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Meet Chuck Nix of Southern Sommelier Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chuck Nix.

Hi Chuck, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was an aspiring music artist and I worked in restaurants to use tip money to pay for studio time. At a point in time music wasn’t paying me back and hospitality was. I wanted to build on the work I had already done in hospitality and that’s when I redirected my efforts into the beverage alcohol sector of the industry. This gave me the capability to broaden my opportunities. In a small southern market, there was little attention and support for sommeliers so I was ambitiously shooting my shot at other professionals with higher esteem seeking mentorship via email and social media. Many people surprisingly responded with helpful advice. As I studied more and continued my efforts to be the best I could be in my field in my area I realized this fulfilling journey is never-ending!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not exactly smooth. I was folded in the industry so I was equipped to do the work. There is the challenge of being in a small market and the lack of awareness or understanding of the value of my position. That misunderstanding means the people in your circles don’t/ can’t offer the support needed. For instance, a somm position doesn’t constitute a competitive salary in our market because the value of a dedicated wine steward vs a floor manager is perceived as less. Some companies don’t support the continued education of a somm because they don’t realize the importance of extensive beverage knowledge. Not to mention the perception of a Black Somm in a small market. Our community is late to this party because we weren’t offered access. We weren’t excluded but nobody told us this was an opportunity. Overall I think in small underserved markets there needs to be more awareness of beverage professionals and a push for more training and education opportunities.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
The Southern Sommelier Collective (SSC) is an organization started out of the need to organize our study groups to help others grow more in wine education. Our purpose has become multifold in representing for marginalized demographics I.e. women, minorities, LGBTQ, etc. We organize and offer educational opportunities and services like mentorship, masterclasses, and service opportunities through private events periodically hosted by myself and the other members. We partner with other entities and organizations around the world the grow wine culture and build community. At our core we are hospitalitarians, and we are working to evolve southern hospitality beyond the painful historical connotation it holds in the Southern US. We are burgeoning so we are enthusiastic and passionate. You can see some of our community-building efforts in a weekly Facebook Live interview series called “Monday Meditations with Wine” where I “The Bearded Wineaux” interview professionals from the beverage/hospitality industry and highlight their efforts.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
During the first quarantine, we had a lot of time to reflect on our current state and where we wanted to go. It gave us an opportunity to be creative with our ambitions. The happenings we saw in the world gave us a pointed view that sparked activism. Staying indoors with our families also showed us that the fight isn’t always in the streets or on picket lines. Our individual gifts and expertise are valuable and vital in the fight for equitable treatment of all people. This pandemic has evolved our world and we have all had a front-row seat to history-changing. If nothing else we have much to offer the history books.

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