Restaurant Diaries is a weekly series featuring four different people working in the industry. Every week you hear from one of them, from a farmer in Winters, California to a line chef in Denver. This week’s diary writer is Kyla Peal, one of the co-founders of Slik wines, an experimental winemaking platform, on how to fight self-doubt when starting something new.
When the pandemic broke out, I was a server and trainer for love in Chicago. My friend Marie Cheslik was Elskes Wine Director. After we both left the restaurant (for personal reasons) she came up with the idea of starting a wine club. We were sitting on her porch one afternoon when she pulled out a large white board that listed the pros and cons. We just sat there for a while and realized we had more disadvantages than advantages. Our conversation went on to what we knew, what was missing in the world of wine and fine dining – diversity, equity and inclusion – and how we could develop a platform to support the wine and hospitality community. Our friend Danielle Norris, a wine rep, came aboard shortly thereafter and in August last year. Slik wines was born.
I was introduced to wine early in my career while working in an upscale Texas steak house. That experience taught me exactly how not to teach people about wine. Our manager, who was the restaurant’s wine instructor, regularly demeaned the staff when they asked questions he thought were stupid or when we didn’t speak with perfectly precise wine vocabulary. I’m not easily intimidated, but the truth is, this type of teaching style can really put a lot of people off learning about wine.
When tasting wine in a group, you need to feel safe exploring. If you are far away or you guessed the wrong grape, that’s fine. That’s the whole point. Here’s How You Learn. Blind tastings really are a time for nosy drinkers to find out what they like and what they don’t, so they can shop for wine conveniently and safely. This is how we approach wine education at Slik Wines. We’re making wine accessible and accessible as we uplift people and build a more inclusive wine community.
I’ve worked in restaurants all my life. When I worked at Elske, the dining room was my domain and I felt that my energy was magnetic. With the connectivity of the restaurant’s dining room, body language said more than a thousand words. I took pride in taking even the smallest of clues to make people feel comfortable and let them go with big smiles. Maybe I took these little things for granted because when transitioning to Slik it was a little more difficult to convey my personality over the phone, a Zoom call, and emails. I initially struggled to transfer my communication style to the new methods we have to deal with today.
I guess I thought I would be really, really good at my new role right away like before. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. My transition came with a learning curve that was steeper than I expected and that was slowly draining my confidence.