Next time you think there are no interesting jobs left, remember the story of Martin Riese. Mr. Riese is the general manager of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s restaurant, Ray’s & Stark. Mr. Riese is also a highly specialized brand of sommelier: he’s a water sommelier.
If you are dining at Ray’s & Stark, Mr. Riese can advise you of the differences between the more plebian Voss and Fiji waters available in the grocery store, and the mineral-rich Vichy Catalan or the Iskilde from Denmark with its unique, earthy taste.
Perhaps we should pair Vichy Catalan with rich, red meats and a deep cabernet. Iskilde would likely go better with lamb cooked with rosemary and thyme. Presumably, the year the water was bottled would have an effect upon the water’s nose, legs, and taste. Some waters will impart more flavors than others as they linger on the tongue, and the aftertaste is as important as the first impression.
It leaves one to wonder if the taste of bottled water changes after being exposed to the air. It may be advisable to decant some waters for optimal enjoyment, presumably for a fee.
Notably, Mr. Riese works closely with the restaurant’s wine sommelier to pair the right water with the customer’s choice of food and wine. He advises against the common practice of having a glass of tap water over ice with lemon with a restaurant meal. Tap water lacks minerals and has chlorine added for sanitary purposes. Pairing this glass of water with a bold, tannic red wine is inadvisable because the chlorine interferes with the fruit in the wine, and the lemon interferes with the tannins.
Like any good European, Mr. Riese believes that chilled water completely ruins the entire experience. Therefore, it would seem he does not make special ice to go with his special waters, but instead serves them at room temperature.
The good news is that Mr. Riese states he is not the only water sommelier working today. If you want to work in a high-end restaurant and have a knack for the subtleties of various tastes of waters, this may be the career for you.
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