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Interview with Jordan Salcito, Momofuku Ko

By Alex Hunt MW |  November 29 2020

Since opening in 2008, Momofuku Ko is arguably one of New York’s most talked about eateries. Under the direction of David Chang, the tiny yet prestigious restaurant located in the East Village serves a set frequently changing multi-course tasting menu using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Beverage Director Jordan Salcito tells us more.

Congratulations on being featured in the World of Fine Wine Awards 2015. The awards, chaired by WOFW editor Neil Beckett, celebrate the importance of a good wine selection and are evaluated by a panel of senior judges. How does it feel to be recognized by industry insiders in this way?

It’s an incredible honor, and on behalf of the beverage team at Momofuku we’re very touched to be included this year. Thank you so much!

Where did your love of fine wine originate from?

I would say it began with my father’s love for wine (his father, an Italian immigrant, used to make wine in their basement in Connecticut when my dad was a boy). It certainly evolved once I moved to New York and became exposed to many extraordinary wines from across the world. It grew even more once I had the opportunity to begin working harvests in Burgundy, Tuscany, and Patagonia.

Was it always your intention to work with fine wine?

Fine wine always held an intrigue for me because it is as much about history, geography, geology, anthropology, community and philosophy as it is about fermented grape juice. I didn’t know I’d be so fortunate as to work with fine wine as a career until finishing a stage in the kitchen at Restaurant Daniel when Chef Daniel Boulud suggested I spend some time in Burgundy. That initial harvest, back in 2006, ignited a curiosity that I’d been timid to fully embrace up to that point.

What food and wine trends are you seeing in New York now?

People are very excited about Champagne, which is great! I’m not sure it’s a trend, but something we’ve been having a lot of fun with at Momofuku Ko are our ‘rinses’ for certain dishes on the pairing menu. Often dishes are so nuanced and dynamic that rinsing a glass with one wine before pouring another into that glass allows us to speak to two separate parts of the dish and produce a more complete pairing.

What is the secret to your success?

I have been fortunate to work with great and inspiring people both at previous restaurants and now at Momofuku. I am grateful to my parents for emphasizing the importance of a strong work ethic when my sisters and I were growing up and to my husband for his extraordinary insight and encouragement in this industry.

What is your fundamental philosophy on food and wine?

Context is everything! And, taste, before you make an assessment. Many times, multiple wines will work with a dish, and the difficult part is to decide which element – acidity, texture, flavor – is the most compelling with the dish.

What would you predict for the next 5-10 years in the food and wine industry?

It’s a very exciting time in our industry and I’m excited to see how it evolves. I imagine that as curiosity and exposure grows among consumers, they are going to expect more transparency in what is being added to the wines they drink. I’m also excited to see what sort of impact the Millennial Generation has on the industry. Lastly, I’m looking forward to more high-quality high-value wines in TetraPak!

What do you think is the most important element of a good wine list?

First, the list needs to make sense with the menu. A cohesive viewpoint is the first sign that the menu and wine list are built from the same philosophy and that the restaurant is presenting a united front. If the menu is delicate and nuanced, the wine selection should offer wines that will complement them. Once that is in check, for me, the most important element is balance! It’s a broad word with many applications, all of which are important.

Are there any particular wines that you love, or remind you of a certain place or memory?

Absolutely. When my husband and I were beginning to date, he opened a bottle of 1980 Henri Jayer ‘Les Brulées’ that I still dream about. I don’t drink that wine with any sort of frequency but it was magical. When I have the opportunity to drink a beautiful bottle of red Burgundy (Domaines Dujac, Comte Liger Belair, d’Angerville, Roumier, Mugneret-Gibourg are always favorites), I am still reminded of that bottle of Les Brulées and that moment in our relationship.

On a completely separate note, whenever I drink a bottle of perfectly balanced dry Mosel Riesling, I’m reminded of standing in the Alfer Hölle vineyard with the brilliant Ulli Stein. Wine is wonderfully transportive.

What is next for you?

I’m very excited to continue to grow and evolve our programs at Momofuku, particularly continuing to find new producers we love.

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