Premier Crew

May 20, 2008

The sentiments of a top server can be summed up by the words of Neil Ingram: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As co-owner and sommelier at Boneta, Ingram is our Sommelier of the Year, officially chosen by the International Sommelier Guild. His "first life" as an actor helped him become a true oenophile because, as he puts it, "As an actor you spend a lot of time drinking wine… The passion snuck up on me." He learned the foundations of a fine wine (and how to run a restaurant) from friend Andrey Durbach at Étoile, spent six-and-a-half years building up Lumière, and can now count himself among the city's top restaurateurs. Boneta, 1 W. Cordova St., 604-684-1844

Benoit Nadeau of Whistler's Bearfoot Bistro just can't stay away from his job. He's left the restaurant twice (once to build up his knowledge of California's wine world) but has returned on both occasions for "the incredible food, the wine, and the guests." The Vegas-like tips can't hurt either. One of the best? $9,000 on a table of two. With his "blessed" knowledge of wine, Nadeau has been busy reorganizing the bistro's extensive wine cellar following a renovation, and is especially proud of its 2,800 different labels. Bearfoot Bistro, 4121 Village Green, Whistler, 604-932-3433

For Pamela Sanderson, manager of the Empress Dining Room in Victoria, her relationship with guests is symbiotic: "Travel and restaurant tips are the most valuable tips I can receive, and guests are the best resource; I get to speak to insiders from cities all over the world." Her regulars make for nary a dull moment:one couple requests a different table each time they visit, but insist on moving around the room in numerical order. The Empress Dining Room, 721 Government St., Victoria, 250-384-8111

When Hiroki Watanabe moved to Vancouver from Japan in 2000, Tojo's became his home away from home. The gracious waiter is also an aspiring chef, finding inspiration in the lamb chops at Cioppino's, the seafood at Zen Chinese Cuisine in Richmond, and (of course) Tojo's fare. He loves working shifts when the staff sing "Happy Birthday" to an unsuspecting diner. His international clientele has left some interesting tips-a bottle of top Mexican tequila was appreciated. "But," he admits, "I'm not really a big drinker." Tojo's, 1133 W. Broadway, 604-872-8050

The first table Carly Robertson ever served was at a little lunch deli in downtown Kelowna, when she was just 16 years old. For the past five years she has wowed diners at her hometown's Lakeside Dining Room in the Hotel Eldorado, paying her way through university using her tips. (A 100 percent tip on a "large bill" hinted she was doing something right.) Not only did she find a second family in her team of coworkers at "the El", but all the customer interaction taught her "more about human behaviour than a five-year psychology degree!" Lakeside Dining Room at the Hotel Eldorado, 500 Cook Rd., Kelowna, 250-763-7500

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