It’s time to raise a glass to Hell’s Kitchen’s own Yannick Benjamin — he’s Michelin Guide New York’s 2023 Sommelier Award Winner! Yannick won the accolade for his work at Peruvian restaurant Contento, on E111th Street, but the neighborhood knows him best as proprietor of Beaupierre Wines & Spirits which he runs with his wife, Heidi.
It’s proving to be quite a week for the couple. On Sunday, Yannick took part in his 11th New York Marathon… and Friday will be the first anniversary of their inclusive specialty wine shop, at 664 10th Avenue between W46th and W47th Street.
“My career in the wine and hospitality industry is a direct result of my parents’ influence,” said Yannick, who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a car accident at the age of 25. “They immigrated from France to the United States with a shared dream of pursuing careers in the world of hospitality. My father’s very first job in New York City was at La Grenouille, a legendary restaurant that continues to thrive today. My mother took on roles as a housekeeper and a coat check attendant.”
He added, “Beaupierre is located in the same building where I grew up. My mother still resides in the apartment above the store, and it’s a delightful tradition when she comes down to bring me her homemade dishes (she has a special talent for preparing organ-based meals). One of her standout creations is a tripe stew, which she crafts using tripe from Esposito Meat Market. Her stew is a simple yet incredibly satisfying and comforting dish. I often pair it with a Syrah from Cote Rotie or a Gamay from Auvergne.”
But what makes a good sommelier? Yannick has a few tips: “Aspiring sommeliers should approach their career with an open mind and a willingness to learn about a broad range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. What sets a sommelier apart is the ability to find the right balance between artistry and having an entrepreneurial spirit. We play a vital role in curating and enhancing the overall dining and drinking experience for our patrons.
“My love for the world of wine only grows as I get older,” he added. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve been to places I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to explore, all thanks to Bacchus. Wine isn’t just a profession for me; it’s a deep and abiding passion. It’s a journey that I’m committed to for a lifetime. Here’s to many more adventures in the world of Bacchus!” We’ll drink to that!