In April 2019, Master Sommelier June Rodil moved to Houston from Austin to become a partner in the Goodnight Hospitality restaurant group, which includes Goodnight Charlie’s, Montrose Cheese and Wine, and Rosie Cannonball. The Houston Press spoke late last week with the former TexSom “best sommelier in Texas” about what her company is doing to help fellow wine professionals and restaurant workers in need.
The group’s “community box,” with roughly three days’ worth of food, is available to anyone who needs it every Saturday at 2 p.m. at Rosie Cannonball at 1620 Westheimer (at Kuester). The partners prepare and distribute 100 boxes each week. Rodil recommends lining up at 1:30 p.m. to ensure availability. “No questions asked," she said. "We just don’t want anyone to go hungry.”
HP: First of all, how are you and your family doing?
JR: We’re good. We’re in an okay place. But it’s obviously extremely anxiety-ridden. We’re taking it a day at a time and staying as positive as possible.
HP: How are things going at Goodnight Hospitality these days?
We’re devoting a lot of time to doing community outreach.
Every Saturday we do what we call a “community box.” It’s kind of like a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] box but there are also dry goods and beverages in there. We know that it always kind of eases the pain a little bit, too. So we have a pretty nice box.
It’s a collaboration with our vendors, who are donating as well. We do 100 boxes a week. And what’s in the box all depends on what are partners can donate. We work with a farm called Good Thyme Farm, a not-for-profit, that’s going to harvest anyway. They, and their friends as well, they’re donating whatever they can. There’s a lot of greens. There’s carrots. Kale. Last week we had wild sorrel, which is really cool. Fennel bulbs, radishes. It kind of depends on what they are harvesting that week. And then we usually have some dried pasta or rice. Last week Magnol Bakery donated a loaf of bread. We really want the boxes to last for three days. So we try to make them as hefty as possible because we’re only able to do this once a week.
Our whole management team comes in once a week to hand out the boxes. My business partner and I coordinate the vendors.
HP: Who are the boxes intended for?
JR: They are people from the entire industry. From dishwashers to sommeliers. We send out a blast to our chef friends and restaurant owners. And we tell them to let their entire team go. Anyone who needs one.
HP: Are all of your concepts currently closed?
JR: What we started this week, which was amazing, was we opened Montrose Cheese and Wine for pick up. We have a provisions box to sell to the public. It’s $50 a box. And for every box you purchase, there’s an additional box that we donate to someone in need. “Buy one, give one” is what it says in our newsletter. This allows us the continuity of purchasing and giving money to the vendors as well as being able to continue donations. It circulates the economics.
HP: You’re a Master Sommelier, a leader in the industry, and role model for many up-and-coming wine professionals. What’s your advice to sommeliers as they navigate the challenges of the ongoing health crisis?
JR: It’s definitely hard. In a restaurant setting, you always think of the somm position as the most adaptable in a restaurant. When you’re a somm, you should be able to be a busser, to be a server, to be an expediter, as well as a sommelier. So this is kind of a time to try to be as adaptable as possible.
If I were going through testing [for the Advanced or Master Sommelier Exam, for example], I would probably be studying, quite frankly. I would take the time to establish a study program if I could. I know it’s hard, mentally, to do that when you’re so worried about the lull. But if you take a least one or two hours to do that every day, then you’re doing something for your future.
There’s so many people doing webinars [with their guests]. We did a webinar with a local charity group called “I’ll Have What She’s Having.” It was a wine and cheese pairing seminar. People are so willing to give because it was a form of entertainment, an opportunity to actually learn something. We delivered the cheese and wine to them and then we were able to hang out, even thought it was just through a computer. It’s a way to showcase your skills to a new audience as well. And it’s a way to continue having a connection with your guests. It’s something that I miss day to day. I love my team and we are able to text, we’re able to talk on the phone. But you don’t always see guests. So being able to do that was really helpful. It was great for our cheese monger as well.
I know that there’s a lot of people who have applied at grocery stores as well. Helping with stocking, helping with the retail sector. That’s something that’s bustling right now. It’s something that you can be doing in the community.