California Wines and Culinary Careers: A Perfect Pairing

Wine is a big deal in California. Last month a thirty-year California Chardonnay upset the French classics in the Judgment of Paris, the Wimbledon of blind wine-tastings. Not long thereafter, a California congresswoman sparked another furor by designating Zinfandel (and not Cabernet) the state's official grape. California cooking school students can take away this message: know your wines.

Left Coast Revolution

California cuisine and California wines have come of age together, learning from and steadily surpassing their French forbearers. Chef Alice Waters led the charge in the late seventies, transforming French Nouvelle Cuisine with innovative fusions and locally-produced ingredients. California cuisine and its close cousin, New American cuisine, have since eclipsed the French old guard in cooking schools and restaurants the world over.

David vs. Goliath, Round 2

The same revolution has been transforming the wine industry. That much was clear in this year's 'Judgment of Paris', which repeated the results of the 1976 original. Thirty years ago, Napa Valley wines trounced France's most distinguished vintages. French vintners flew into a fury of sour grapes (pun intended), claiming that the California upstarts could not withstand the test of time.

The test of time took place on May 24, when Parisian judges once again handed victory to the Napa Valley vintners. This time, no one but the French were taken off guard. California wines, like California cooking, have become integral to haute cuisine.

Cooking School, California-style

What does this mean for you? If you're heading to cooking school, expect training in California wines. You may even consider a culinary career as a sommelier, or wine steward. The triumph of American wines has elevated today's sommelier, who in many restaurants is on par with the executive chef or chef de cuisine.

Food and wine has always been a perfect pair. In contemporary cooking schools, a culinary career and a wine education go hand in hand too.