Three Hai Family Pass Cicerone and Sommelier Exams


One of the fundamental mottos in Hai Hospitality culture is “There is always room to learn and grow”. This message rings clear in every area of Hai, whether you’re a manager, server, or an aspiring chef. Within this idea, there are different aspects. There is always a new ingredient that is added to a dish or a technique that can be used while preparing the dish. When it comes to learning specific tasks, sometimes you want to master them. That is exactly what these three servers chose to do.

Every year, there is an opportunity to test for different levels of Sommelier certification. From Introductory, Certified, Advanced, and Master, thousands apply yearly, but not all pass. Yet, come January of 2017, Uchiko was proud to add three of their staff members to this elite and knowledgeable group.

Katie Wilcox

For Katie Wilcox taking the Introductory exam meant something to her on a spiritual level. She was, “both curious and passionate about anything that shows the relationships between people and nature, particularly plants.” Learning about what goes in to a bottle of wine gave her an appreciate for wine that she can also bring to her guests. Katie believes that in the world of hospitality, she gets to derive satisfaction in from everyday events with guests. “Celebrating big moments, developing connections, trying things for the first time. Each time that gives me a sense of accomplishment in an industry that is often taken for granted.” For Katie, taking the Intro to Sommelier exam helped build a bridge between her and her guests while they indulge in their glass of wine.

Monica Moreno

Monica Moreno began her sommelier exam journey almost a year and a half ago. With an itch to progress her knowledge with wine further, Monica signed up for her Certified Sommelier exam only eight weeks before the actual exam. Through ample amount of support from her friends and mentors, she braved the storm and conquered it. Monica decided if she was going to complete her certification, she wanted to certify with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She believed that every component of the exam – service, theory, and tasting – is ultimately related to guest experience. She believed that their exam is specifically tailored to people who work within the hospitality world. “CMS emphasizes mentorship in a huge way. The community is incredible — I’ve met some wonderful people through study groups.”

Lindsay Compton

Lindsay Compton, and her wife Brandy Compton of Barley Swine, studied long and hard for their exams. Plus, they decided to take on the extra challenge of studying for two exams. In March of 2016, they put their heads together, with many other friends in the service industry, and decided to take their Certified Cicerone exams at the end of 2016.

For as long as she could remember, beer and wine had been a central part of her life. “When I was a child, I can remember various times that when something symbolic happened, my family celebrated, mourned, or just laughed together with a beverage in their hands. I feel like I was brought up to have a true appreciation for the work that goes into the making of beer, wine, sake, and spirits.” And while it started young, Lindsay states that her true love of beer derived from experiencing the beers of Jester King Brewery. “Jester King is a brewery that seems to bridge the gap between beer and wine.  They create beers using the well water from their property, and they use a house culture of yeast, some of which they have taken off of wildflowers growing on their property. They are making beer, but it’s not like any beer that I had ever tasted.  I feel like they’re doing something new with beer… Because of this one brewery, I fell in love with beer.” Lindsay studied diligently during the months leading to her Cicerone exam. While waiting for the results of her Cicerone, she studied more and took her Introduction to Sommelier exam. Through the months that passed after, she waited patiently only to find out that she and her wife had passed both exams.


Even though these inspiring women have accomplished what so many of have tried, they aren’t even close to being finished in their learning journey. Katie plans to progress with her certifications and study for the next eighteen months towards her Certified Sommelier exam. For Monica, this has become a staple in her personal progression, “It feels less like I finished something and more like I’m starting something over.” Monica has begun to teach beverage classes at Uchiko. “My project over the next few months is to become a better wine educator—it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be!” As for Compton, she will continue to take on as many exams as she can muster. “My immediate plans are to complete the Certified Sommelier exam by the end of 2017.” As she and her wife celebrate their success, they also plan to take a historic beer trip to Belgium and Germany in January of 2018. And take the Advanced Cicerone Exam by the end of 2018.


With talk of a Certified Sake Professional exam in the air, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some familiar faces taking another plunge towards retaining knowledge and preserving history. Katie states, “In a sense, we get to be keepers of history and geography.” Compton doesn’t believe that having wine knowledge is solely for certification purposes, “If you are a wine lover, you may understand the concept of terroir and that each geographical area down to individual grape clusters have a sense of place, and depending on the winemaker, their overall goal may be for you to taste that place in the wine.” Monica loves the thrill of studying and competing, which helps her advance throughout her life.

Hai Beverage Tasting Tracker

The goal in mind isn’t always to pass. At times, it’s simply to challenge yourself in something that you were unsure of. To challenge your ability and knowledge towards something you love. Amongst our brazen ladies, we have countless of other staff members who have passed their sommelier tests and ones who are determined to pave the path further in the future. All of this is possible because of the endless amount of encouragement from the Hai Family. We at Ko are incredibly proud of our team members for pursuing their dreams in whichever field they see fit. In and outside the kitchen. The grand message of all of this is: Take the challenge and test your abilities. The worst thing that could happen is that you fail and have to try again.



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