MEET THE WINE TEAM AT CENTRAL KITCHEN:
SAM BOGUE & GENO TOMKO
This week I caught up with the wine team at central kitchen, Sam Bogue and Geno Tomko, to find out more about the inspiration behind the wine program. Sam and Geno became part of the wine program at central kitchen this October. They assist David White with the beverage selection for central kitchen and both salumerias.
I know this is a relatively new position, helping David White with the wine program, so what are your responsibilities?
SB: Primarily, staff education: wine tastings, line ups, monthly meetings.
GT: Working with chef, choosing the pairings for the tasting menu.
SB & GT: Learning the story behind each dish, seeing and understanding the process and choosing wines that speak to those flavors.
How did you get into wine?
GT: When I worked at Frasca, Colorado. I remember it clearly. I was a polisher at Frasca, it was my second restaurant job. I was on the back polishing glasses when Grant (Reynolds) poured me a splash of a 2008 Biondi Brunello di Montalcino. At the time, I didn’t know much about wines, I didn’t know the grape, the price or how it was supposed to taste. I just remember smelling it and tasting it and thinking wow this is amazing! That moment, that’s when it clicked.
How did you guys meet?
SB: We met at Pizzeria Locale. It was the first restaurant job for both of us. We worked there together for a while until we went different ways. Gene moved to New York to emerge in the restaurant scene there while I fine tuned my craft in Colorado. I then moved to San Francisco. After a while, Geno ended up moving to San Francisco too and we reunited.
GT: Interesting enough, our first meal together in San Francisco was at flour + water.
SB: That’s true.
GT: Sam started at central kitchen first and I followed a bit after.
What do you like about working at central kitchen?
GT: I love the atmosphere, the people, the staff. It (central kitchen) has an environment that pushes you to learn and grow. The kitchen uses the best produce available.
SB: The team focuses on the food, the wine, and the story behind them. The staff is really happy and we make pretty good money.
How would you describe the wine list at central kitchen?
SB: It’s an exceptional list. There’s something for everybody’s taste, but it forces people to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. A lot of guests ask for pinot noir, we currently don’t have a pinot noir by the glass on purpose, but we have an amazing arbois. Being able to show a new wine to a guest and have them love it is a great feeling!
GT: But, we also have a very esoteric, geeky selection. It (central kitchen) is a serious wine restaurant.
How has it been working with David White?
GT: He’s a great mentor. He takes the time to teach us every day. But, he’s also funny. He wants us to learn the basics. He wants to help us build steps so we can succeed.
SB: He’s also lots of fun. Just the other day he gave us a surprise blind tasting, that by the way I beat Gene on.
I hear you guys will have full control of the wine and beer selection at salumeria.
SB: Yes, that’s our first project. We mainly want to educate the staff so they can guide the guests on the right direction. We want to build from the current selection. We want a selection that is affordable and fun. You shouldn’t have to think too hard when you go to buy wine, you should just have fun.
What kind of garnishing green would you be?
GT: Agretti. I have a little bit of agretti in me.
If you’re not eating at central kitchen or flour+water, where do you like to go out to eat?
SB & GT: Abbots Cellar! We just had an awesome meal there. The beer pairing was fantastic. Also, Sons & Daughters. That place is epic, it’s just awesome.
GT: I just love going to Tamales Bay and crush 50 oysters with a bottle of wine and a 6-pack.
What’s one place that you’re dying to go and haven’t had a chance yet?
SB & GT: Benu!
Sam and Geno are on the floor every night at central kitchen, make sure to get their recommendations and listen to the stories behind each producer. You can also find their wine and beer selections at salumeria every day!
Interview by Liz Subauste