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Wine Conversations: Mahlik Richardson Interesting, curious people make the best sommeliers. SommSelect’s 2021 Wine Education Fellowship recipient talks wine, food, travel, and life with David Lynch.

April 18, 2022

Timing is everything sometimes: 28-year-old Mahlik Richardson had just lost his home in New Orleans, thanks to Hurricane Ida, when he learned that he was receiving SommSelect’s Wine Education Fellowship grant for 2021. Richardson, a New Jersey native, moved to New Orleans in 2018 to be closer to his father, Rob, whose lengthy incarceration in Louisiana’s State Penitentiary—and his family's steadfast efforts to get him released—were chronicled in the Oscar-nominated documentary film “Time,” which was first released at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Mahlik had worked in the film business himself before pivoting to hospitality, and it was at the legendary Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans that his interest in wine blossomed. After starting at Brennan’s as a food runner, he steadily worked his way up the ladder and is poised to take on a new role—that of Sommelier at the upscale French Quarter steakhouse Doris Metropolitan.

It’s been a fast ascent for Mahlik, who is studying for the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Level 2 examination; recently took a month-long trip to Piedmont, Italy; and is about to launch a series of wine-and-cannabis pairing experiences. We connected with him recently to check in and to pepper him with questions about his life and career. Below are a few excerpts from our conversation. — David Lynch

2021 SommSelect Wine Education Fellow Mahlik Richardson - 1969-12-31

DL: You came to wine via restaurant service/bartending, which you originally chose to make a living as opposed to a pre-planned “career” choice. That's a pretty common occurrence in hospitality. The question is, what kept you IN hospitality? What was it about it that clicked for you and made you want to pursue it as a career?

MR: Once I began to study wine more seriously, and became more exposed to just what hospitality was as an industry the thing that KEPT me in hospitality was the vision that I would finally be able to do what I love and be paid for it. To eat, travel and explore the world through cuisine is what I've always loved to do before I could even articulate that sentiment, so the vision and an innate feeling that I was moving in the right direction is what ultimately kept me in the industry.

DL: Do you have any wine styles/regions that you are most locked in on right now?

MR: I'm still relatively fresh off a trip to Piedmont, Italy, so that region still occupies the most space in my mind rent-free! Experiencing those wines right in the place they’re made, and seeing great Italian restaurants in action, watching how they do things, is incredible.

DL: Which wine regions of the world are you most keen to visit?

MR: Like most wine professionals, France is a region I'm excited to cross off my list as the wine “Mecca,” but I'm equally as enthused to visit Sicily and take that trip to Mt. Etna.

DL: Are you planning on continuing up the Court of Master Sommeliers ladder (Level 2, 3, Master) or do you see yourself pursuing your wine education/career in a different way?

MR: I’m studying for CMS Level 2, and will be undertaking WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Level 3 soon. I also have intentions on gaining an internship to do a harvest in France, so a mix of educational styles is my preferred method.

DL: Do you see yourself continuing to run wine programs in restaurants for the foreseeable future or do you have other plans in mind?

MR: I see myself running the wine program at Doris Metropolitan, doing my due diligence on that side of the industry while continuing to curate wine experiences through my Sip More wine platform.

In New Orleans anytime soon? Be sure to check out Doris Metropolitan.