Alexander LaPratt was bagging groceries just outside of Detroit when he noticed that a buddy
was making a killing at the restaurant around the corner. "I went to a place called Papa Vino's
and picked up Wine for Dummies," he says. "I wasn't even that interested in it, I just needed
the money." That attitude changed shortly after he was hired at Morels in Bingham Farms where
Madeline Triffon, MS, directs the beverage program. "Any time you're around someone who's very
good at something you need to pay attention and learn from them," says LaPratt. "I tried to
soak up as much as I could."
Later, managing the dining rooms at Michael Mina’s Detroit restaurants Saltwater and Bourbon
Steak, he met Rajat Parr, MS. “Parr came out to train the staff and told me that I should
work for him in San Francisco,” recalls LaPratt. Parr didn’t actually have any positions
available at the time, but there was a possible opening at The French Laundry.
“I wrote a cover letter and left it open on my computer for three days—I wasn’t going to
send it,” he says. “Then one night, I had had a couple of Manhattans. I sent it off, and a
week later they called me back. I went nuts.” He started as a food runner and quickly worked
his way up to being “cellar sommelier,” a cellar-only role they invented for him since he was
already volunteering so much of his time there.
Close to two years later, in November of 2009, LaPratt stepped into the role of head sommelier
at db Bistro in New York. Since then, he’s hit the competition circuit full-steam, taking
first place at the Ruinart Chardonnay Challenge and second in the Sud de France last year.
And this year, he won the American Sommelier Association’s contest, taking the title Best
Sommelier in America 2011.