The Forks blog

Spoon, Salt land DC dining heavyweights

Written by Melissa McCart on

John WabeckLevel three sommelier John Wabeck will join Spoon in East Liberty this month as wine director/sommelier. He comes to Pittsburgh via the Washington, D.C., area with his girlfriend Melissa Horst, who started as general manager at Salt of the Earth in Garfield on New Years Day. The arrival of these two restaurant heavyweights will add serious depth to the region's dining community. 

Mr. Wabeck and Ms. Horst hail from Eat Good Food Group, an Alexandria, Va.-based collective from James Beard-nominated Cathal Armstrong and his wife, Meshelle, as well as partner and cocktail maven, Todd Thrasher.

Mr. Wabeck, who was nominated among the nation's best sommeliers in 2010 by Food and Wine, steered the wine program for fine dining mecca Restaurant Eve -- rated 4 stars by Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post -- and the group's newest sibling, Society Fair. Ms. Horst had been the beverage director for The Majestic Cafe and at Virtue Feed and Grain

Between now and February, Mr. Wabeck will commute between Alexandria and Pittsburgh, during which he will "learn the Commonwealth," said Spoon chef and proprietor Brian Pekarcik, citing differences in wine purchasing in Pennsylvania's state-run program.  His last day at Society Fair is Jan. 31.

Mr. Wabeck brings with him years of D.C.-based executive chef experience, his vocation prior to his transition to wine. "This extensive back-of-the-house experience will really add to wine pairings," said Mr. Pekarcik. 

Mr. Wabeck also is regarded for educating other Washington-area sommeliers and servers through Sunday or Monday tastings. 

In a post on message board donrockwell.com entitled, "Washington, DC Says Farewell To Perhaps Its Greatest All-Around Restaurant Talent," Washington restaurant power player and writer Don Rockwell broke the news today. Here's an excerpt:

I asked him, "Will you chef there?" "Nope, their chef is Brian Pekarcik," and he's better than me." "Will you cook back-up?" "Nope." "Run the front of the house?" "Nope, I'm just going to be sommelier -- it's a dream job."

I wonder if Spoon fully realizes just what a talent they're about to pick up in John Wabeck. His tastes in wine have evolved so much in the 10+ years I've known him. He ferrets out these fantastic, obscure, inexpensive wines from around the world that are calibrated *exactly* to my palate, and he is as good at this as anyone. Spoon, if you're out there reading this, you have a truly gifted professional coming your way. Your win, our loss.

Star Chefs photo





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