Alexander LaPratt, MS
While many sommeliers have paid their dues as waiters or captains, few have donned a chef’s jacket in a professional kitchen. Alexander LaPratt is an exception. Early on in his career he temporarily switched from the front of house to the kitchen to gain entry into Tribute, a restaurant he believed he had a lot to learn from. His instincts were good, and Tribute’s Chef Don Yamauchi went on to become one of many valued mentors.
Since that time, Alexander LaPratt has been no stranger to working with renowned chefs dedicated to the quality of their restaurants’ wine cellar and service. Before venturing out to open his own restaurants he was the Chef Sommelier for renowned Chef Jean-Georges at his 3 star Michelin flagship restaurant in the Trump Tower New York where he focused on the perfect harmony of food and wine which manifested in the restaurant’s many wine pairing options for the ever-changing tasting menus.
Prior to joining Jean-Georges he was a sommelier for Eric Ripert at the newly remodeled Le Bernardin Restaurant and before that he joined Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group as head Sommelier at DB Bistro Moderne in 2009. Before coming to New York he had spent two years as the first ever Cellar Sommelier at Thomas Keller’s renowned French Laundry. The incredible attention to detail he learned there became second nature, particularly thanks to another great mentor, Head Sommelier, Dennis Kelly MS. Why leave the Napa Valley legend behind? Having gained considerable confidence in his wine knowledge, Alexander wanted to share his love of wine and dedication to service by running his own wine program.
Born and raised in the Detroit area of Michigan, Alexander took his first restaurant job nearby at Morels a Michigan Bistro in Bingham Farms. While his initial motivation was to pay for college, he found he was truly inspired by working alongside Morels’ Master Sommelier, Madeline Triffon. Alexander was only 19 at the time and still shy of drinking age, but none the less drank up plenty of knowledge and went on to take advantage of every possible opportunity to learn from the best. Yet another one of those opportunities came along as Dining Room Captain at Michael Mina’s Saltwater and Bourbon Steak in Detroit, MI. There Alexander met Michael Mina’s Wine Director, Rajat Parr, whose influence prompted him to take the next step in his career, and along with it, a move to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The first wine to leave a mark on Alexander’s palate was a Penfold’s Cabernet-Shiraz “Bin 389”. Not a legendary wine, he confesses, but an important one for him. Ever since he’s operated on the premise that it’s not always the most expensive or rare wine that creates the greatest experience. “Often what matters most is whom you share the bottle with,” says Alexander. Still, his pairing instincts remain fairly classic, with the firm belief that traditions work well for a reason. When it comes to wine and food enjoyed together, Alexander believes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. He favors an approach to wine that minimizes complexity, emphasizes pleasure and makes people comfortable with their own taste, knowledge and budget.
In 2010, Alexander took first place in the New York Ruinart Chardonnay Challenge, a blind tasting event bringing together many of the city’s top sommeliers. In April 2011 he earned the title of “Best Sommelier in America” at the American Sommelier Association competition and just one month later went on to finish 2nd overall in the Chaine des Rôtisseurs Best Young Sommelier National Finals. At the 2nd Annual StarChefs Somm Slam LaPratt emerged victorious after enduring a three-day, real-time pairing competition against ten of the Nation’s most renowned sommeliers. In addition, Wine & Spirits Magazine named Alexander “Best New Sommelier 2011” in their October issue and he represented the United States of America in the Best Sommelier of the World Competition in Tokyo Japan March 2013. Alexander then went on to become the 217th person to ever pass the coveted Master Sommelier exam in 2014. However, his love for the industry, dedication to hospitality and the quest for knowledge clearly trump the status of the many accolades and competitions this sommelier has under his belt.
Alexander has been featured in top media outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Men’s Fitness, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Town & Country, Food Republic, Elle Magazine, Channel 7 news, The Daily Meal, Food Republic, Eater, Grub Street, Forbes, Wine & Spirits Magazine, The Village Voice, Heritage Radio Network, Somm Journal, Timeout Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, Beverage Media, Ribera y Rueda Wine, NY Daily News, Serious Eats, Where Traveler.com, BK Magazine, Marie Claire, Wideopeneats.com, Punch.com, Gothamist, Washington Post as well as starred in the first season of Esquire’s sommelier focused show “Uncorked”.
He has received many accolades for his contribution to the gastronomic and hospitality industry such as being inducted into the L’Order des Coteaux de Champagne as well as receiving the Diplome d’honneur from the Acacdemie Culinaire de France. He is a founding board member and the current Treasurer for The Best Sommelier in the United States Organization.
Alexander and his partner Leslie Affre own and operate the restaurant Atrium DUMBO which is Michelin recommended and is focused on market ingredients in DUMBO Brooklyn. His restaurant group is an example of wine excellence in Brooklyn and is currently the only restaurants in Brooklyn to obtain the Best Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator in 2017, 2018 & 2019.
Alexander strongly believes in passing on his broad knowledge of the industry gained through his many roles and is a former adjunct professor for the prestigious International Culinary Center in New York City for their sommelier program in addition to his many consulting roles across the country. His current projects include a sommelier as a service voice application for the Alexa platform, an equal opportunity technical fabric suiting project for sommeliers and a retail wine store.