From “Top Chef” Hopeful to Wine-Store Mogul?

Twentysomething sommelier and one-time Top Chef villain Stephen Asprinio is nearing completion on two ambitious ventures, Slashfood reports. He’s launching the first, a “concept wine boutique” called Tastevin, in L.A. this spring; his goal with the shop is to create an unstuffy place for folks his age to discover good but affordable wine. As Slashfood explains,

The shop will be 1,000-square feet and will offer 40-50 boutique wines, none of which will be over $25 per bottle, on a rotating basis. The major selling point is that every wine they offer will be ‘on tap,’ thanks to a cutting-edge computerized wine tasting system that allows every buyer to taste up to three different wines before they buy them, ensuring that they get one they like every time. Not only will they be able to taste the wines, but brief, current descriptions of all the wines will be offered via audio wands. The wands will be similar to the audio tours offered in museums, but will be equipped with short descriptions of the wines and their history. This eliminates the need to clutter the space with all kinds of signs … many buyers in the target demographic can feel intimidated by the prospect of dealing with a wine expert or someone who will try to upsell them into an expensive bottle they’re not interested in.

Sounds pretty great. Though of course I wish it didn’t: If you watched season one, you may remember the perpetually designer-suited Stephen as the pretentious git who once declared that he’s in the top three percentile of everything he does. A talented chef, by all accounts, but one whose (deliberately?) arrogant persona made him the object of many viewers’ ire.

What about that second project? It’s another idea aimed at a younger crowd, and this one I’m not so sure about: a contemporary Tuscan restaurant called Forté d’Asprinio, scheduled to open this summer in Palm Beach. It’s supposed to appeal to “adventurous palates,” but as Slashfood explains, the real distinguishing feature is the fact that “not one member of management or the kitchen staff, including his executive chef, will be over the age of 30.” Eh? Apparently Stephen is willing to face the inevitable age-discrimination charges so that he can, as Slashfood puts it, “give other up and coming culinary stars a chance to showcase their talents, while at other restaurants they might be held back simply based on the seniority of older chefs.”

What do you think—do young chefs need this kind of leg up these days?

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