Mark Massicotte, executive chef at the Vancouver Convention Centre, recently earned his certification as a sommelier. He is just the second duo chef and sommelier in Canada. (Courtesy Vancouver Convention Center)
If serving locally sourced foods at events ever was just a trend, it’s one that is here to stay. The Vancouver Convention Centre extends its championing of local artisans to its wine selection, serving only wines from British Colombia as part of its catering services.
“A lot of people haven’t really heard about [BC wines], especially international crowds,” Mark Massicotte, the center’s executive chef, told Convene. “Yes, British Columbia has wines. And yes, they are world-class wines.”
Massicotte should know. He recently was certified as a sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers – Americas. He is only the second person in Canada to be recognized as both a certified chef de cuisine and a certified sommelier. (He also holds a bachelor of hospitality degree.)
The biggest advantage to having the double certification, Massicotte said, is credibility and trust. “When clients come in,” he said, “they see instantly that I’m serious about what I do. I love what I do. So I think that translates into my discussions with them about wine and food.”
Chef Mark Massicotte also oversees the F&B service at LOT185 Café + Wine Bar, which is adjacent to the Vancouver Convention Centre. The restaurant’s tuna salad, like much of the food at LOT185, is a version of the convention center menu items.
Serious indeed. The final sommelier exam he passed lasted an entire day, beginning with an 8:30 a.m. blind tasting of two white wines and two reds in which he had to identify the grape, where it is from, and the age range within 30 minutes. Next, he took a long-answer and multiple-choice test. That afternoon, he had to do a service test — the “hardest part of the exam” he said. He had to serve wine in a fictional restaurant scenario — his was a fusion restaurant that was focusing on wine flights — while being peppered with questions about the wines, the food, the pairings, or anything else at the fake restaurant. A master sommelier watched and graded him.
“It was very intense,” Massicotte told Convene. “It’s only 20 minutes, but it felt like hours.”
The chef is looking forward to bringing his long-time passion for wine to his work, where he said he now can provide “one-stop shopping” for clients who wish to pair wines with their event meals that, for the most part, use ingredients sourced from British Columbia vendors, farms, and fisheries.
For example, the center’s miso-glazed sable fish with a shiitake mushroom sauce, which Massicotte said is “becoming our signature dish,” is entirely a product of British Columbia. “The sable fish is a really rich and unctuous fish. It’s very juicy and the flavor is just — it’s intoxicating, really,” he said.
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Should clients request an international wine to pair with their meals, Massicotte will suggest an equivalent British Columbia wine, something he feels even more confident doing now that he is a certified sommelier.
“People may not be familiar with the names,” he said. “When we’re talking about the wines, I can teach them something about how they’re made, our climate, and how they relate to other wines around the world.”
Massicotte predicts he’ll be doing more teaching as a current food trend — diners seeking out unusual ingredients — makes its way to wines.
Curt Wagner is an associate editor at Convene.