Sommelier Roundtable: How Do You Stay Fit and Healthy?

In a job that involves a lot of drinking, eating, stress and unusual hours, these 11 wine pros stay in shape—here's how
Sommelier Roundtable: How Do You Stay Fit and Healthy?
From mountaineering to toddler-wrangling, somms stay active. (iStockPhoto)
Nov 30, 2018

Restaurant work at the highest level of service is notoriously grueling, but the job of sommelier is particularly suited to taxing one's health: lugging cases up and down from the cellar, racing from table to table bearing knowledge and bottles, long hours late into the night, days of wine tasting that blur into dinners and then parties. Add in the challenges of raising young families and an industry-wide vitamin-D deficiency, and it's easy to see why self-care is necessary for wine pros.

Here, 11 somms and chefs from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners share their workout and fitness regimens, from yoga to rock-climbing, golf to marathon-running, and discuss how their activities have made them healthier and happier. But these routines aren't just for restaurant workers—you casual connoisseurs of the good life may find some handy tips too!

Wine Spectator: How do you stay in shape/healthy in a job that often involves a lot of eating, drinking, stress and unusual hours? Do you play any sports or have any fitness hobbies?

Anncherie Saludo, beverage director at Award of Excellence winner L'Artusi in New York

I do a lot of heavy lifting and run a lot of stairs at L'Artusi, so fitness is already built into my workday. When the weather is warmer, I like to cycle around Brooklyn and to work. To further stay in shape, I really pay attention to what I'm eating and when. I typically don't eat breakfast, so I splurge more on lunch than other meals in the day, and I avoid heavy meals late at night.

As for alcohol, I make sure to take days off. I think this moderation is very important for me. Tasting for work is unavoidable, but I can easily forgo a nightcap or two if it meant I'd be sacrificing a good night's rest before an early inventory day. To cope with stress, massages are definitely key. I also like to lose myself in quiet projects like knitting, or call my best ladies to let loose for a raucous night out on the town.

Daniel Humm and Cedric Nicaise, chef/owner and wine director of Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park in New York:

Humm, on the restaurant group's Make It Nice running club: What started as a small group of our team running occasionally has turned into something so much more with the Make It Nice Running Club. We now have a couple dozen runners from all different positions at our New York–based restaurants running together on a weekly basis, many of whom went on to run the NYC Marathon this year. It’s really deepened the bond we all have—taking time to connect as a team, do something good for our bodies and push ourselves in different ways.

Courtesy of Daniel Humm
The Make It Nice Running Club puts the "ran" in "Grand Award."

Nicaise: I try to stay as active as possible. I am friends with a group of very active people; we play soccer, or volleyball or other sports from time to time. I’ve been introduced to an amazing fitness community through my wife and have friends that are trainers or coaches. I use the gym in my building as often as I can find the willpower, and ride SoulCycle from time to time.

Luciano De Riso, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Grand Old House in George Town, Cayman Islands

I drink a lot of water, especially when I drink wine. Being in the Caribbean also allows me to go to the beach a lot for swims. How I stay fit, though, is all due to running around and chasing my 3 1/2-year-old child, which also releases my stress and induces me to drink more when he finally goes to sleep.

Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Allora in Sacramento, Calif.

It’s always a battle! I have the fortunate double-whammy: I married a chef, so it is difficult to a whole new degree, because I don’t escape delicious food or being fed. I spend my time tap-dancing at home or practicing yoga. Yoga, in my humble opinion, is very beneficial for hospitality professionals. The stresses of the day-to-day, standing on hard surfaces, the stiffness/dehydration cramps that drinking too much brings … can all be saved by yoga. It’s a good way to focus on the task in front of me versus future-tripping about the evening’s service. I often find the feeling I have on my mat follows me well into service, and I am better physically and mentally for it.

Carlin Karr, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo.

It is really hard to stay healthy in the restaurant industry. For me, eating healthfully, not drinking any alcohol at least two to three nights per week, and working out are very important for my physical and mental health. Over the last two years, I lost 45 pounds by modifying my lifestyle and making sure I am conscientious of my energy levels and mood. I do a quick, 30- to 40-minute workout three to five times a week first thing in the morning. Cheesy enough, I do Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson videos at home, because they are super-convenient and have been really effective for me. I always have a better day on the days I work out.

Seán Gargano, wine director at Award of Excellence winner The Legal Eagle in Dublin, Ireland

I don't stay in shape. The only exercise I get is carrying cases of wine up three flights of stairs. I'm not proud of it, but it's the truth.

Richard Nielsen, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Angel Oak at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The great thing about being a sommelier is that you are both physically and mentally challenged. You rarely miss out on daylight, particularly in Santa Barbara, where the weather is perfect. On any given day I like to go golfing, rock-climbing, surfing or hiking. The biggest challenge is diet—take what you can get!

Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner The NoMad in New York

I try to squeeze in a little time running, and a bit at the gym, to try and stay in shape. An ideal workout would be running a 5k, which I can do in about 20 minutes, followed by another 20 to 30 minutes of light weight-lifting. The balance of cardio and weights keeps me feeling both strong and energized for a long day of restaurant and wine work. With two kids now, it’s a bit more challenging to find the time, but I’ll take it when I can get it!

Richard Hanauer, beverage director for Chicago-based RPM Restaurants, including Best of Award of Excellence winner RPM Steak and two locations of RPM Italian

For whatever reason, whenever I was studying for sommelier exams, I had great success with retaining information while on a bike or treadmill. Eventually, going to the gym became synonymous with studying. When not in test mode, I like to start my workday at the gym reading the restaurant reports from the night before.

I love golf! It's one of the rare sports where one can finish a bottle of both red and white before the game is complete.

Alex LaPratt, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winners Beasts & Bottles and Atrium Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Self care is underappreciated in our industry, if it's on anyone's radar at all. The physical demands of our jobs are intense and, when coupled with the hours that are both long and finish late, create a perfect storm that can quite easily lead to a downward spiral of staying out late, eating around or after midnight, drinking too much and not getting enough sun, along with looking at more destructive avenues for stress release, be it alcohol, drugs or whatever.

For years, this really bothered me, as what I wanted—to be in good shape and be healthy, happy and confident—was at odds with my lifestyle outlined above. So I began devoting more attention to my personal life. I avoid staying out late drinking, save on special occasions, and wake up early and start my routine, which is as follows:

Courtesy of Alex LaPratt
Alex LaPratt brought the gym to him.

I don't eat, as I'm practicing intermittent fasting. So I'll fast for 16 to 18 hours and then eat within that six- to eight-hour window, and back to fasting. I drink a good amount of coffee to wake me up and curb my appetite. I don't have time to go to the gym, so I have decided to bring the gym to me. I've set up in my new apartment a pull-up bar, rings, a dip station, plyometric box, exercise ball, a couple kettle bells and added in a weighted vest, jump rope and a few [other] odds and ends. This allows me to do a full-body workout every other day and increase joint health and flexibility, which I've found to be key as I've aged and am running up and down stairs, carrying boxes, working in tight spaces, etc. On the off days, I'll often fill in with a one- to two-hour cardio session, most often on my bike. I'll ride over to Prospect Park and do three to five laps, and back to my apartment.

I've found that I have so much more energy, am happier and certainly in much better shape. My overall attitude is a bit more Zen, even though New York is so intensely stressful!

Another thing that I've found is that depression in this industry is widespread. We are starting to talk about it more and more. When I'm working out regularly and am being conscientious about what I'm eating, this becomes a non-issue for me. When I stay out late, drink too much, don't get enough sun … it gets bad.

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