the meal.  But having everything ready to go when we return to the firehouse has prevented plenty of take-out which is always a plus. So to say “Mise en Place” has changed me for the better as a cook would be a severe understatement!