Penfolds and GQ Magazine – Best Dressed Somm

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When gemologist Mona Nesseth speaks, people listen.

Mona is so wise, well-informed, and astute that people stop talking just to eavesdrop on her conversation. Eavesdrop is just what this Stalker gal did. Full on ear up to her head truth be told. She needed a photographer for a photo shoot for “Best Dressed Somm for 2015” and before you could say “Strike a Pose”, the date was set. The presentation of how you look says a lot to diners, therefore, a Sommeliers dress is key.

GQ Magazine and Penfolds, Australia’s leading winemaker, have teamed together for the second annual search for the “Best Dressed Somm” of 2015. Somms from all over the continent are putting their best ensemble forward, submitting images. Today’s modern-day wine professionals (often referred to as “somms”) are wine connoisseurs who challenge many of the traditional sommelier attitudes and rules, as well as set new trends, redefining the wine experience. The role has changed – no more tuxedos and pressed white table cloths. Somm’s are now rolling up their sleeves to reveal tats, fun ties, red soled pumps and yes even colorful laces in their Oxford’s. The key is to create your own look and be confident. Through their infectious passion and energy for sharing wine knowledge, and contemporary and diverse backgrounds, somms make choosing wine interesting and fun. Penfolds has been producing an impressive array of wines since 1844 and indisputably led the development of Australian fine wine into the modern era. GQ is the leading men’s general-interest magazine published by Condé Nast, a world leader in exceptional content creation. Sounds like a winning combination if you ask me.

Awarded “Award of Excellence” by the Wine Spectator, the wine program at The Bazaar by Jose Andres is lead by sommelier Rachel Macalisang who has tossed her heels in the ring for the contest. With a focus on the wines of Spain, Spanish wine regions such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Cava and Jerez are a natural match to the innovative & sophisticated cuisine at The Bazaar. The playful and harmonious combination of food & wine often (every time for me) leads to a magical and transcendental dining experience. From cocktails that bellow with smoke to inventive tapas, Chef José Andrés’ pioneers creativity as does Rachel’s wardrobe.

Our dream team came together like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Rachel was armed with a trolley full of designer clothing ready to be embellished with diamond jewelry from Mona Nesseth and Hammerman Brothers of New York City. She sparkled in drop necklaces, rings, star-studded earings and diamond ruby watches like a Queen. We set up five different locations within the SLS Hotel that required fashion changes and unique lighting situations (let alone my camera being splashed with water as Rachel frolicked in the pool, kicking water in an upward motion as instructed. All in a daze work my Style Spy friends.) In an effort to come up with a pose for an unusual shaped pink “S” shaped chair, I flopped upside down to think. Hence, a new pose was born. Twilight hour capturing the gorgeous pink sky (which lasted all but ten minutes) was heaven-sent. An aura of beauty graced the pool in a full length leopard dress, floppy Rachel Zoe hat and lipstick red suede heels. (She would look smashing in a sock for crying out loud!) With camera in hand and photographer Gregg Cobarr (His image of Michael Jackson was selected by LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for their permanent collection) operating the flash remotely, we worked in unison capturing images that showed not only Rachel’s professional side, but fun side as well. (Rachel, your face muscles must still be hurting from hours of smiling.)

Looking stylish & feminine, it’s clear Rachel creates her Somm style look based on confidence. She is inspired by fashion every day, not afraid to mix and match, adding her own personality. Congrats to a young lady who most certainly deserves our well earned praise for a job well done. Hop on the social media train and click LIKE! Like, RIGHT NOW! Instagram.com/winebadass.

This Style Spy would love to see more women Sommeliers taking chances. Go ahead and toss on a gimundo accessory while you’re at it. The genius thing about it is there are no limits, which means it’s always magical. Fashion isn’t a trend that you have to follow like a sheep. When something is good and looks good on you, wear it! Be true to yourself, that’s the most important thing. Step out in something that reflects who you are. Be your chic, alluring, beautiful self ladies.

So dress up, let loose and hit the bar as quickly as you can for an outrageous martini with smoke billowing from it’s rim or a decadent glass of wine. Tell the Rachel The Food Stalker sent you…

Best of luck to all the contestants!

* Penfolds and GQ will select and invite the top five somm finalists to a luxurious event at Penfolds House October 14th in New York City. The lavish, invite-only affair will be hosted for the top five finalists, where they are encouraged to come dressed in their best attire, ready for the winner’s announcement made by the Penfolds and GQ Best Dressed Somm esteemed panel of judges: GQ Executive Stylist, Brett Fahlgren, ABC’s “The Taste” mentor who previously landed a spot on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List, Marcus Samuelsson and Penfolds Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago. I look forward to opening a bottle of Penfolds Bin 389 to celebrate Rachel and seeing her in an upcoming issue of GQ magazine! Oh my, what to wear?

Make up artist Bonnie Benefield – “Eyes On You” blbenefield@hotmail.com

2 Comments

  1. penelopeshackelford

    September 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    So happy to hear the good news about Rachel Macalisang. Love The Bazaar’s wine list for which Rachel is responsible. Keep on informing us Ms Foodstalker!

    • thefoodstalker

      September 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Penelope, be sure to introduce yourself next visit and let her know we are “foodie-freinds”. She’ll take good care of you!


With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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