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Combining sushi with wine, a challenge taken up by Justice, Head Sommelier & Wine Buyer

Justice Derrick

Having completed the Wine and Management Diploma in 2021, Justice Derrick is now Head Sommelier & Wine Buyer in Dallas, Texas, for an Edomae style sushi restaurant called Namo, featuring an omakase experience. All of the food and ingredients are sourced directly from Japan and are shipped weekly in order to provide one of the best sushi dining experiences in the world. His current goal at Namo is simply to create the best curation of wines available in the state. Hardworking and full of projects, he is looking to begin a wine import/distribution business in the coming year or two.

How did your interest in wine come about?
I'm a relatively young member of the wine service industry given when I began my wine education in the US I wasn't even able to drink. My appreciation for wine came through travelling in Japan and starting with simple wine & food pairings, that branched into a fascination with everything in-between. Once I had purchased a handful of wine related books, I knew it would be for me and I decided to move abroad and enroll at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. 

What is your favourite memory from your adventure at Le Cordon Bleu Paris?
I think this is a hard one for me to place. I must admit; I never planned on travelling, let alone living in Paris until I had discovered wine... Then it all fell into place. I find myself looking back incredibly fondly on me memories of walking around Paris with my classmates, trying different wine bars and restaurants, ordering whatever wine we had discussed in class recently to broaden our palates. But I can hardly mention that without also bringing up our trips to the different wine regions in France, specifically having that vitally important first-hand knowledge and experience we gained by meeting with the producers, seeing the land, the exposure, and most importantly... Tasting all the wine, which ended up being quite the marathon of an experience.

What have you accomplished since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Paris?
In my time since graduating I've worked at a handful of restaurants to include Frenchie, 1* in Paris, sketch the Lecture Room & Library*** in London, and finally my current position here in Dallas, Texas at Namo. I've worked every hierarchal role in the sommelier and wine service path up to the point where I am now, with each passing role only reminding me how what I've learned in the past is ever so much more applicable now. 

What do you think were the real pluses of the training you followed?
One thing that was invaluable about studying at Le Cordon Bleu Paris was the ability you have to meet industry leaders, new business owners, winemakers, and not only that, but then being able to have and grow those connections, should you decide to stay within France, or move abroad. It will put you at a cutting edge to any other formation I've yet come across. The ability to taste an incredible volume of wines in class is so drastically helpful in this field as when starting out, it is an oceanic desert with know clear direction of where to start to begin the crossing. It will give your palate a massive headstart and you will get as much out of it as you put in.

Can you describe your job as Head Sommelier & Wine Buyer?
My current role is really a new inception for the restaurant I'm at here back in Texas. It involves quite a bit of visionary thinking and fledgling. My days begin even before I enter the restaurant as I'm already browsing catalogues, texting distributors to schedule tastings, and coming up with a lesson plan to educate our staff in a short, concise, and fun way, which almost always allows them to taste something, following my training as a sommelier. Namo, the restaurant I reside at, is an Edomae omakase style sushi restaurant with the best products sourced directly from Japan, we have our own fish & wildlife importing license here in the US which allows us to purchase directly from Toyosu market in Tokyo, ensuring we have the best quality ingredients here we can get. When it comes to the buying portion of my position, I use a large amount of my previous experience to create a vision for how I want the flow balance of our offerings to consist of. Learning to navigate the proper channels in the US has definitely been the toughest learning curve I would say.

What do you like the most in your job?
I enjoy the ability and freedom I have to curate and create an incredible selection, but that wouldn't be possible without my ability to speak with our guests and learn about their interests, palates, and desires for what they want to drink. Only once I've served the wine in the glass can I appreciate the extra perks of the job to include access to industry level tastings, travel to wine regions throughout the world, and pursuit of a deeper breadth of knowledge. 

3 words to describe your experience at Le Cordon Bleu Paris?
Hard, invaluable, fufilling

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