Passionate, inquisitive and thankful, Lauren Hayes is a self-described natural wine nerd who loves talking about the similarity between art and alcohol. She got her start five years ago — a restaurant career wasn’t always the plan — and has let her curiosity guide her since. Hear about her journey from painting to Pammy’s, and learn what she tries to do every Sunday.
Where do you work now? What’s your position? Where else have you worked in the last five years?
I am the General Manager and Wine Director at Pammy’s in Cambridge. I was lucky to be the first hire in February 2017 and honored to play such a large role in the opening. Before Pammy’s, I was the Beverage Director for Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain, where I began as a server and bartender in 2013. I’m grateful for how much I learned there. Most services there were three, maybe four, people running the FoH, so you learned not just to multitask but how to think for yourself. It was the perfect job for an ambitious, curious person like me. There was never the question of “what do you already know?” but “what can you learn?”. That job constantly gave me opportunities to both challenge myself to do better and to prove that I could. I never thought I’d find as open and creative a role as that, but here we are! I’m lucky to have found two incredible restaurant families back to back.
Briefly, how did you get involved in restaurants and wine? What draws you to this line of work?
It started off without any intention of it becoming my career but simply as a job while I studied painting at MassArt. I began by working in cafes and back serving in restaurants as a teenager. I was very quickly enamored with restaurant culture and the remarkable bonds you form with your guests and teammates. My dearest friends I met as back waiters together — they were my first restaurant family and still are.
It didn’t take long for me to get bit by the wine bug. I always linked it to painting — both worlds are archaic and profound in ways that make you question if you actually understand it but can’t stop trying. Art can make you feel like you’ve got a glimpse of something substantial about the human condition and then very next day you feel like it’s all in your head. Wine does the same thing — it’s simultaneously ancient and new, it can be mind-altering beautiful or laughably bad. It has life and mystery.
I’ve always been in the corner of “natural wine.” That term often gets boiled down to a few basic descriptions, organic vineyard practices, no pesticides, native yeast fermentation, etc. But there is more to it that just the philosophy, it is still a craft that takes immense talent and knowledge. Great wine comes from both the skill of its craftsman and the health of the land it was grown in. Nowhere is this more evident than from the wines of those working with, not against, nature.
My least favorite is, unsurprisingly, any wine that is overly manipulated. I’m sad to taste a Vermentino that has been fined to the point that it’s lost its vigor, or an Oregon Pinot that has so much new oak on it that you can’t smell the wine itself.
On your days off, what kind of places do you frequent? A lot of industry folk are happier with a Miller High Life and a Fernet than composed cocktails or craft beer. You?
Until recently, “days off” was “day off”. My partner is also in the industry, and we try to go somewhere new each Sunday. I want to know what my peers and the people I admire are doing and what they’re excited about. I’m not one to say no to any experience. I’m psyched to be working in Cambridge — there are so many great places to get a drink after work. I’m just as happy to sip on a High Life at The People’s Republik as I am to get a craft cocktail at Waypoint.
What do you always keep stocked at home? Are there different things you like to drink for special occasions? Snow storms, sick days, having friends over, drinks for dinner, etc.
I am always the curious researcher and very rarely keep the same things around. Reliably, though, there will always be several options of sparkling wine in our house. After all, there is no wrong time for bubbles! The current two bottles of bubbles that we’re waiting for the right moment to drink are a 2004 Tour Grise Saumur and a NV Jacquesson 736. Though, the ‘right’ moment always ends up being some Tuesday — I’m not great at saving for special occasions but end up going on the hunt in the moment.
I love having people over for dinner and drinks. We have some good friends whom we share wine with often, fellow ‘natty wine nerds’ as they say, and we each try to open bottles the other has not had or, bonus!, has not heard of. Those moments sharing different bottles all with different stories on the back porch, those are the best.
Are you excited about one wine in particular? Is there something really overrated or underrated, in your opinion?
If there is one thing the staff at Pammy’s knows about me it’s that I’m very easily excited. I couldn’t possibly say there is ‘one wine’ because wine is constantly surprising and new. It can embody gentleness or burst with personality, command all of our attention or humbly play a supporting role. Something that I find overrated is limiting yourself to one type of wine or eliminating a style you think you don’t like. Having preconceptions about what a specific wine is before you’ve tried it in its element — that’s overrated.
I did recently travel to Umbria to visit with the incredible producers of SelectioNatural and wine ‘yoda’ Danilo Marcucci. Their commitment to ‘the natural,’ as Danilo calls it, is unparalleled. It’s been so exciting to watch these small scale producers evolve since Matt began importing them a few years ago and then the trip of a lifetime to get to see their world. Watch out for the 2017 vintages — they’re incredible and so full of life.
What’s something you wish the average guest knew about your job?
I don’t think it matters if guests understand my job. I want them to enjoy their company and time spent with us, not to worry about how I do what I do. Something I am constantly working towards that is not obvious to most guests, is linking the wine selections to our views of life, joy, and hospitality. Pammy’s is a place of warmth featuring wines from growers and makers who share our ideals of care and compassion. Just as we view the restaurant as an extension of our home, the wine selections feature makers who exhibit the same philosophy. It’s constant learning curve and an endless pile of research that can be daunting but ultimately the best part of my job!