Michael Meagher, Master Sommelier
What did you study at Harvard?
Well I spent the first three semesters targeting an Economics concentration, but my interests shifted over that time and I entered the Sociology department, which, considering my career in the hospitality, has served me very well! I was sizing up law school possibilities my junior and senior years and instead, took a path less traveled and pursued a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America and then a Masters Degree in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Were you involved with any food or wine activities while a student?
I wish! Back when I was an undergraduate, the food, wine and hospitality industries weren’t perceived to be as legitimate or “serious” as they are now for pursuing sustainable or fulfilling careers. When I was trying to make my decision about law school vs. culinary school, I was forced to look to a Yale graduate for inspiration (Ming Tsai), so I’m thrilled that there is a more vibrant community in wine and food in Cambridge now! Though after graduating, I was able to get plugged back in to the University and its emerging epicurean communities, and I taught a number of seminars for HSA, HBS and HLS.
Do you think that Harvard has prepared you for a career in food and wine or hospitality in general? If so, how?
I am a believer that Harvard gave me a background where I could flourish in whichever field I chose. Certainly the economics and sociology coursework has directly come into play every now and then, but it was my entire experience, especially the support from my peers and professors, that allowed me to even think that the hospitality field was an option. Studying for the Master Sommelier Exam was one of the hardest things I’ve ever undertaken in my life (it far surpassed any of the work I did as an undergraduate), and having that strong academic background definitely helped me become one of only 249 people, to date, that have ever passed the exam.
What work do you do now?
After becoming a Master Sommelier, I started my own company, working with restaurants, hotels, professional organizations, private clients, and just about anyone that is looking to up their own personal or professional relationship with food and wine. I get to go from working with national restaurant chains to develop more robust training methods for their staff one day, to hosting private seminars for families looking to enhance an upcoming trip to a wine region the next, to assessing, purchasing, and brokering sales of wine in private collections later that week. With experience in restaurants, supply, distribution and kitchens, I’m fortunate that I get to use my entire background almost on a daily basis.
Websites that are relevant to your work or special interests:
Sommelier On-Demand Hospitality Services: www.sommelierondemand.com
Court of Master Sommeliers – Americas: http://www.mastersommeliers.org
Wine and Spirits Education Trust: www.wset.co.uk
Guild of Sommeliers: www.guildsomm.com