Meet Beverage Director Paula de Pano

I never thought that I would end up in the hospitality industry – my parents, traditional and well-meaning, always had high hopes that their daughter would become a lawyer or a doctor. But I soon found I had more interest in cooking fancy dinners for the family than burying my nose in books and studying numbers.

In 2008, I enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in New York after acquiring my a degree in Marketing and Public Relations in the Philippines. It was at the CIA where I discovered I truly enjoyed those fancy wine labels much more than cooking. My wine class professor encouraged me to change paths and to take the sommelier certifications with the Court of Master Sommeliers. It was through this organization that I began to realize what I wanted to do in this industry.

In 2010, I first joined Fearrington as an assistant sommelier with former Wine Director Maximilian Kast. The entire time I was at Fearrington, Max was the quintessential mentor. One of my favorite memories was quizzing each other in the wine room when we were both studying for our respective exams, his the Masters level, and mine the Advanced. We found it amusing to call out to the wine appellations from South Africa, “Buffeljags!…Stormsvlei!” It was ridiculous and nonsensical, but it also was also one of the questions in my Advanced Exams theory test two months later! Suffice to say, I got that question correct.

After four years at Fearrington, my husband and I decided to move to New York to be closer to his family. It was absolute luck that I landed at fellow Relais & Chateaux restaurant Eleven Madison Park. After working at a Relais & Chateaux property, you tend to look for that same sense of intimate hospitality provided by its staff to their guests.

My tenure at Eleven Madison Park will go down as one of the most intense, exhilarating, and rewarding experiences of my career. It was a place that poured over every single minute detail, from the food to service, with the end goal of their guests’ comfort and enjoyment. Yes, it is considered fine-dining – the best restaurant in North America, with a whole array of accolades – but stepping through those magnificent revolving doors into soaring high ceilings, the maître d’ greets you by name, takes your coat, while you’re whisked away to a table, is a dining experience like no other.

There’s a saying that it takes a lot of effort to look effortless. In the beginning of my time at Eleven Madison, there was a lot of truth to that – every detail mattered to the point of insanity. It was there I learned that creases on table cloths shouldn’t exist, water glasses are never half empty, guests are helped in and out of their seats every time, and plates are dropped and cleared by the dining room staff with such soigné precision that we would mentally high five each other when it was executed perfectly. We existed to bring dining pleasure to our guests and we took pride that we were able to accomplish it every night of service.

Once you had the basics down on the finer points of service, every detail did eventually become effortless. It just became a part of you, and guests appreciate that genuineness. It took hard, dedicated work but the rewards were great – the restaurant retains its three Michelin stars year after year, and received the Outstanding Service awards in 2016 by The World’s 50 Best and James Beard.

And I haven’t even started on the wine! Rows and rows, boxes and boxes, 25,000 bottles of some of the rarest, finest, and revered wines of the world. It was amazing what arrived at that cellar, but during dinner service was when the magic happened. Having the opportunity to taste the best wines of the world with an amazing regularity that you learn how these wines are supposed to taste at different stages of maturity is incredible. For a wine lover, flipping through the 170+ pages of Eleven Madison Park’s wine list is euphoria. Being part of a team that cares so much changes you as a restaurant professional, and motivates you to want to replicate such an environment.

After two years in New York, my husband and I decided that it was time to put down some roots. Two years in New York will quickly feel like five years because of how fast life happens in the city. I like to think that things happen for a reason – we purchased a house ten minutes down the road from Fearrington. A month after moving back, I received a call from Max saying that he just accepted an exciting position with Broadbent Selections and that I should interview for his position.

Long story short, I’ve returned to Fearrington with a fresh perspective on dining. It’s amazing to see so many familiar faces and the peaceful scenery. I’m quickly transported back – it feels like home.

– Paula, Beverage Director

Takeout Pizza at Roost

Did you know you can order takeout pizza from Roost? What better way to start the new season than taking home your favorite wood-fired pizza? Simply call Roost (919.542.1239) Thursday-Saturday 5-8pm and Sunday 3-6pm with your takeout order, and pick it up at Roost! See the full menu below for all your delicious wood-fired pizza options. Don't miss out on your favorite fall flavors! RED Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil  $11 Prosciutto, Olives, Fontina, Arugula  $15 House Garlic Sausage,... Full Post >

Fall Wines by the Glass

The Fearrington House Restaurant kitchens are busy preparing for the season with an abundance of delicious fall flavors. With a new menu and fresh flavors, our wine team is offering fall wines by the glass at The Fearrington House Restaurant. See more about these selections below. One of the oldest producers of Prosecco in the country, Nino Franco from Veneto, Italy produces his Rustico bottling that is fruity, flowery, with notes of yellow pear and a dusty minerality. This... Full Post >

Sharing the Spice with Pepperfest

This Sunday, Fearrington joined over 50 other chefs and local vendors for the 9th Annual Pepper Festival - one of the largest chef competitions in North Carolina! Held in Briar Chapel, just down the road from Fearrington Village, Pepper Festival challenges North Carolina’s top chefs to create original recipes, from pepper donuts to pepper beer, using one secret ingredient: the locally bred and grown North Carolina pepper. Chef Tom Whitaker and Chef Paola de Mayyer served Deviled... Full Post >

New Organic Facial at The Spa

The Spa at Fearrington is launching the new Organic Skin Therapy Facial this month. This 75 minute facial ($150) is perfect for all skin care types using De La Terre Skincare products. The De La Terre product line includes four advanced skin care systems (Comforts Inflamed Skin, Rescue Wounded Skin, Support Devitalized Skin, and Purify Blemished Skin) as well as many products for modern lifestyles. Pure botanicals provide moisture-binding protection to skin following radiation,... Full Post >

Reading on the Great Outdoors

Easily one of the best books I read last year and on a subject that would seem to be of no importance to anyone but some nomad in the Middle East. Instead, Childs wanders through the arid reaches of Arizona and Colorado in search of water and in an exhilarating prose style shows us that there's more to the desert than sand, rocks, and poisonous snakes. I recommend this highly to anyone who cares at least one iota about the great outdoors. Stop by McIntyre's to pick up The Secret Knowledge... Full Post >