20 Questions - Rachael Lowe, Sommelier at Sixteen

20 Questions - Rachael Lowe, Sommelier at Sixteen
Courtesy Hauteliving.com

Rachael Lowe is the sommelier at the Trump Hotel and their restaurant Sixteen. She has a pedigree that many would love to have and the chef’s she’s worked for you know – Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsey, Grey Kunz. I’ve eaten at Sixteen a few times and the pairings as well as service have always been excellent. Rachael may look younger than her 32 years but she’s very knowledgeable and passionate about wine.

I got to see behind the sommelier exterior and found a very funny person. She has a very quick wit and you realize you don’t want it turned on you. About know, she’s wondering – I hope he left some of those answers out. Yet, she’s also a little shy at times and not one to brag about herself or her accomplishments.

Oh and if you meet Rachael – don’t EVER whistle…keep reading and you’ll see why.

Name                                   Rachael Lowe
Restaurant                         Trump Hotel – Sixteen
Married                              Single
Kids                                      None
Age                                        32
From                                    Right outside Ann Arbor, Michigan
University                          B.A. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, M.A. NYU in Food Studies
Wine Certification          Court of Master Sommeliers
Cork Hand                         Right
Twitter Handle                @Sommlowe

1. What did you have for dinner last night?
I went to Girl and the Goat – and I had leg of lamb. We were a group of wine people so they sent a lot of stuff out.

2. Place you eat most often on days off?
RL: It kind of rotates.
CFS: There isn’t one place.
RL: I sleep.
CFS: Nice.
RL: (Laughs) The bar at Sepia is the place I most consistently go to.

3. Favorite ingredient to work with?
RL: That’s a mean question!
CFS: The other ingredients won’t get upset.
RL: (laughs)
CFS: You’re like Giuseppe Tentori and worrying about the other ingredients.
RL: It’s totally seasonal. Here’s the deal am I cooking for after work or my day off?
CFS: You tell me?
RL: After work it’d be Udon noodles.
CFS: Ok what about if you have time?
RL: I experiment (laughs).

4. If you got $10,000 how would you spend it?
Traveling somewhere – Probably France, I want to get to the Rhone and Loire valley.

5. First word that comes to mind when I say Foodie?
RL: I’m hungry (Laughs). I would eat your leg right now (laughs) maybe pizza.
CFS: No, I said foodie not food
RL: Oh (laughs) hmmm a little information makes some people think they’re entitled, but there are some valid foodies who would never call themselves that.

6. Favorite Charity Event that you do?
(Pauses) I do a lot of events and asked to go to a lot but there isn’t one.

7. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in?
RL: Um…(gives me a look).
CFS: Yes, I know it’s another question where the other cities are going to get mad at you.
RL: (Laughs) New York

8. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

9. If you left Chicago to work somewhere else, where would you go?
Back to New York

10. Person you would most like to open a bottle of wine for?
Abe Schoener, he’s the winemaker for Scholium Project. He’s awesome and a good friend. His approach to making wine is avant guard and he’s great to taste wine with.

11. Do you have any pet peeves?
RL: Riesling
CFS: Riesling?
RL: No, whistling (where we were talking  was loud.)
CFS: Whistling
RL: People who make noise and whistling for no reason, uhhh!
CFS: So people walking down the street whistling for no reason annoy you?
RL: Drives me crazy.
CFS: Did this come from something as a child?
RL: No, it’s pointless noise.
CFS: Do you like music?
RL: Ya, love it
CFS: But if it’s in the song?
RL: Ew no! pointless noise.
CFS: Is it because they seem happy?
RL: (Laughs)No
CFS: So you hate the 7 dwarves – whistle while you work – Hate’m
RL: (laughs)
CFS: God forbid you have children and they want to whistle!
RL: (laughs) no it’s pointless if I’m having a conversation with you – don’t whistle and make pointless noise. Just keep your mouth closed.
CFS: Do you often have conversations where people make noise or whistle at you?
RL: No
CFS: If I was sitting here bored whistling…
RL: It would drive me insane.
CFS: Good to know for the future.

12. What is new on your DVR? Do you have a DVR?
RL: I don’t have a tv but I’ve downloaded things recently – Dexter, Game of Thrones
CFS: Winter is coming
RL: (Laughs) I know…oh and Breaking Bad!

13. Dish on the menu at Sixteen you eat most?
RL: I’m not allowed to eat here like that.
CFS: If you could what would it be
RL: The langoustine is fantastic – I like all of Thomas’ food it’s really good.

14. Is there a Holy Grail of wines that you would want to taste?
RL: Really old chave hermitage.
CFS: Specific vintage?
RL: (Laughs) As many as I can get.

15. If you could be a winemaker, what region of the world would you go to?
RL: Loire, no Rhone
CFS: You’ve never been to the Rhone. So you’d go to a region you’ve never been to.
RL: Yes

16. Which chef would you want to go work for again – Thomas Keller, Grey Kunz or Gordon Ramsay?
Grey Kunz, no doubt.

17. What’s the end goal for the Trump wine list?
RL: Ultimately, I’d like a Grand Award but that’s hard to do.
CFS: Is it possible to do when you’re in a place like this where people are actually going to buy the wine so it can’t stay on the list?
RL: I have some great purveyors and can at least get the same maker if not the same vintage.

18. With a diverse and accomplished academic background, how does that influence your day to day when working with wine?
I used to joke art school was a waste of time and money. But, I think that experience translates and reflects well. It’s hard to describe but I know it’s there. Food studies is obvious and I was lucky to be around some teachers that were the top in the field. It all intertwines somehow.

19. There are a few YouTube videos of you talking wine while you’ve worked at 16 will the “series” continue?
(Laughs) Oh god… I always feel uncomfortable when I’m on camera.

20. Favorite wine list in Chicago that isn’t at Trump?
RL: Should I go extreme high end? Interesting? Hmmm…Sepia I know I’ll get a good wine.
CFS: I’ll let you go with the safe answer.
RL: (Laughs)

21. You got the highest score in your class of those who passed the sommelier exam. Have you always been a “straight A” student?
RL: Never
CFS: So this was the one time you got great grades?
RL: (Laughs) Yes. I coasted through high school and didn’t have to try hard to get by. It’s the one time I’ve been focused and passionate about something. That is an amazing feeling. It’s not an easy test and it’s funny with all these guys and I was the one with the high score.

22. With more females sitting and becoming sommeliers. Do you feel the glass ceiling has broken in the industry? How has Chicago played a part in that?
I don’t think there should ever be a glass ceiling. I think you can either do it or you can’t. I’m not one to be “Female Power!” I’m not that person. I do it because I love this and it’s something I’m good at so I put my head down and work. I’m not oblivious to there being a lot of men and know we’re less represented.

23. How often do you correct people on how to spell your first name?
(Laughs) All the time

Thanks again for taking the time Rachael…you can get me that hush money next time I see ya! I also sent Rachael this video to gauge her reaction – she’d never seen it. Funny thing is she heard it a week later – I thankfully was not harmed!

If you liked these 20 questions, check out the how Ryan Poli, Francis Brenna, Giuseppe Tentori, Charlie McKenna, Chris Pandel , Michael Muser, Curtis Duffy , Rob Katz/Kevin Boehm, Michael Taus, Chris Curren, Patricio Sandoval, Bill Terlato, Matthias Merges , Vic Perdue, Sheila O’Grady, Adam Rapoport, Andrew Knowlton, Jeff Kauck, Nicole Pederson, Ce Bian, Seth Zurer, Revae Schneider and Ina Pinkney answered.

Joe is a Chicago based food blogger and his blog is called the Chicago Food Snob. Joe also contributes to Eater Chicago. You can find him on twitter at @chifoodsnob.

Leave a comment