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Thatcher Baker-Briggs: The Making Of The Bay Area's Star Sommelier

Lauren Brocato | December 11, 2020 | Food & Drink

Thatcher Baker-Briggs’ career started in the kitchen—now the 29-year-old is one of the most sought-after sommeliers in the Bay Area.ThatcherB4800.jpg

Unlike most kids at age 12, Thatcher Baker-Briggs spent his early years learning about the restaurant industry through a local fine-dining restaurant’s cooking classes—alongside the rest of his classmates who were all at least 60 years his elders. Inspired by the myriad multicultural cuisines in his hometown of Windsor, Canada, Baker-Briggs quickly figured out what he was meant to do in life: turn a passion for cuisine, wine and service into a career.

By the age of 21, Baker-Briggs had started studying wine, reading about wine and tasting as much wine as he could. “At that point, I knew that I wanted to open a restaurant, but I didn’t want to be a chef who didn’t like the dining room and vice versa,” he says. “I wanted to be well-rounded and to understand how everything works.” ThatcherB4966.jpg

To this day, Baker-Briggs has never stopped pursuing his passion. His desire to grow and learn about his craft as much as possible has led him all over the world. He worked at high-end San Francisco restaurants COI and Saison for several years before pushing himself out of his comfort zone to learn even more. When Baker-Briggs landed a job at Takazawa in Tokyo, one of the top restaurants in the world, he delved deeper into a passion for wine while working his initial kitchen job. At Takazawa, he’d cook during the day, and at night, make his way to the dining room to talk wine with the guests at the intimate eatery. With the monetary support of Takazawa and a desire to learn more about wine, he spent the next two years developing the restaurant’s wine program. There, and with limited familiarity with the Japanese language, he worked his way up to head sommelier and grew the wine list from 80 to 1,300 selections.

Having discovered and developed a deep fascination with wine on the other side of the world, Baker-Briggs returned to Saison, bringing back with him a wealth of knowledge. He entered a unique role there as director of service and beverage for the then-three-Michelin-starred restaurant. “They basically created a role for me,” he says. “My job was to take all of the different components of a restaurant—the bar and wine programs, service and chef teams—and build systems in which they could more effectively work together and create a style of service that is something unique and different.”ThatcherB4759.jpg

In this position, which aligned perfectly with his interests and goals, he formed relationships with people all over the Bay Area, and he received many requests for wine-related services. “People want access and knowledge,” Baker-Briggs says. And what started with a single request for a wine recommendation from a friend evolved into a full-time sommelier gig by 2019—Thatcher’s Wine Consulting. He’s also launched a perfectly timed online wine shop called The Wine Cellar that features a highly selective curation of rare and hard-to-find wines. “It doesn’t matter if it’s $25 or $25,000, the prices of the bottles are not relevant,” he says. “What is relevant is that I truly believe in everything that’s on this site. There isn’t a single bottle that I don’t want to open.”


Photography by: photos by Liz Daly/courtesy of Thatcher’s Wine Consulting