THE ROTA ARCHIVE

COURTNEY STEBBINGS - THE WINE CHICK

"WINE, SEX, FOOD. IN THAT ORDER, BECAUSE WINE IS THE ULTIMATE SEDUCTION."

Follow Courtney on Instagram and Twitter @cocostebbings

 

1. What was your first job in hospitality?

Working as a hostess in an Italian restaurant called Biagio's in Ottawa, Ontario when I was 16.  Then almost simultaneously I started at Big Daddy's which everyone thinks is a strip club.  It was a crab shackand oyster abr where I shucked oysters and wore a shirt that said 'Shuck me, suck me, eat me raw.' 

2. What is your favourite cuisine to eat - preferably the opposite to what you work in?

Italian food is my favourite cuisine to eat, and I have worked with it in the past but I do think it embodies everything I love about food.  

3. Which dish do you most associate with childhood?

Beef bourguignon or coq of vin because my Mom loves cooking French food. 

4. What’s the soundtrack to your first love?

Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones, I was like 16 and we broke up a lot. 

5. What do you crave after a long shift?

A beer, I don't want food I want a pale ale. 

6. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – what do you have? 

Cheese on toast with lots of Frank's Red Hot Sauce. 

7. What is your favourite word?

Pooter.  

It's taken from a restaurant I used to work in from the word puta, which is a Spanish derogatory term that we all called each other but we tried to make it cutesy.  It is just such a ridiculous urban word that is hilarious to say.  I love calling people pooters... POOTERS!

8. If you could go on a culinary extravaganza-eating holiday – where would you choose to do so?

If I was going to say the obvious choice I would say Italy, because for me that is the ultimate food.  If not Italy, I would say Thailand.  I love Thai food and I think there is such an explosion of flavours. 

9. All at the same time or coursed out?

Depends on where you're eating, who you're with, what kind of night you want.  I can't say there is one or the other, both are appropriate in different circumstances. 

10. What is the one area of working in a restaurant you wish you knew more of?

The kitchen. The kitchen amazes me.  How they can all cook from chits and line chefs just blow my mind.  I don't know how they do it.  I wish I could get behind there, I would probably fuck everyone's meal up and everything would be coming up at different times and I would probably burn myself.   The actual sweat blood and tears that goes into a kitchen, I wish I could feel that. 

11. What is the best cure for a hangover?

A Bloody Caesar and you can't get them in the UK but they are the best cure.  Clam tomato juice so it's salty and tomatoey, lots of celery salt, lots of salt and throw in a really good kosher dill pickle, double shot of vodka or tequila.  That is the only thing that will get you through the day and set you up for more drinking. 

12. You’re allowed one shift drink – what is it?

A glass of nebiolo. 

13. What is the one thing which guests do that drives you mad?

When I go to a table to take an order and people ignore me, and I have to stand there like an idiot, like an asshole, and interrupt them. 

14. Do you have any rituals during a shift?

I brush my teeth multiple times and put on red lipstick. 

15. What’s the last film you saw?

Chef

16. Best thing that has ever happened to you in a restaurant? 

I don't think I can pick one thing, I have had too many amazing things overall.  I have been really priveleged that a lot of restaurants I go to I get taken care of really well.  I have had amazing guests that have been incredible to me, but I think River Cafe is the ultiimate place to dine and makes you feel so special and knows exactly what you want.  

But when I was 19 working at Big Daddy's Crab Shack it was my first serving job and I didn't really know what I was doing, but just always loved talking to guests. They would always ask me for reccomendations and things and I would just be myself and didn't think much of it, then two months later a letter came in the mail to me and it was a hand written letter saying thank you.  If I remember correctly she was having a really terrible week and just not in a really good place, and she said 'Your energy and your presence kind of turned me around and made me have a new energy or something.'  I remember thinking I didn't know I had that and that through this job you can touch people like that and that's what I wanted to do.  Also serving Tom Hanks and realising that out of all of the celebrities I have met that is who made me star struck.  He is so dreamy.  

As for being a guest, The Ledbury was one of the best experiences that I shared with one of my best friends Emily O'Hare.  She was leaving me for Italy so we went for a special night out.  Darren adn his team were amazing.  They make everyone feel llike the most important person in the room.  They seriously take care of you.  The food was delicious but the best part of the night was the service.  It feels so good to be properly taken care of, it is such a treat.  The staff are true professionals of hospitality.       

17. What’s your tagline/motto?

'I feel bad for the people who never go crazy.'  Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty crazy. 

18. Photography while eating – yay or nay?

Yay and nay.  I think it's part of what we're doing and I do do it.  I also think you have to be quick about it, if you're going to take a picture take a picture and put your phone away.  Tweet or Instagram after and it shouldn't detract too much from your experience and who you are with. I think it's also circumstantial. If I am on a date I am probably not taking pictures of my food, if I am with a bunch of foodies we are all fucking taking pictures of our food. 

19. Rank the following in order of priority: wine, food, sex

Wine, sex, food. In that order because wine is the ultimate seduction. And after sex I NEED food, preferably in bed.

20. What would be your last meal – drinks included.

Spaghetti all'aglio with lots of garlic, lots of chilli and lots of salt and amazing olive oil, it has to be like proper Tuscan.  Paired with Valtellina Superiore Sassella.  It is Nebbiolo from Lombardia.  Has all the characteristics of Piemonte but a bit softer and more approachable.  It's like the younger sister to Piemonte, she is a little wider, flirtier....a bit easier.  My perfect match with Spaghetti all'aglio. 

21. What makes you happy?

My friends, they are my London family.  Being an expat can be hard and lonely, it is important to have good people around you. 

22. How do you relax?

By drinking wine.  And spinning, it sounds ridiculous but yeah, I love spinning. I don't think I ever relax, it's just an outlet of energy, it makes me a happier person. It gets any negativity out. 

23. What is the background on your phone?

"Happy girls are the prettiest"

24. Favourite Instagram accounts to follow 

@fuckjerry

@25park

@bryndalb 

25. What is the best thing about working in hospitality? 

Everything.  I don't think you can pick the best thing. Customer service, food, wine, always moving, I love every aspect of it. And I get to eat and drink for a living, and talk to people.

26. Which restaurant are you ashamed to NOT have eaten at?

St. John and St. John Bread and Wine. Embarassing. 

27. Who is the person you most respect in the industry?

Ruth Rogers. I just think she is absolutely brilliant.  She's the ultimate host, has such a passion for food and kind of paved the way for women. Well her and Rose Gray, but I didn't get the privelege to work with Rose.  I think they really paved the way for females in the industry 28 years ago when they opened The River Café, and also for women to be older and have kids and be able to balance a family and open a restaurant.  She gives so much love and care to her restaurant. She really believes in treating people right and making sure that employees feel valued. 

28. What is your go to party trick?

Putting my leg above my head. 

29. Finish this sentence: I eat everything except ...

BUTTERED BREAD.  I fucking hate buttered bread.  Makes me want to throw up.