Vickie Reh = Food and Wine Geek

As a Chef and Certified Sommelier, I have spent years travelling to wine producing regions, for personal and professional reasons.  Even before it was my job, it was my passion.  I come by it honestly. My grandmother was a professional cook in the 1950s in rural Kansas.  My mom, aunts, uncles and even my grandfather were all great cooks.  It’s no wonder I’m obsessed. I remember rolling lumpia with our Filipina neighbors in Angeles City, Philippines when I was seven, learning to make refried beans from scratch as an eighth grader with the cooks at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Del Rio, Texas and making homemade cottage cheese with my grandmother on summer vacations to Kansas.   

And then I discovered wine.  Now, I’m confident I was not the first to fall in love with French wine on a college exchange trip to France and I guarantee you that I will not be the last.  I know you can picture it, young girl from Kansas travels to France, sips wine at sidewalk cafés, nibbles cheese and other delicacies, practices her French accent and her beret-wearing skills and tumbles head over heels in love with a country and a culture—statistically it was almost a given.  (I should know, I was a statistician in a former life.)  The wine and food love affair endured. Thank heavens, the statistician gig did not.  Since that time, wine has fascinated me.  

I have spent the last sixteen years working in the wine and food industry in one role or another—in restaurants and in retail.  I’ve always felt pulled in two directions work-wise.  When I am working front of the house or retail, I constantly want to make the perfect dish to go with the wine that I am recommending and when I’m in the kitchen, I want to run out and pour my guests the perfect glass of wine to accompany my food.  

I finally realized that mine is not a split personality at all.  I’m not either fascinated with wine or obsessed with food—rather, I am devoted to the combination, the thought that one without the other is lacking—a concept that I like to call the Wine Table.

When I first went on wine trips, I loved visiting the winemakers, walking the vineyards with them, seeing where the grapes were grown and how the wine was made, but at the same time, I loved popping into the little shops in town—the butcher's, the cheese shops, the little grocery stores.  I perused the menus of every restaurant we passed—fascinated by what I saw—trying to complete the picture.  I didn't simply want to know how the wine was made, I wanted to know what foods were served alongside it.  These habits define my behavior to this day—the quest to answer my curiosity. What are they serving with this?  What is authentic? What is classic?  What makes sense?  What goes with what?   

And finally, what does the winemaker’s family eat?  I really believe that this is the key to the Wine Table.  Eat what the winemaker eats.  They know best what goes with their food.  

I have been lucky enough to travel and cook alongside a good number of winemakers and my own cooking has evolved as a result of these experiences.  Most of the winemakers I know are committed to the local food movement.  Many work organically in the fields with some adhering to the more stringent rules of biodynamics.  This concern for organic and healthy plants and animals almost always extends to their food culture as well.  This is the way I think about food and wine as well and these factors are a large part of who I am as a chef and a person and I am never happier than when sharing this philosophy with others.