Cheryl Wakerhauser from Pix Patisserie tells what being featured in The World of Fine Wine for the third year running means to her, her fundamental philosophy on food and wine, and what is next for her.
Congratulations on being featured in the World of Fine Wine Awards 2016. The awards, chaired by WOFW editor Neil Beckett, celebrate the importance of a good wine selection and are evaluated by a panel of senior judges. How does it feel to be recognized by industry insiders in this way?
Well this is the third year I have won, the first year I was in shock, the second year I was amazed and this year, I feel proud – all the hard work that my staff and myself have put in, to be a part of this list and the fact there’s a publication that recognises all the hard work we put together is just awesome and I feel really proud of what we have accomplished.
Where did your love of fine wine originate from?
That’s a funny question because when I started my restaurant 15 years ago I was more into Belgium beer and I didn’t really know much about wine! I always wanted to learn so I began taking classes and I really just started liking bubbles a lot. I was always disappointed that people didn’t want to buy my bubbles except for special occasions and leading up to new years, Christmas and so on. So I decided to put together this event called the ‘bubble spectacular’ and I wanted to do it in January to get people to drink sparkling wine in January – I think that’s where my love of wine originated from, teaching people about it.
Was it always your intention to work with fine wine?
Not really, I just started out as a patisserie making French deserts and I came back to Portland and I decided to open a patisserie and pair Belgium beers with it. Now I realise there are many wines that match very well with patisseries.
What Food/Wine trends are you seeing in Portland?
I like to look at other places for trends and travel a lot or read and then I like to come back and start my own trends in Portland. A lot of things we do weren’t done in Portland before – my wine list is obviously unique throughout the entire world but especially in Portland .Even with desserts I started selling macaroons 10 years ago and no one knew what a macaroon was. They were all into the cupcake trend but now we sell tons and tons of macaroons, but I travel a lot and bring the trends back to Portland. What I have particularly noticed in Portland is all things Spanish, especially Sherry and Conservas!
What is your fundamental philosophy on food and champagne?
Many people presume all dessert and champagne go well together – but not all dessert and all champagne go great together and as far as pairing with desserts go. One thing to know is that not all desserts are sweet, like in pies and cupcakes that tend to be heavy on the sugar so usually it has to be balance. A nice champagne has good acidity and can really help cut through heavily fat desserts such as mousses. The key for good pairing is for the dessert to not be too sweet to begin with.
What would you predict for the next 5-10 years in food and wine industry?
In the next 10 years, a lot more people will be working in vineyards and making their own champagne. I think also that the public will realise Champagne doesn’t only have to be consumed on special occasions and in fact wine pairs well with every part of the meal and it’s not just to drink on a holiday. There is room for champagne anytime, you can drink it on the patio, with your meals, drink it when the World of Fine Wine calls you up and says you’ve won for a third year in a row. You can drink champagne all the time!
What do you think is the most important element of a good wine list?
There’s many, for me – I like to keep the list accessible and affordable, I will strive to serve wines to the average customer who doesn’t come across it every day, so we want to show them something new. So not only do we offer a spectrum of wines but we also try and keep our prices of good value and offer wine options for all budgets but at all levels of pricing. I keep the prices competitive. I don’t want to have wines that just stay in the cellar because they are too expensive, I want people to drink and enjoy them.
Are there any particular wines/champagnes that you love or remind you of a certain place or memory?
I remember travelling and drinking different champagnes in 2011, so every time I open up a bottle of champagne from a producer I have visited it really brings back memories of the person, the philosophy of the wine , what they do and what their wine means to them. It’s nice remembering the visit.
What is next for you?
The restaurant business takes a lot out of you; I’ve been doing it for about 15 years so I will begin the countdown to retirement at some point. For now, I like change and I like the excitement of something new so before the 6 years and 22 days to retirement, I’m going to change it all up and I’m not sure as to what yet but I’m thinking small internet classes on wine and patisserie as I have renovated my garage into a commercial kitchen. So again, learning and teaching.