Photo by Eliesa Johnson
Sit down and pour yourself a stiff glass of something French: Bill Summerville, longtime sommelier, partner, maitre d', and wine guy at La Belle Vie has left La Belle Vie.
What?! Minneapolis’ one real bona fide sommelier, the bigwig spotter at the front door, the eternal, eternal not at La Belle Vie? Yes. I spoke to both La Belle Vie owner and top chef around town Tim McKee and former La Belle Vie partner Summerville just now and—Yes, yes, it’s all true.
But why? And where’s he going? “Nothing I can announce right now,” Summerville told me. “But there are some things I want to do which I can’t do and give La Belle Vie the attention it needs. I’m not good at multitasking.” Summerville has been multitasking for several years, I pointed out, running the wine program at Sea Change. And he’s not leaving the Tim McKee-run Sea Change!
But what, what, what is Summerville doing? Consulting? “A little consulting,” he told me. “And something more permanent down the road. A couple of long term things I’m looking at which will unfold. You don’t give it up right now because if they don’t happen you look like a fool.”
McKee added, “And if you give it up right now you only get one article out of it.”
“But even if I go and consult with restaurants which are direct competition with La Belle Vie it expands everyone's horizons, it’s good for the community,” Summerville said.
“What is the direct competition to La Belle Vie?” asked McKee, rhetorically. “No one’s crazy enough to be in fine dining but us.”
No one will say. Except then one of the people on this conference call said: “It’s the great circle of life.” And the other said: “Hakuna matata.”
Sommerville will be replaced, such as he can be, by longtime La Belle Vie alum Jay Hanahan who will source the wine list and design the wine program direction, and Craig Coulter who will be the sommelier on the floor.
Are you feeling all woozy, Minneapolis? I’ll let Tim McKee put a big bow on it for you: “It’s a bummer, but people come, people go. When they go it’s a way of building community, they improve the restaurant scene, it’s good for everyone.”
Hakuna matata indeed.