NEW SOMMELIER GROUP AIMS TO BRING BACK HONORS FROM THE SOMMELIER WORLD CUP
by Andrew Chalk
The Best USA Sommelier Competition (BUSA) is a new organisation established with one specific goal in mind: to win the sommelier equivalent of the World Cup. That competition, hosted by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI), has never been won by an American and some top US sommeliers see that as a shortcoming of U.S. preparation for the triennial event.
The U.S. had the same problems in the culinary equivalent competition, the Bocuse d’Or. That was fixed when Thomas Keller (proprietor of The French Laundry) was engaged as a drill sergeant to get the team into shape. BUSA may be viewed as playing the same role for the sommelier team.
The ASI global finals are in 2023 so they are preparing well ahead of time. Doug Frost M.S., M.W., one of the organizers, hopes to hold a domestic national competition each year with the winners from the two years prior to the global competition comprising the two members of the U.S. national team.
BUSA is casting its net wide to encourage sommeliers from all groups to apply. Any sommelier interested should go to www.BestUSASommelier.com and look out for announcements about contests to compete for the national finals. As for the format, Frost says he thinks service should be the most important component, but he is still in discussions with ASI about that.
This renewed focus on the sommelier as a professional comes against a background of the most difficult times. First, the pandemic may have furloughed or repurposed half the profession according to some estimates and Frost sees the possibility that some of those jobs will never come back. He fears hospitality could emerge as a 'barbell' industry in which there are a few high-end restaurants that do re-employ a wine specialist and many casual establishments of one sort or another that have essentially no interest in wine. The chef-driven, single-site, mid-range field will be hollowed out. Second, prior to the pandemic, the data showed that we were past ‘peak wine’ as consumers shifted to cocktails and craft beer.
Frost sees the somm covering the cocktail and beer programs with increased training roles.
The full press release announcing the formation of BUSA follows below.