Wine Talk with Alice Swift
An Interview with Sean Morgan, Sommelier at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House
During my trip to Las Vegas in September, I visited a longstanding restaurant that has been open in the MGM Grand since its early years–Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, a.k.a. Chef Emeril Lagasse’s first restaurant in Las Vegas. Now in its 24th year of operation, the restaurant has continued to evolve to guest preferences, bringing a more modern and inviting atmosphere that welcomes all guests.
So, what’s the secret to success? One thing that stood out during my visit would be the loyalty that the employees have to the restaurant, brand and to Chef Lagasse. I am a firm believer that if you keep your employees happy, they will in turn keep the guests happy, which eventually contributes to a restaurant’s success. I chatted with Sean Morgan, who was promoted to Sommelier three years ago, and he represents one of those success stories where hard work pays off.
Surprisingly, Morgan isn’t the longest employed staff, even at 17 years. There are multiple employees who have been there 20+ years, including one who has been employed since Day 1! This is truly an accomplishment, especially nowadays where you’re lucky if an employee stays for 1-2 years. Read on for a summary of our interview, and some of his recommendations for F&B pairings!
The path to becoming sommelier at Emeril’s New Orleans
Morgan initially got his start as a busser back in 2002, later becoming a server. At the time, his beverage knowledge was limited, and decided to expand his expertise by working as a bartender for a couple years. Later, he joined a management development program, and was promoted to Assistant Sommelier after shadowing the sommelier at the time. Interestingly enough, Morgan didn’t realize his passion for wine until his promotion. He wanted to be able to make genuine recommendations about wine, and give recommendations based on his personal interests, which quickly developed. With such an extensive wine list and mentorship of the sommelier at the time, Morgan was able to quickly grow his F&B knowledge while continuing to hone his guest service skills. After the previous sommelier left the restaurant, Morgan was promoted to Sommelier, and here we are today.
The wine list
The restaurant has quite the selection of wines, consistently making the Wine Spectators Best of Award of Excellence annually. Morgan now has a “Sean’s Picks” wine list of ~30 for guests who are looking for recommendations. There are many popular wines, as well a large selection of older vintage, reserve wines. There is something for everyone, from old to new world wines, and a large bar/cocktail selection.
Fun Fact! The prices for the reserve/older vintage wines that were purchased during the early years have not increased in prices for guests! There are some restaurant guests that will come in just to purchase wines as they are great quality, temperature controlled, and at great prices.
MGM Grand convention guests make up the majority of the restaurant goers, but there are also walk-ins, and people visiting for special occasions. Working with Executive Chef Ken Lum, the menu now has a 4-course meal with wine pairings. If you are celebrating a special occasion with a larger group, there is a private dining area (The Kitchen Table) where you can experience a special 5-course meal with wine pairing.
“The biggest thing I enjoy about wine is how much it changes. A bottle of wine can change, from opening, breathing, later [over time] and when you eat different foods.”
• Favorite wine or wine region?
Italy (Barolo, Barbera d’Asti, Brunello di Montalcino)
• Favorite dish (& wine pairing):
Striped Bass (Charred Scallion Pesto, Sauce Piquante, Garlic Crab Carolina Gold Rice), paired with a lighter California Pinot Noir such as Littori, or the 2006 William Seylem, if you are looking for an older vintage wine.
Fun Fact! Currently, the oldest vintage wine in inventory is from 1970! In the past, the restaurant carried a 1959 Mouton Rothschild, and before that, there was a 1900 Chateau Margaux that a guest purchased for his 30th birthday for $17,000!!!
Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House hosts regular special F&B events, vintner/wine producer events that focus on a particular theme, winery, or portfolio. Keep an eye out for events coming up during the holiday season! Details will be posted on their social media and email newsletter. To sign up, go to: https://emerilsrestaurants.com/emerils-new-orleans-fish-house/
Fun Fact! Morgan’s father was and still is in the gaming industry, currently working as a casino manager at Aliante Hotel for 35 years now. He has worked in several casinos as well, opening Gold Coast and Barbery Coast Hotel & Casino.