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Interview with Joshua Skenes and Mark Bright, Saison

By Alex Hunt MW |  November 29 2020

One of San Francisco’s most compelling restaurants – famous for its 22-course menu – allows guests to marvel at Chef Joshua Skenes’ passion while working in the open kitchen. The wine list, carefully selected by Mark Bright, perfectly matches the cooking style. We caught up with them both to discuss their favorite wines, San Francisco’s latest trends and 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?

Joshua Skenes: Great! Thank you.

Mark Bright: It’s always fantastic to receive these honors, especially from industry peers who know how hard it is to create such programs. But, we do it for the love of it, not for the rewards.

Where did your love of food and wine originate from?

JS: From a young age. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment.

MB: It was in my teens when I worked in my first restaurants and travelled to Europe for the first time and was exposed to a culture that was so focused on the quality of the food and wine they consumed.

Was it always your intention to work with fine dining and wine?

JS: Yes.

MB: Ever since I met my first sommelier at 16 years old it was my goal, definitely knew it at that moment.

What is the secret to your success?

JS: I don’t think it’s a secret. Just understand your dream, go to work and never stop until it is accomplished.

MB: Pure dedication to your craft, and there is never a finish line; we haven’t succeeded, we have only begun.

What food and wine trends are you currently seeing in San Francisco?

JS: I prefer to shift our focus from trends to asking what the best quality of any given thing is.

MB: Lots, I have never seen a restaurant scene with so many openings before in my life, but mostly people trying to do pure flavors and food.

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

JS: Deliciousness first.

MB: Balance, you can have a heavy focus on Burgundy like we do, but you need a little bit of everything.

What is your fundamental philosophy on food and wine?

JS: That it should be a delight in every way—from the company you choose, the feel of the materials, and the pleasure you derive from eating and drinking.

MB: Is it delicious?

What makes Saison’s wine list unique?

MB: One of the largest Burgundy selections in the country.

JS: Mark and his team have worked really hard to create our wine program at Saison. His list is carefully selected to match our cooking style.

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

JS: Coche-Dury, Dauvissat, Raveneau

MB: Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie, one of my favorite wines in the world and got a chance to drink so much of it with my mentor Rajat Parr when I started working for him and sleeping on his couch when I first moved to San Francisco. That, and Raveneau Chablis, for every time I am in Paris at Willi’s Wine Bar, I always drink a bottle of one of the vineyards.

What is next for you?

MB: Continue to be better every day at what we do. Thanks again for this incredible honor!

JS: Instead of what’s next, we like to ask ourselves what can be better than yesterday. Thank you!

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