Thursday Q&A with Grayson McDiarmid

Grayson McDiarmid wants to be remembered, first and foremost, as a "proud family man." (Photo: Chris Mikula)

Grayson McDiarmid is the sommelier and senior manager at Gezellig, Stephen Beckta’s latest Ottawa restaurant, which opened in late October at the corner of Richmond Road and Churchill Avenue. He took some time away from a busy hospitality season to answer our many questions. Don’t let his first (non) answer discourage you!

OCS: Who are your style icons?

GM: (No answer to this question)

OCS: What’s on your bedside table?

GM: The book “Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol” by Ian Gaitley, a half-finished gin martini and an iPad.

OCS: Best home accessory?

GM: PVR, I am rarely home in the evenings and this way, my wife and I can still watch Jeopardy together.

OCS: Best recent fashion find?

GM: I got a really great green-plaid silk scarf this September when I was in Venice for my honeymoon. It goes with every coat I own.

OCS: Whom would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?

GM: Aubert de Villaine, owner one of the most important wine estates in the world. He’s a genius and it might be the only way I would get to try wines from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.

OCS: You can see the debut of any piece of music in history. What would it be?

GM: Sounds weird, but I grew up listening to a live album by the late Stan Rogers called Home in Halifax (my mom is from Cape Breton) so I would have loved to have seen that. Such a great concert. I still play it when I’m giving my daughter a bath.

OCS: What’s your earliest memory?

GM: My upside down living room as I was choking on a candy. My mom was holding me upside down trying to dislodge it via gravity. Nothing a trip to the ER in an ambulance couldn’t fix.

OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?

GM: I will sometimes wear striped dress shirts and dress pants with designs and tell the staff it’s going to be a busy day because of my busy outfit. Haven’t been wrong yet. Faux-pas in others: I really hate Uggs.

OCS: Proudest moments?

GM: I’m lucky to have lots but most recently, the day Zara was born, marrying my wife on a dock at a cottage, winning Ontario Hostelry Institute’s Top 30 Under 30.

OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?

GM: Dishwasher.

OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?

GM: Sense of humour and empathy

OCS: Whom would you most like to serve at work?

GM: Jancis Robinson, one of the most knowledgeable wine experts in the world.

OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).

GM: Hot summer day in Ottawa. Eggs and bacon for breakfast, take the girls to O’Brien Beach on Meech Lake, swim and have a picnic lunch. Family nap time. All four of us cook dinner together and it has to involve the barbecue. Watch my six-year-old Jayden’s favourite show (America’s Funniest Home Videos). Cigar as the sun goes down.

OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?

GM: Derek Hess

OCS: Favourite local artist?
GM: I would have to say Willie McElligott. I’m surrounded by his beautiful pictures of local architecture everyday and it doesn’t get old.

OCS: Best book you read in the past year?

GM: Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop

OCS: Favourite food?

GM: Fancy: Miso glazed sablefish; non-fancy: hot chicken wings

OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?

GM: Anything by The Weakerthans

OCS: Wine, beer or both?

GM: Absolutely both! My career is based on wine so I really believe it’s the most special and interesting beverage in the world but what would a week without beer be like? I wouldn’t really know.

OCS: Mac or PC?

GM: Mac all the way.

OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?

GM: I love both. I spend so much of my life in nice restaurants that it’s sometimes a treat to do the diner or pub experience.

OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?

GM: It will be Gezellig, once we’ve got all the kinks worked out but I would have to say Beckta. I’m a little biased but I’ve never been disappointed. I also really love Wellington Gastropub and Fraser Café.

OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest that you live in Ottawa?

GM: Skating the canal

OCS: Fave blog or website?

GM: I try to follow politics quite closely so as well as I also spend a lot of time on the Globe and Mail website, the CBC as well as The New York Times.

OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?

GM: Both, but if I were to have to choose it would be twitter (@graysondrinks)

OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?

GM: Junior McChickens and Captain Blacks.

OCS: Favourite place to spend time?

GM: Wine regions

OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?

GM: First and foremost, that I was a proud family man who adored and cared for his wife and kids, above all else; that I was proud that I got to take care of people for a living through genuine hospitality and delicious wines; that I was an effective yet fun manager of people; that I was a funny guy to be around.

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