Millennial Wine Group: The Next Generation of Wine

Meet Matt Ramos and Sean McGee, the creators of Millennial Wine Group. Their venture is taking wine education to the next level by connecting, interacting, and intriguing their followers. By breaking down the basics of wine, Matt and Sean make enjoying wine second nature.

Matt Ramos (left) and Sean McGee (right)

Matt Ramos (left) and Sean McGee (right)

Where are you from?

Matt: I grew up in Thousand Oaks, California and Sean is from San Francisco, CA.

How did you two meet?

Matt: I was down in Atlanta taking the Sommelier exam, and we all just got out of one portion of the exam. I spotted two guys who looked my age. Looking to blow off some steam and de-stress, I went up to talk to them. One of them ended up being Sean. We found out that we worked in fine dining restaurants less than a mile apart back in Nashville.

How did you become interested in wine?

Matt: My father has been a wine collector for a long time. He has a very extensive wine cellar, and I grew up around that lifestyle. Once I turned 21 he started sharing his wines with me. Having been in the fine dining industry for a while, I am naturally drawn to the wine-side of restaurants.

Sean: I initially became interested through my work at restaurants. I wanted to know more about the products I was selling. When I started to build a base of knowledge about the wines I realized how interesting it was and got bit by the wine bug.

How did you two come up with the idea for Millennial Wine Group?

Sean: Our friend runs a video producing company here in Nashville. We were helping him out and were discussing how nobody in a younger demographic was talking about wine. Immediately, we got the idea to create something for millennials to connect with wine via articles, blogs, and videos. Our product is not just for millennials, any generation can enjoy the information we are sharing. Millennials do, more than ever, make up a large majority of people who are drinking wine right now.

Matt: Going off of that, we wanted to bridge the gap between how the wine industry is being marketing to our generation. Our experience, knowledge, and age helps to fill that gap. We can explain to you that wine does not have to be an intimidating thing. A 23 or 24 year old can enjoy it too. We aim to create value for people when choosing wine.

What platforms are you using for Millennial Wine Group?

Sean: Right now, it is a YouTube channel that ties in with social media. The main goal of our content is to be both educational and entertaining. We give people quick ideas on bottles, cocktails, cigars, etc. Essentially, we are attempting to turn the beverage industry into a lifestyle rather than something intimidating. Millennial Wine Group creates a platform for people to interact via our blog, YouTube channel, and social media channels.

When did this first go live?

Sean: We started in mid-August.

What is your favorite wine?

Matt: That is one of the toughest questions. When I started studying for the Sommelier exams, I discovered a whole new world of wines that I never knew previously. I would say that my favorite wine becomes something I thought I would not like or something I have never tried. That opens up a whole new world of opportunity.

Sean: To put it really simply: French wine.

Have either of you visited wine destinations?

Matt: My parents now live in Napa and I try to make it out there 3-4 times a year.

Sean: Being from California, we have both done almost all of California’s wine regions. I recently explored some of Arizona’s wine regions and I also had the chance to visit wine regions in Australia.

What are some wine destinations you want to visit?

Sean: Definitely Europe. In particular France, Italy, and Spain.

Matt: In the near future, Willamette Valley in Oregon is next on my list.

What types of trends in the wine industry do you see happening right now?

Matt: I see a younger demographic consuming wine, specifically young professionals in their 20's.

Sean: Also, global warming is affecting the way wine grows now. Southern England is making sparkling wine, which never used to be a thing. With that, the style of wines are changing. They are more full-bodied, fruit-forward wines, and not so much lighter, delicate wines due to the climate.

What level sommelier are you?

Matt: We are both level 2 Sommeliers.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Sean: I’m going to answer for Matt. He is a big golfer, and you can find him golfing once a week. He enjoys getting outside, being active, going to the lake. I, personally, love the craft cocktail scene. Through Millennial Wine Group, we want to touch on the craft cocktail scene in Nashville. We experiment all the time with craft cocktails at home.

With Sean as a current Kayne Prime team member and Matt as a former one, what is your favorite part about M Street?

Sean: They create a big platform for employees to be successful with ventures like ours. They provide a really nurturing environment for employees to be grow both personally and as a group. They have supported Millennial Wine Group and our passion by letting us film episodes there. They just have really helped us grow.

Matt: The educational courses they put in place and the opportunity to interact with people is incredible. Those opportunities ultimately led us to the idea of Millennial Wine Group.

Who are some of your wine role models?

Sean: Rajat Parr. He is a famous sommelier and now a wine maker who makes three different wines. He is an ultimate icon in the wine industry.

Matt: Brian McClintock. He used to be a baseball player and became a Master Sommelier. While he was playing baseball, he was also working in restaurants, so he is very relatable. He is a cool, young guy at the pinnacle of the wine industry.

What are your ultimate goals with Millennial Wine Group?

Sean: I want to see Millennial Wine Group be as successful as possible, and then diversify ourselves. Whether that be a wine label, a wine show, or something else, I am excited for our future.

Matt: The wine industry is constantly changing, so we never know what the trends will be like in say, ten years. We have to change with it.

With Millennial Wine Group on our radar, we will be sure to turn to Matt and Sean's expertise the next time we are looking for a robust red, a refreshing white, or a trendy craft cocktail. Cheers!

Where to find Millennial Wine Group:

Website: http://www.millennialwinegroup.com

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiyqF51X9xGucw8hLq9obg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MillennialWineGroup/

Blog: http://www.millennialwinegroup.com/blog

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/millennialwinegroup/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/millennialwine_

 

M Street Introductions: Amy Estrada

Introducing Amy Estrada: musician, songwriter, singer, and member of the M Street family. With a heart of gold, her compassion shines through everything that she does. We are so excited to be alongside Amy as she walks down her musical path.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised on a farm in Atascadero, California.

What brought you to Nashville?

I wanted to take the next step in my career, so I moved here in 2012. I knew that moving to Nashville was best to further my writing.

What inspired you to start singing?

My mom taught me how to sing. She used to sing to me and play all types of music for me, especially Country music. I grew up singing and have been singing my entire life.

Do you play any instruments?

I taught myself how to play the guitar at 18. I also dabble in the mandolin, ever since my mom bought me one a couple years ago. I definitely want to get better at it because mandolin is on my record.

Tell us about your new album you just recorded.

In March, I recorded my first major project Wildflowers and Whiskey at RCA Studio A. RCA Studio A is a historic and famous studio. Dolly Parton recorded one of my all-time favorite songs there, “Jolene”. Willie Nelson and Elvis have also recorded there. Most recently, some of my greatest influences Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, and Chris Stapleton recorded their albums in Studio A.

Wildflowers and Whiskey is such a special project to me because it consists of songs that I have been working on for the past four and a half years living in Nashville. I actually wanted to record my album last year, but it did not work out. I am convinced it is because one of the songs, “Maybe It’s the Moonshine”, was not written yet. Recording my album has been such an incredible journey with friends who helped to collaborate throughout the process.

We finally released the album during the end of July, and since then it has really gotten a huge positive response from listeners. You can find it on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora Radio.

Who inspires you musically?

I have all kinds of influences. Some that come to mind are Dolly Parton, Alison Kraus, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, and Miranda Lambert. Also, I love the truth behind Merle Haggard’s writing. I am a very lyrically-driven person, so my influences mainly speak to me because of their writing.

What is your favorite song on your album?

Ah! That is so hard. They are all like my babies. I would have to say either “Maybe It’s the Moonshine” or “Wildflowers and Whiskey”. I mean, “Wildflowers and Whiskey” is the title song and it is so important to the album. I have held onto the hook and the idea around that song for so long. When I finally co-wrote it with two of my dear friends, it came together beautifully. “Maybe It’s the Moonshine” is the perfect summer song.

What is your favorite song of all time?

Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” because of the depth and heartache behind it. There is so much emotion evoked from that song. “Holding onto You” by Miranda Lambert is also one of my favorites. It is so vulnerable, open, and honest.

What is your favorite genre?

Country. That is what I grew up listening to. It resonates with me because I am a very lyrically-drawn person, and country lyrics are so open and truthful. Also, I love the instrumentation that goes along with country like the dobro, steel guitar, and mandolin.

It is interesting because my singing style is not just Country, just Americana, or just Bluegrass. When people ask me what my style is, I answer with Country-Americana.

What is your favorite M Street memory?

I have been with Tavern for almost 2 years, so there are tons of great memories. Probably the one that is most dear to me is when a guest from out of town helped contribute to funding my record. Every day at Tavern, I meet people that are truly intrigued with my passion for music. I have met some wonderful people through M Street and it is definitely the culture and atmosphere here that cultivates these conversations. Of all the people I have met, so many have helped support my dream, whether it be contributing to my music in monetary ways, sharing my music on Facebook, or buying a CD.

What is your favorite Tavern cocktail?

My favorite drink is the Smoke and Sage.

What is your favorite Tavern meal?

The Singapore Stir-fry during brunch.

Do you have any exciting musical events coming up?

Yes! I will be performing at Belle Meade Plantation winery on September 17th. This is my first performance there since the release of my album. Toward the end of this month, I will be holding an EP release show in Nashville. The date is not set yet, but you can follow me on Facebook to find out the exact date once I have picked one.

I would absolutely love to be featured on a local radio station. It would be so cool to hear my music somewhere like the Bobby Bones show.

What do you do during your free-time other than singing/songwriting?

In addition to all aspects of music (singing, writing, playing), I collect antiques. I have a very cute one bedroom apartment that is full of antiques. My family has a lavender farm in California, and my apartment is modeled after that vintage, industrial, farmhouse vibe. I have a small vintage camera collection that I am building on. I am constantly antiquing, going to yard sales, and finding things to refurbish and reuse. I have a lot of fun doing that here.

Amy’s passion for both music and the M Street culture is remarkable. Her talent extends beyond the walls of Tavern, and watching her future unfold here in Nashville is extremely exciting. To listen to Amy’s music over and over again, visit iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora Radio. You can now create an “Amy Estrada” station on Pandora. For all updates on Amy’s musical journey visit her website at amyestradamusic.com.

M Street Introductions: Jason Slimak

In the kitchen or on the restaurant floor, Executive Chef Jason Slimak always steals the show. His energy and positive attitude are a constant source of inspiration for those around him. As both a friend and family member to the Saint Anejo team, Chef Jason’s passion for creating innovative fare is remarkable. Some might recognize Jason from his regular visits with tables, always making sure that his guests have been well fed and satisfied. We could not be more excited to share his story with you.  

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois.

How did you become interested in cooking?

God bless her soul, my mother could burn water. So, I started cooking for us at an early age. It was a way for us to learn and be together with family in the kitchen.

How did you end up in Nashville?

I moved here a little over four years ago. I was looking for something different and decided to try out Nashville because it has an up-and-coming food scene. Two days after I landed in Nashville, I met with M Street.

What was your journey with M street like?

After I had my interview, I starting working at Whiskey Kitchen as a Sous Chef. Chris Hyndman (M Street's CEO) was looking for an Executive Chef just prior to opening his Saint Anejo concept. He realized that I had been the Executive Chef of De Cero Taqueria in Chicago, one of his favorite Mexican restaurants, and asked me to join the team.

What’s your favorite part about working for M Street?

The amount of creative freedom I have in the kitchen. It is so awesome that we are able to share our ideas with Chris. He is open to our creativity and is always willing to provide feedback.

What is your favorite menu item?

I would have to say any of our burritos. They are big, fat, and amazing. The shrimp and mango quesadilla is also a favorite.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

Comfort food. Chicken pot pie, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, southern fried chicken. The good stuff that sticks to your ribs.

Do you like Tequila?

I love Anejo. I really like Bourbon, so naturally I like Anejo. Both Anejo and Bourbon are aged in white oak barrels.

What is your favorite Anejo?

Oh, goodness. (Turns to Saint’s bartender Lindie) "Lindie what’s the one Anejo you had me try that I loved?" Oh, it was Milagro Select Barrel Reserve.

What are some of your outside hobbies?

Legos. They help me relax and unwind from the stress of the kitchen and the office.

What’s your favorite Saint Anejo memory?

A few months ago during brunch I came out of the kitchen for a few minutes. I like to do my rounds to see how everything is going out on the floor. This young lady walked past me with a look like she was searching for the bathroom, but instead she stopped and said “are you the chef?” I said, “Yes, how can I help you?” She came over and gave me a hug and said, “Thank you, thank you. It is always amazing.” Stuff like that keeps me going. We do not really get recognized in the kitchen for what we do, so it was amazing.

What is something someone might not know about you?

I sleep eat. Apparently in the middle of the night I wake up and make food. Sometimes I will actually cook eggs.

Who is your mentor?

Anthony Bourdain. His adventures are absolutely incredible. The way that he started at the bottom in the kitchen and worked his way up reminds me of myself.

How did you start your culinary career?

I started off as a dishwasher in grade school and worked my way up. I have done every position in the kitchen, on the line, and in the front of house. I have been a bar manager, bartender, server, and busboy. I love cooking, so naturally I knew I wanted to go to culinary school. I always want to keep learning. I try to teach myself something new every day.

Have you ever been to Mexico?

Yes. I have been to a few places in Mexico. Most notably, I really enjoyed visiting Monterey and Zacateca. I love how the cuisines are different in the coast and the middle of the country. The moles, the beans, and the tortillas are all unique to the particular regions.

Executive Chef Jason’s love of cooking is the epitome of passion. His hunger to learn and create new, inventive dishes is continually growing. With an adoration for food, his work family, and Saint Anejo’s guests, Chef Jason serves as an incredible role model to his peers and the rest of the M Street family.

Mix It Up: The M Street Mixer (Mixology & Appetizer Competition)

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius.

This past weekend employees from M Street’s six concepts gathered together to share their creativity at the M Street Mixer Competition. With weeks of experimentation and preparation, each restaurant's team delivered incredible appetizers and cocktails that wowed the crowd of over 300 attendees.

Each concept assembled two teams, a chef team and a bartender team. In a “chopped”-inspired challenge, the chef teams were tasked with creating two appetizers, one using pork loin and the other using tofu. The bartender teams were challenged to think outside the box to craft two drinks, one with Mezcal and the other with a liquor of their choice.

Virago’s Chef Chloe and Chef Andrew took inspiration from Middle-Eastern cuisine to invent their "Persian Grilled Pork Loin with Cucumber Labna", which won the “Best Pork Loin Appetizer" category. For their tofu dish, the pair settled for something on the sweet side, offering the "Whipped Tofu with Yuzu and Blackberry in a Lace Cookie Shell" dessert.

Four talented bartenders from Virago, Cathy, Michael, Lauren, and Catherine, joined forces to mix two deliciously innovative cocktails. The "Toasted Tulip" was a Mezcal, yuzu, blueberry, and sage concoction, while the "Rhubarbara Ann" was a lavender, grapefruit, and rhubarb mix.

Whiskey Kitchen’s Chef Daniel and Chef Shane offered a fresh, summer "Blackberry BBQ Pork Loin". Chef Daniel’s life as a vegan helped him craft an amazing "Bourbon Peach Tofu Cheesecake".

Levi and Kenneth, two incredibly talented and hilarious bartenders from Whiskey Kitchen, put their minds together to create both the "Siesta en Nola", a savory Mezcal cocktail, as well as the "Plum Punctual".

Moto’s Chef Luke developed perfectly flavorful "Bahn Mi Focaccia Sliders". He paired with one of Moto's managers, Tristan, to prepare the crispy and delightful "Spinach Tofu Ravioli".

Christina, a Moto bartender, mixed a refreshing Mezcal cocktail, the "Anguria Shrubbed Granita", that conveyed hints of watermelon, sage, blackberry, lime, mint, and honey. Rayce, another one of Moto's talented bar staff, took home the "Best Cocktail" prize with his "Pimm’s Revenge" concoction, a mix of Pimm's, gin, lemon, rosemary, orange, strawberry, cucumber, cilantro, ginger ale, and Moretti.

Kayne Prime’s Sous Chef Steven put a new spin on the classic French doughnut with his "BBQ Pork Loin Beignet", winning him the title of the “Crowd Favorite Appetizer”. He embraced the summertime peach craze with his tofu "Peaches and Cream" dish.

David from Kayne Prime won 2nd place for “Best in Show” with his hypnotizing "Morning Smoke" drink. Created with Mezcal, banana syrup, coffee, and egg whites, this cocktail provided a flavorful kick. Kayne's bartenders Ben and Brian also crafted the "18th Century Dandy" cocktail with refreshing ingredients of honeydew and lime.

Tavern’s Sous Chef Michael prepared a perfectly sweet and savory "Braised Pork Loin with Watermelon Salad" as well as "Grilled Tofu Spring Rolls with Smoked Honey Sriracha". The spring rolls took the cake for “Best Tofu Appetizer” and 3rd place for “Best in Show”.

Lacey and Wes from Tavern joined forces to craft two memorable cocktails. The first, "Fire and Ice", won both “Best Mezcal Cocktail” and “Best in Show.” This grand-prize-winning cocktail was a mix of spicy Mezcal and refreshing mango puree. Their second cocktail, "The Carpenter", embodied hints of earl grey and black walnut.

Chef Travis from Saint Anejo embraced the Mezcal trend with his "Ancho Rub Mezcal Braised Pork Loin". He drew influence from Saint’s famously delicious tacos with his "Grilled Tofu Taco".

With faces adorned in sugar skull make-up, Linnea, Monica, Nikki, and Calum represented Saint Anejo while serving the blood orange and sweet vermouth infused "Hielo Humado". Linnea was awarded with the “Crowd Favorite Cocktail” prize for her "Blue Night" creation, a blueberry-themed cocktail.

The M Street family's bond always shines brightly through at events like this. From motivating each other to create unique cocktails and inspired dishes to congratulating one another on their awards, there was an undeniable air of gratitude and happiness at The M Street Mixer Competition this year.

Down the Rabbit Hole We Go...

"Look after the senses and the sounds will look after themselves." - Lewis Carroll

We became entangled in a mystical trance as we walked through the doors of Citizen. Melting clocks adorning the front walkway perfectly symbolized our perception of time melting away as we ventured further into the underground world of psychedelic sophistication. Larger-than-life playing cards and red roses dangled from the sky, welcoming us into the party.

We found ourselves drawn to the bar where a sea of glowing teacups were floating. Bottles that said “drink me” pulled us in closer. Dressed in black, the bartenders appeared as shadows working in the moonlight. One asked if we would like an absinthe shot, and without hesitation we nodded, retrieving a token and directions toward the emerald green glow of the specialty absinthe bar.

Finding our way to the source of the glow, a woman with golden hair smiled as we handed her the tokens. She mixed up an absinthe concoction in a beautiful crystal jar and poured two small flutes. As we imbibed the absinthe shot, we became mesmerized by the vines of flashing blue lights descending from the ceiling. The music caught our attention, and we made our way to the dance floor.

DJ KDSML’s mix vibrated through our bodies as we danced next to oversized red roses. Dancers dressed as Alice and the Mad Hatter surrounded the dance floor, elevating the mood.

We tucked away into a dark, intimate booth lit up with glowing red roses. As we viewed the party in front of us, we could not help but smile and fall deeper into a wonder-like daze.

As the night evolved, the line between reality and the world we had stumbled upon faded. Familiar smiles of close friends danced in and out of focus as the beats carried on into the night. Passing the sea of floating teacups and the wall of clocks, we said farewell to Alice and emerged from the rabbit hole into the night. A swift gust of humid summer air filled our lungs as if to awaken us from a dream. Groups of party-goers mingled under the glow of the streetlights waiting for their rides, each telling a similar tale of their entrancing experience.

M Street Introductions: Robert Rose

We sat down with Kayne Prime’s resident sommelier, Rob Rose, to hear his unique and inspiring story. Whether it is his impeccable eye for detail or his polished presence, Rob’s devotion to his craft is remarkable. He is constantly striving to challenge himself and further his education, especially in the realm of wine. Rob serves as both a role model for those he leads at Kayne Prime and a benchmark of professionalism and personal development for the entire M Street family.  

Describe your journey with M Street.

I had just returned from Afghanistan after serving in the army and was on the hunt for a job. Having done a lot of humanitarian aid work in the Army, I found that my previous work experience did not really translate into a definable job in Nashville. My friend suggested that I look into Kayne Prime as I was searching for a job. I started at Kayne in January of 2013 as a food runner and worked my way up to my current position. Currently, I serve as the Beverage Director at Kayne Prime and also as the Beverage Tech at M Street's support center where I develop the wine and spirits programs for our restaurant concepts.

How did you become interested in wine?

I never really had an appreciation for wine until I started working at Kayne Prime. It all started when I took my first wine course in the support center. I had worked at M Street for about two or three months when Chris Hyndman (M Street’s CEO) led a wine 101 course. Being my first interaction with learning about wine, I quickly realized that developing my knowledge of wine would be very useful for my job at Kayne Prime. I decided to take the introductory sommelier course following the wine class at M Street. Six months later, I got certified as a level two sommelier. I have been continuously working on my wine knowledge ever since.

What is your favorite wine?

Wow, that is so difficult. I have never met a wine I could not appreciate. This time of year, I like to drink Rieslings and high acid Whites that are crisp, cool, and not super heavy.

Where is your dream wine destination?

I would love to plan a trip to Australia and New Zealand to visit some vineyards there. They are always on the cutting edge of the wine world.

Which wine destinations have you already visited?

I have been out to California and Washington.

Do you have a favorite bottle of wine that Kayne Prime carries?

It would be so hard to choose a favorite. I hand select the wines that we put on the list, so I love each bottle for different reasons.

What is your favorite Kayne Prime menu item?

Oh, this is also tough! They are all ridiculously good. But, if I had to pick a favorite it would be the Farro Rigatoni. I seem to eat that quite a bit.

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What is something someone might know not about you?

A lot of people probably do not know that I am in the Army Reserve. Every year, I do training for three and a half weeks in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

How do you spend your time outside of M Street?

Most of my time is taken up by my daughter who is a year and half old. I try to spend every minute I get with her. I am also always studying wine, trying to get better at my job.

What is your favorite part about working for M Street?

The growth. I am so fortunate to be able to learn new things and have people take an interest in having me learn. I have never worked at a place where I have been encouraged to pursue anything I want as far as educating myself and having such limitless potential to move up. It is very rewarding.

Who is your mentor?

At M Street my mentor is Chef Bob (Kayne Prime's Executive Chef). He is always trying to make me better at what I do. He is so professional and put-together; it really inspires me to do the same. Chef is one of the most creative people I have ever worked with. When we sit down to build a menu together, he fires off ideas that I would never even think of. I am always striving to make him proud and be as professional as he is.

What is your favorite Kayne Prime memory?

A couple of months ago, I met a soldier who just got back from overseas. His family did not have a reservation, but we were able to take care of him. I ended up chatting with him and it turned out that he had been in the same part of Afghanistan as I. It was such a great feeling to be able to share what I do now with someone who had similar previous experiences to me prior to M Street. Anytime you get to connect with someone table side creates such great memories.

Thank you to Rob for always reminding us what M Street is all about: memories, personal development, and meaningful relationships. Rob’s presence in the M Street community is both refreshing and inspirational. We are so grateful to have him as part of the M Street family.

M Street Introductions: Aubrey Collins

Introducing Aubrey Collins, one of Whiskey Kitchen’s most dedicated and joyful team members. To Aubrey, M Street is like her second family. Her enthusiasm and evident joy is highly contagious to those around her, both Whiskey Kitchen colleagues and Whiskey guests alike. With love for her coworkers and the desire to continually grow within the company, we cannot wait to see where Aubrey’s path leads her.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I moved to Nashville 10 years ago to pursue a music career.

Describe your journey with M Street.

I was in the market for a new job and decided to come into Whiskey Kitchen one night for some drinks. At the time, I did not know that my friend Kendra actually worked there. She served me some drinks at the bar and suggested that I apply for a job. I was so excited about the opportunity that I immediately came in and interviewed with Sophie Stevens and Nick Elliott (Whiskey Kitchen’s Manager and General Manager).

I started as a server in March of 2015. Subsequently, I worked my way up to bartending and am now a manager-in-training. My goal is to move up within the company. I cannot wait to take advantage of any opportunities that come my way and am so excited to see what is in store.

What is your favorite part about working for M Street?

From the first day that I set foot in this building, M Street has felt like a family. The company has such a family feel about it, and being able to work here has been an absolute blessing. If you ask anyone who works at M Street, they will tell you how blessed they are to be a part of the team. I have never worked for a better company in my life.

One of the coolest parts about working for M Street is that anytime one of my colleagues is not having a great day, I have the ability to cheer them up. Whether it be a team member from Saint Anejo, Tavern, or Kayne Prime, we are all here for each other. They all come in to Whiskey Kitchen to enjoy themselves and we have the opportunity to make their day better. It is so important to me to make others happy.

What is your favorite Whiskey Kitchen dish?

The Buffalo Chicken Pizza. If I am not in the mood for that, I will do the shrimp and grits. There are so many great options, and I love them all to be honest.

What is your favorite Whiskey Kitchen drink?

Whiskey. I drink it straight. Nick Elliott introduced me to Willett Pot Still Reserve. I loved it so much that I actually named my dog after it. Willett is a Lab and Great Pyrenees mix. She is my pride and joy.

Have you always liked whiskey?

Ever since I was 21 it has always been whiskey. As a touring musician, that was my drink of choice.

What whiskey distillery do you want to visit?

Well, I have to go to Willett for obvious reasons. I also want to visit Maker’s Mark with my dad because that is his favorite bourbon. And of course, just to say I have done it, I would like to go to the Jack Daniel’s distillery. Plus, it is in the state of Tennessee so it is not that far for us.

What is your favorite Whiskey Kitchen memory?

One time, a group of people sat in my section for almost 5 hours. It was way past the time I was supposed to go home. We got to talking and I learned they were traveling from California. We ended up having a lot in common and really developed this great connection. It is so important to me to take care of people. Even if I want to go home, I always remember that I can help make someone's day when they come in.

What do you look forward to most when you come into work?

When I have the morning shift, I especially love chatting with the girls before we open. I always like to joke around and make everyone happy before the workday starts.

What do you like to do on your spare time?

I love the outdoors. I find peace and serenity there after a long day. I grew up enjoying outside activities like waterskiing and camping. I also love canoeing and hiking. I just bought a canoe and am always looking for new rivers and lakes to explore.

What is something someone might not know about you?

That I had 3 record deals when I used to sing country music.

Who inspired you?

There are two people. The first is my mom. She is my biggest supporter and mentor in life. If I could be half the woman that she is, I will have succeeded.

The second is Nick (Whiskey Kitchen’s General Manager). He has not only inspired me to be a good person, but to also be a hard worker dedicated to my work environment and crew. He knows that he is my mentor. I have thanked him at least a couple hundred times.

Aubrey’s passion for M Street inspires those around her. We are so grateful to have her hard-working and cheerful spirit gracing the team and the Nashville community at Whiskey Kitchen.

M Street Introductions: Alex Bailey

Some might recognize Alex as the smiling face that greets you when you first enter Virago. Her passion is evident as she escorts you to the table, preparing you for the exciting dining experience ahead.

Introducing Alex Bailey, Virago’s lead reservationist. For six and a half years, Alex has played an integral role in the M Street DNA. From enhancing the guest experience to creating lasting relationships with colleagues and guests alike, Alex serves as a role model for the entire M Street family.

Describe your journey with M Street.

When I was a senior in college, I was searching for something to occupy my time. I love to be busy, so I decided to look on Craigslist for job postings. There, I found an advertisement for a host position and applied without even knowing what restaurant it was. My interview went well, and the HR Director decided to place me at Virago, which was at the old location (Midtown Nashville) at the time.

I worked at Virago through my graduation. I also hosted at Whiskey Kitchen at the same time during lunch shifts. While I was at Virago, I became really close to the people I worked with. I felt like we were one big family and I developed a strong connection with Virago. When I graduated I was toying with the idea of leaving the restaurant for a temporary job. Virago was like my family. I had made such an investment in my coworkers and felt vested in the success of the restaurant; I just couldn’t leave.

One of the people I became close with at Virago was Jaime, who currently works as the lead reservationist at Saint Anejo. When she left Virago to move to Saint Anejo, the General Manager at the time knew I was ready for something different, so I took over the lead reservationist role at Virago. I have really developed the role into a managerial position which has helped me gain great leadership skills over the years.

Virago's old location in Midtown Nashville.

Virago's old location in Midtown Nashville.

What is your favorite part about working at M Street?

Definitely the culture. I take my job and everything that we have to offerseriously and professionally, and our leaders have helped to create that. I love being a part of something where we receive so much support from our leaders. They have given me countless opportunities and have always believed in me.

What gets me excited in the morning is knowing that I get to do something I truly enjoy. The most rewarding thing about my job is that I can go above and beyond more than a typical host does. I have made lasting relationships and friends with not only my colleagues but also the guests who dine with us.

Who are some of your mentors?

I have a few. First is Oleg (Virago’s Assistant General Manager). He started a couple of months after I did, so we’ve been along the same journey together. He has been a constant for me and is always such a great resource for how to handle situations because of his extraordinary experience. He’s really taken me under his wing since the beginning.

Another mentor is Eric Martino (our Director of Operations). He has helped create an amazing culture for our company and develop this company into what it is today.

Jamie and Erin (our Director of Strategy & Projects and the Director of Human Resources, respectively) have been a great addition to the M Street team. They have brought so much to the table and are great female resources.

Lastly, I would say Andrew (Virago’s Executive Chef). We start the day at Virago early in the morning and have developed an awesome relationship. We mesh really well together and can always find something to chat about. I always enjoy learning about food from him and watching his creative mind come up with exciting new dishes for the Virago menu.

Alex and Oleg.

Alex and Oleg.

What is your favorite Virago memory?

Wow, there are so many. Recently, one of my hosts came up to me to tell me that a pair of guests she was seating had just left another restaurant because it was their anniversary and were having a terrible experience. I let the Sean (Virago’s manager) know, and we ended up taking care of their whole dinner and giving them an unforgettable experience. The woman left crying and was so thankful for our hospitality. The situation showed me how teamwork helps us achieve our ultimate goal which is to give our guests a great experience and a memory they’ll always remember.

What is your favorite menu item?

That is the hardest question ever! There are so man amazing options. Our menu is so diverse, too. If you don’t want sushi, you can have steak, chicken, brussel sprouts, or evenpop rocks.

My favorite sushi roll is the Tanto just because I love everything about it. It has salmon, tuna, and lobster in it, how can you get better than that? I love the sake steamed brussels. When we first added them to our menu I absolutely had to learn how to make them. They go well with so many dishes and I'm constantly craving them.

The tanto roll.

The tanto roll.

What’s your favorite Virago drink?

The Watermelon Mojito. There’s nothing like sitting on the patio enjoying the beautiful view on a warm summer day with a cool drink like the Watermelon Mojito.

I’ve also learned so much about sake working here. I love priding ourselves in saying that we have the biggest sake selection in the southeast. Oleg has done such a great job of creating sake tastings and classes.

The Watermelon Mojito.

The Watermelon Mojito.

 What are your outside hobbies?

I love to cook. I’ve definitely been inspired by our restaurants. My appreciation for food has stemmed from being a part of M Street. I like to be innovative with my recipes and try different things. I also love listening to  all types of music. My favorite band is Moon Taxi (her husband is the keys player!)

Alex's dedication to the M Street family is truly remarkable. Her spirit and thirst for knowledge is ever-growing and we cannot wait to watch her develop along her path with M Street.

M Street Introductions: Madeline Williams

Meet Madeline Williams, the fearless leader and face behind Tavern. As a veteran of M Street’s Lime, Citizen, Virago, and Kayne Prime, Madeline has left a lasting mark on the M Street family. Her dedication to Tavern and the entire M Street team is both impressive and admirable. This past week, we sat down with her to hear about her journey with M Street. We are so excited to share her story with you.

Describe your journey with M Street.

I moved to Tennessee in 2011. A couple of days after moving here, I responded to a Craigslist ad for Lime (M Street’s first concept) and got hired. I served at Lime for 8 months. When Lime closed down, I got asked to open Citizen and was a server there for about a year, during which time I was also working at Virago. When they were talking about opening Tavern, M Street asked me to be one of the first Managers. I had the opportunity to open the concept as an Assistant General Manager (AGM). While I was an AGM at Tavern, I continued to serve at Virago as well as Kayne Prime. I was managing at Tavern all day, was serving at Kayne Prime or Virago at night, and sometimes would even serve atCitizen after that. When the General Manager left Tavern, I was accepted the role to lead the concept.

What did Midtown look like when Tavern first opened?

Midtown was definitely an interesting area at that time. There were a lot of local bars that had been around for a long time, but I think that Tavern really fit into the overall puzzle. One thing that Midtown was missing was a destination for delicious food. When we entered the neighborhood, I felt as though we completed the puzzle to make Midtown a well-rounded hot-spot. You could start your night with dinner and crafty cocktails at Tavern and finish at Broadway Brewhouse or the many other nearby watering holes.

What is your favorite dish on the Tavern menu?

Oh that is a tough one. I think I would have to say the Meat Pie, simply amazing. ...And I’m going to do one from the brunch menu too, the Kaya Toast. Those are my jams.

The Kaya Toast.

The Kaya Toast.

What is your favorite meal time at Tavern?

I really enjoy brunch, especially the fast-paced nature of it. Brunch at Tavern is incredibly busy and now that we have a brunch DJ, it has added a lot of additional energy to the atmosphere. People of all ages are coming in, drinking 2-for-1s (if they're over 21 of course), and just spending the day with us. There are so many personalities and it is just a really good time.

Brunch time at Tavern.

Brunch time at Tavern.

Tell us a little about the opening of Tavern brunch.

Well…Tavern was open for about a year and a half when we first decided to try brunch. Since then, I have always worked brunch. I’m a firm believer in ambassadorship. When a guest sees a familiar face in the building, they look for that and very much like that. People appreciate that I am at Tavern, and I appreciate seeing them week after week.

What is your favorite part about M Street?

I would have to say the culture and the people–not only the staff, but also the guests. I have definitely made a lot of lasting relationships with guests along my journey. One really awesome thing that I have enjoyed is some of the people that I used to take care of at Kayne Prime or Citizen now come visit me at Tavern. They often reminisce about the ways I would take good care of them in the other restaurants. I am all about hospitality. I live my life like that and love to be a part of that day-to-day.

Who are your mentors at M Street?

I have a few of them. Back in the day I would definitely say Emily and Robbie (previous Events and Culinary employees at M Street). They helped me grow and learn new things. I was a brand new manager, and they were a big part in guiding me and showing me the ropes of management.

I definitely think that Chris is also one of my mentors. I really respect his presence and how he puts his concepts together.

And also, newly, Jamie (our Director of Strategy and New Projects). I really like her vibe and her presence. She always emits such a great feeling.

Lastly, the opening chef at Tavern, Ray Whitlock. I formed a really awesome relationship with him and was actually the best man at his wedding! He taught me a lot about food and pairings and how to run a kitchen.

Tell us a little bit about the beer program you are developing at Tavern.

Right now we are working on creating a beer program, like a "Beer 101". Tavern is primarily known for our craft beers, so we have been getting a lot of local breweries on board. Recently we went on the Yazoo Brewery Tour. Next, I would love to take my staff to places like Black Abbey and Corsair.

What’s your favorite beer?

I really enjoy sours and saisons.

Madeline with a Blackberry Farm Saison.

Madeline with a Blackberry Farm Saison.

What are some of your outside hobbies?

I love to be outside. This is weird but I love to cut my grass! Anytime I can cut the grass I am super excited about it. I also love being on the water whether it be a pool or a lake. My fiancé and I buy old furniture and refurbish it for our new house, which I really enjoy.

As an original pioneer of the true M Street spirit, Madeline has become an integral part of the M Street family. She continually sets the bar for guest experiences and is always yearning to make Tavern, her staff, and herself the best they can possibly be. We are so thankful to have Madeline as a part of our team. It has been truly inspiring to watch both her and her career grow throughout her years at M Street.

 

M Street Introductions: Matt Mellon

This past week, we sat down with M Street all-star and wine connoisseur Matt Mellon. Originally joining the M Street family in 2005, Matt has helped open the new Virago, Kayne Prime, and Moto. Matt’s life has been nothing short of extraordinary, hiking the Appalachian Trail and visiting countless cities in Italy. M Street is proud to have him as a member of our family.

Describe your journey with M Street.

I first started working at Virago at the old location in 2005. It was a blast. I sold a lot of sushi and learned a lot about white wine, which I didn’t know anything about back then. I left for a bit and hiked the Appalachian Trail, which took 6 months. I returned to M Street in 2010 and helped Virago move to their new location. I was only coming back for a short time to help out, but I was asked to stay around to help open Kayne Prime. That was the opening of a world of opportunity to learn about wine. Chris Hyndman (owner) led most of our wine training. For the first time in my life, I was waiting on guests who became friends. A lot of these friends would buy or bring in a bottle of wine to Kayne and let me try the wine. It was there that I gained a lot of experience developing my palate through tasting.

What is your favorite part about M Street?

We have a progressive culture of education and excitement that I love. I have seen the company turn into a pillar of the community and watched us transform the Nashville culinary scene. It has been a fun and exciting ride to be a part of. I have loved watching our company, and myself, develop.

How did you end up at Moto?

I wanted to stay on the leading edge of where M Street was as a company; when I heard they were opening a new concept, I decided to make the move to Moto. I’ve been at Moto since we opened in February of 2014. I speak Italian and absolutely love the Italian culture and hope to someday move to Italy. Being at Moto has taught me so much about Italian wine. I’ve developed a knowledge base that I didn’t have exposure to before.

Have you been to Italy?

Yes, to the North in the Dolomites and all the major cities like Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples.

What’s your favorite city in Italy?

Rome because it’s such a living contradiction. It is so modern, yet so ancient at the same time. It was the center of the world at one time. Some of the oldest and most important buildings and cultural emblems are there now among skyscrapers and bustling traffic.

What’s the best thing you ate in Italy?

That is going to be a tough one. I suppose it would be the whole prawns at Billy’s in Manarola, which is part of Cinque Terre. It sits up on the side of the hill, overlooking the ocean. The prawns were amazing.

What’s your favorite dish on the Moto menu?

The Garganelli. It’s no secret. It is as simple as it gets. Italian food in general is pretty rustic, which is a core part of our concept. This dish is no exception...spicy, meaty and delicious.

Tell us about the "Wine Time" program you started.

When I worked at Kayne Prime, the chef who helped open the restaurant, Robbie Wilson, brought in the first black truffle I had ever seen. He told us to get excited about the truffle. I thought, “how do you get excited?” You have to make yourself excited. In a nutshell, the wine time program is about excitement. You cannot have an exciting work experience unless you have excited guests and they cannot be excited unless you are.

On the subject of continuing education, we have started a food class at Moto that was inspired by "Wine Time". This is one of the things that makes M Street so different. We do this to educate the staff.

Matt leading a wine class at Moto's bar.

Matt leading a wine class at Moto's bar.

What is your favorite wine?

I actually served it last night: Joseph Phelps Insignia. I first tasted it at old Virago, a 2001 vintage. I had one sip and never forgot it. My other favorite is Saia Nero d’Avola. I drank this with my wife on the first anniversary of our first date, so it is associated with a great memory. This is what we do, we associate great products with great memories.

Matt displaying his two favorite wines, Joseph Phelps Insignia & Saia Nero d’Avola

Matt displaying his two favorite wines, Joseph Phelps Insignia & Saia Nero d’Avola

What are some of your outside hobbies?

I have a Jazz group called the X-Tet. It is a Jazz/Rock fusion. I play the saxophone and trumpet. Also, I build things with reclaimed wood. Tables, chairs...stuff like that. I love hiking, as you now know from my time hiking the Appalachian Trail.

From starting the educational "Wine Time" program to enhancing the M Street guest experience, Matt serves as a pillar of the M Street community. With a contagious positive attitude and a hunger for expanding his knowledge of the brands M Street offers, Matt Mellon conveys true passion in his craft.

Behind the Scenes on The Block

The Glencliff High School students walked into Moto’s kitchen at 9:30 AM Wednesday morning bright eyed and full of wonder. Sporting their personalized M Street chef coats and hats, the students greeted Moto’s Chef Luke and Chef Marisa to begin their day of culinary education. These three students are part of the ProStart Culinary program, which gives high school students the opportunity to learn about cooking through first-hand restaurant instruction. They also happen to be the reigning regional ProStart culinary champions for the state of Tennessee.    

After learning a little bit about pasta making in Moto’s kitchen, the students participated in a “Chopped” challenge. They had to create their own version of Moto’s Spinach Pappardelle. Whosever’s pasta was chosen by the judges (Chef Marisa, Chef Luke, and Eric, Director of Operations) would have their dish featured as a special that night on Moto’s menu. As the students began crafting their pastas, Chef Marisa taught them how to flambé. Throughout the challenge, Chef Marisa motivated the students to push their creative boundaries, imparting phrases like “be confident in your cooking.”

The students put their finishing touches on their pasta dishes and the judges took their seats in Moto’s dining room. Eric, the Director of Operations, explained how tastings work at the M Street restaurants when chefs want to add new items to the menu. The judges encouraged the students to illustrate the flavors and ingredients in their meals when they presented their pasta. It was a tough decision, but the judges selected the winning pasta.

The students sure worked up an appetite after an eventful morning in Moto’s kitchen. Eric and Gregg, M Street Directors of Operations, took the three students to Saint Anejo for lunch. The chips and guacamole appetizer sure hit the spot.

 Once the students were stuffed full of Saint Anejo chips, dips, tacos, and more, they made their way over to Kayne Prime’s kitchen to learn from Chef Robert Grace. “Has anyone heard of Kobe beef?” Chef asked as the students gathered round the kitchen. Chef pulled out a piece of paper from a laminated pouch and held it up facing the students. He explained that each time Kayne Prime receives Kobe beef, they are presented with a certificate with information about the cow including a stamp of his nose and lineage up to his great grandparents.

Chef directed the students over to a hot water bath with floating ping pong balls on top. The students were filled with curiosity and excitement as Chef began to explain the method of Sous Vide. He went through each step of the Sous Vide process, explaining that it is a French cooking technique that cooks meat evenly.

Perhaps the best part of the day was when the students got to make cotton candy. Used for Kayne Prime's Housemade Bacon appetizer, each student swirled their stick around the cotton candy machine in excitement.

The energy from the ProStart high school students was contagious. They were so eager to learn from M Street's chefs and were so grateful to be in our kitchens. After all, they will be the next generation of innovative chefs!

From April Sun to May Fun

Although it’s hard to believe, May is right around the corner. Time sure flies when the sun comes out and the weather gets warmer. From outdoor activities to beach-themed parties, May is always an eventful time in Nashville. We’re here to share the top 5 events we are most looking forward to in May, and we’ve got a few up our sleeve that are happening right here on the block.

1. Cinco De Mayo, May 5th: Put on your sombreros and head over to Saint Anejo and The Rosewall on May 5. We’ll be bringing the outside in as The Rosewall transforms into a street fair with bright lights and summer decorations. Sip on margaritas and grab some bite-size Mexican snacks while socializing in The Rosewall or wandering over to Saint Anejo’s bustling patio.

2. VIVA HAVANA, May 7th: Imagine yourself lounging on a VIP cabana while sipping on a mojito in a brightly colored beach party inspired room. VIVA HAVANA will transport you to the vibrant lifestyle of Cuba. Latin DJ music accompanied by Cuban drumming percussion will surround the room while Chiquita dancers invigorate the party. Guests will dress to impress for this elevated Cuban party.

3. Steeplechase, May 14th: Grab your friends and a sunhat and get ready for a day of socializing and relaxing at Steeplechase. Start the morning off with tailgating at Percy Warner Park. Don’t forget to bring snacks and some Tennessee Whiskey to make those Honey Jack Juleps. Once the races start, head over to the Centerfield to take part in the action.