The Making of a Mogul
The holiday season has finally drawn to a close and it is no surprise that people have upped their foodie game to the next level. Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties brought forth several friends and family together for the ultimate feasts from the comforts of their home kitchens. Chefs and other culinary experts divulged their expertise online, therein creating more opportunities for the budding chef or home cook to hone their cooking skills. One of these notable experts is the enigmatic Carole Mac of Wine4Food.com. With over fifteen years of experience in the culinary industry under her belt, Carole’s goal is to create a fun and interactive atmosphere centred on food and wine. She is the executive producer and host of culinary shows that feature the world’s best chefs, sommeliers, and winemakers on Wine4Food.com. Her latest series Somm School Insider and What’s in My Fridge, are fun, lighthearted, and educational with a dash of comedy. Catch her especially on Somm School Insider on Wine4Food.com. As she immerses herself in becoming a certified sommelier with the oldest wine school in the United States, the Sommelier Society of America on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Play, ROKU, and Binge.
Everyone has a series of firsts. Could you describe when and how did your first glass of wine taste like?
I distinctly remember the first sip of wine that changed my life. It was during a very special family trip, and I was 26. My Dad had been working towards taking my family to Italy for over a decade. It was finally here, and we were all ecstatic. Our most memorable meal of the trip was at this fantastic vineyard Dievole. As I was tasting a fresh fava bean and pecorino cheese appetizer (I never knew how good fava beans could be), the winemakers poured me a glass of their finest Sangiovese. It was an earthy, round, rich, glass of sunshine that I can now identify as having notes of blackberry, dark cherry, pomegranate, mushrooms, and pure heaven. I had never tasted anything so succulent in all of my life. I was in love. That sip showed me that wine can be just as exciting as the food.
Growing up, do you remember when you were enraptured with food? What is the dish that first comes to mind?
I cannot remember a time when I was not enraptured with food growing up. Haha. I used to play “Restaurant” when I was five where I would make hamburgers out of mud outside and sun them on the picnic tables, as well as “Name That Food” where my friends and I blindfold each other and tried to guess the random spices and foods that we placed in front of each other. But the first dish that comes to my memory is my Mom’s veal with mustard sauce. She would make us anything we wanted for our birthday meal (starting when I was about eight). Unlike most kids who would ask for pizza, I wanted veal and mustard sauce, raspberries, and sugar snap peas. The veal was pounded out flat, made with a wine and mustard reduction, and I adored it. I guess this is where my taste in fresh food and strong flavours started.
Black Dress: ROTATE Birger Christensen
If you could name the five people who inspired you, who would they be?
My Mom comes to mind first. She inspires me because she believes in me so deeply, but also because she introduced me to fresh, whole food and the art of cooking. When the rest of the world was eating McDonald’s, my Mom and I were playing in the kitchen. I fell in love with food because of my Mom.
My Dad inspires me because he lives life living according to his values and dreams, even when it’s hard. He built a thriving career that he loved from the ground up. But he never let his work get in the way of being there for his family. He was always at the table for breakfast in the morning and dinner at night. My Dad taught me to go for my dreams, do what I love, work hard, have fun, and be responsible for my own happiness.
My dearly departed son TJ is one of my biggest inspirations and guides everything in my life. Even though he had a terminal illness, he was the most alive, happy, peaceful, present, and joyous person I’ve ever known. He taught me what it means to live powerfully, regardless of external circumstances.
Abraham Lincoln. His story speaks to me because of the way he persevered after the loss of a child, as well as setback after setback. Despite his difficulties, he still thrived and served to the highest degree. Reading about his life inspires me to persevere. And when I fail, try, try again.
The current figure that inspires me the most is Oprah. She inspires me on a daily basis because of where she came from, and who she became against all odds through her belief in herself, faith, and hard work. She reminds me that it’s possible to overcome, own your power, succeed beyond imagination, and impact millions of lives for good.
Could you tell us how you initially started out in the culinary field? And what was it that attracted you to the world of vino?
I’ve loved food my entire life, but I decided to make it into my career after I studied entrepreneurship during my international MBA program in the UK. Prior to going back to school, I worked for Nike. And although I loved it, it taught me that I was not a corporate girl and that I wanted to work for myself creating things that only I could create, preferably in the food industry. So when I finished my program, I knew that it was a turning point. I could either take a more secure route of getting a job and a nice salary or do what I really wanted to do which was work for myself in food. It was risky, but I started a little company called the Fun Young Foodie Club in Chicago offering private chef-driven culinary experiences like tasting oysters just hours from the ocean or having a traditional Korean BBQ feast with a Korean family. It was a blast, and I’ve never been happier. Once I turned my focus to food media, I knew I had to move to New York City to learn how it was done. The first company that I worked with was the same great company I work with now, Golden Ram Imports, a wine importer and distributor. In this company, I’ve had the good fortune of tasting wine with our owner Syliva Golden, our CEO Frank Shobe, and our VP of Sales, Mike Esposito, all of whom taught me the love of wine. And as I was building a video platform for Golden Ram’s website Wine4Food.com, I was able to interview and learn from some of the top sommeliers in the city. They taught me what it was to have an exceptional palate through tasting wine, as well as how much wine enhances the flavours of food, and food enhances the flavours of wine. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Now let’s go to Wine4Food. Could you tell us more about the concept behind it? And what makes it stand out?
Wine4Food is a fabulous website that features perfectly paired food and wine videos, articles, and recipes. We’re different from other websites because we offer the insider point of view by featuring the best sommeliers, chefs, wine producers, and culinary experts in the world. It’s really fun. I hope everyone reading this visits Wine4Food.com, and digs into the video and recipe tabs to see all of the goodies there.
Talking about the Somm School Insider, could you tell us the most challenging experience you had during your time with the Sommelier Society of America?
We had a rough start with our series Somm School Insider. Our Director of Photography/Editor pulled out of the project one week prior to our 8-week shooting schedule due to an international opportunity. We couldn’t change our schedule with the Sommelier Society of America because we filmed during actual classes with real students, so we didn’t have enough time to find and properly vet a new team. This created all kinds of issues, the biggest being that our footage was far below our standards with many technical errors. We were dreadfully close to losing the entire project. But my partner Carrie Puchkoff at the Sommelier Society of America was instrumental in helping us find one of the best professionals I’ve ever worked with, Andrew Hendrix of Circulatory Cinema. Andy and I got extremely creative and reenvisioned the entire series using the footage that could be saved with fresh ideas. We reshot all six intros and every beauty shot, added a few new shots, scripted all-new voiceovers, changed our pacing and music, built tons of new graphics and transitions, and transformed the series into something completely new. With the help of Carrie and all of the instructors at the Sommelier Society of America, Andy and I saved our series! Now we love it so much more than the original concept.
On a personal and hypothetical note, if you were presented with the chance to create your own wine, what would the signature taste notes be like? And what would you call it?
Oh, I love this question! I would call it CMAC, and it would be a Merlot-based Bordeaux blend (with plenty of Cabernet Franc). I tried this kind of wine for the first time in sommelier school, and it knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe how unbelievably smooth it was. It was the first time I learned how to identify the texture of a wine. In this case, the texture came from smooth and silky tannins, and it was so much fun to identify! It was my “tannin awakening,” and I would love to give that experience to other people. So I would partner with one of the finest right bank Bordeaux producers in France (this is hypothetical, so why not?). We would make a wine with the silkiest, most luxurious tannins in the world, with notes of black cherry, chocolate, tobacco, cloves, coffee, and violet. This sounds so insanely delicious. When can I get started?
How do you see the future of the F&B industry evolving in the next five years? Especially with the majority of people not fully aware of sustainability, globally?
The impact of covid has already been devastating to the food and beverage industry, so I’m hopeful that we will see a resurgence in the industry once things smooth out. My hope is that people have been reminded of how valuable a delicious meal prepared in a beautiful environment can be and that they support this industry by frequenting their favourite restaurants after we open back up. My hope is also that people have used this downtime to increase their love and knowledge of food and wine so that they are even more discerning and committed buyers of excellent quality (and clean) food and wine inside and outside of their homes.
Article by Cyan Leigh