Earlier this year we spent the day with our friend Tyler Silvestre, a sommelier & amateur chef living in the bay area. We talked to him about life, inspiration, work, and how his insatiable curiosity keeps his life and passions intertwined.
Tyler Silvestre: An Insatiable Curiosity
INR: Hey Tyler, thanks for talking with us. Let's start with a softball: what's an ideal morning for you?
Tyler Silvestre: Of course, thank for having me! The ideal morning for me is somewhat of a late rise, around 9:00 am, with no real plans for the first half of the day. San Francisco is a city that shows best in the morning time, so a ride or walk through Golden Gate park is a great way to take in a mix of the air coming fresh off the ocean and the dew coming fresh off the trees. Things really get started with a shot of espresso at The Coffee Movement on Balboa Street. Once I get back home, I'll make another coffee for sipping as I make my favorite breakfast – Omelette with Boursin cream and an overwhelming amount of chives. If I'm lucky, I will have saved a glass of the white wine from last night to sip on too.
INR: Has wine always been a passion for you? When did you realize becoing a sommelier was something you wanted? Tell us a bit about what being a sommelier entails.
Tyler Silvestre: People have always been a passion of mine. I realized I wanted to become a sommelier when I saw the way that wine and food brought people together. I was freshly 21 at the time. For some reason, this connection to people through food and wine feels like a rare phenomenon, though this occurrence has been happening for millennia. I think this connection, even at its simplest form, is the definition of what it means to be human. If I could describe what being a great sommelier means, I believe it requires going beyond the restaurant floor. Sure, a lot of my time is spent working the floor, introducing people to fun wines, but I'm constantly using wine as my excuse for adventure with regular travel around the world, connecting with new people and discovering new foods and wines. Hopefully one day I'll be experienced enough through my adventures to be considered one of "the greats".
INR: Your background encompasses coffee, plant science, and hospitality. How have those elements combined to bring you to where you are today?
Tyler Silvestre: I'm at a place in life where I feel fortunate to have experienced some incredible things. Working in coffee is how I got my start, which lead me to study plant science. Through plant science, I was led into winemaking and viticulture, which brought me to becoming a sommelier. Now, being a sommelier is throwing me headlong into traveling the world.
I have to be honest with myself when I say that I'm not totally sure where I'm going anymore. I think I've realized that all of these aspects of my life are results of my insatiable curiousity. Something about each chapter of my life has sparked interest in the next, and my intention is that each chapter of my life isn't left behind. Instead, each chapter can just add another layer of who I am and who I ve met.
I guess it's not about going to a place, but about becoming the best version of myself.
INR: What sources of inspiration do you find yourself turning to most?
Tyler Silvestre: I draw all of my inspiration from my community. We always hear that "it takes a village", and the more I grow into my interests and passions, the more true that becomes. Some of my friends are the best in the world at what they do, and some of them are yet to be discovered. Whether they are a master sommelier, world traveler, adventure photographer, or an amazing chef, their passions are infectious. When I'm looking for inspiration in wine, I turn to my friend Andrey. When I'm looking for photography inspiration, I'll take my friend Spencer out to coffee and get his thoughts. It feels good to call up my chef friends to thank them when their advice helps me make my morning omelette that much better.
INR: What type of influence has living and working in San Francisco had on your craft?
Tyler Silvestre: San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the United States, and I welcome anybody to try and change my mind. Sure, it has its rough parts, but tell me you don't feel good after driving windows down along Highway 1, catching a glimpses of the fog pulling off city scapes, warm in the morning light. As it turns out, when you live in a beautiful place, it has a similar impact on your body and mind as when you're falling in love. It's hard not to feel inspired in a place like San Francisco.
INR: Have any of your passions outside of work been especially impactful in the way you approach your career?
Tyler Silvestre: I think my passions outside of work make me a better sommelier. I try to speak as much about my cooking, traveling, and photography as I do about wine when I'm spending time with my guests and colleagues. Wine is like the elephant in the room – its on the table and we're both drinking from the same bottle. Why state the obvious? If wine is about creating connections, my hope is that everybody can let their guard down a talk about the things their passions. Hopefully we have something in common, or hopefully we can both learn something new, about something new.
INR: What are a few of your favorite or most fulfilling aspects of working with wine on a daily basis?
Tyler Silvestre: I believe that people's interests in wine should evolve over time as they do. I remember a younger me being told that I would change drastically from my early 20's to my late 20's. As stubborn and disbelieving as I was, I'm looking in the mirror these days realizing that was true. I love how wine offers endless opportunities to discover something new, and for the people that are passionate about wine, the wines they love can be a reflection of who they are. I'm reflecting now on my undying love for Madeira wine, and how 5 years ago I was passionate about Pinot Noirs from Burgundy. It's a great reminder of how much I've evolved as a person in that time.
INR: You've worked in the restaurant industry for quite a few years now, do you see yourself continuing to work in the restaurant industry in the future?
Tyler Silvestre: I've got a few years left in the restaurant industry, but don't take any bets with me because you might end up winning. It's hard to walk away from the restaurant floor – you get to open amazing wines every day alongside people who end up becoming your best friends. Then there's the guests you meet that become close friends too. I was recently vacationing in Los Angeles and stayed the week with a friend I met as a restaurant guest almost 3 years ago. I imagine my travel demands will eventually grow to a point where I'll have to give up the restaurant floor, but I'll always miss it.
INR: Tyler, thanks so much for taking the time to chat and share a meal with us. We can't wait to watch where you go next.