Jon Augustin, Director of Beverage, True Food Kitchen

The first True Food Kitchen opened in 2008 in Phoenix, Arizona. A collaboration between Dr. Andrew Weil and Restaurateur Sam Fox (Fox Restaurant Concepts). True Food Kitchen is a health-focused restaurant chain that serves healthy, seasonal, sustainable and organic food with plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Weil and Fox had met in the late 1990s at one of Fox’s restaurants in Tuscon. The first True Food Kitchen was an immediate success and inspired the two to roll out the concept on a national level. Dishes are influenced by Mediterranean, Asian and California cuisine and includes everything from noodle dishes to burgers to brick oven pizzas.

We talked with Jon Augustin, Director of Beverage for True Food Kitchen about everything from Cheval Blanc with a burger to his birth year Bordeaux.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    How long have you been with True Food Kitchen?

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    Jon Augustin

    I have been with True Food since we opened our doors almost 11 years ago.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    How great. What experience did you bring with you?

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    Jon Augustin

    I brought the experience of collaborating wine lists for a small group back in Minnesota.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    How many wine lists are under your command?

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    Jon Augustin

    We have one master list that share content within 29 True Food locations.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    How does your wine program work?

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    Jon Augustin

    We have a mix of wines that are familiar to every level of wine connoisseur and they all have to be either organically, sustainably or biodynamically farmed.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Of course. That makes sense. Thankfully there are so many wines that fill that bill now, right?  But once you get down to wines that are organically, sustainably or biodynamically farmed, how to decide which wines make the grade?

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    Jon Augustin

    I first start by asking our chef about what flavors he would like to bring on to the menu and work my way to find wines that will complement his dishes. And clientele also plays a very large role in making a wine selection. At the end of the day it’s about making a selection that our guests will enjoy, not something I think they should enjoy.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    What do you think of Stelvin caps and other screw cap closures?

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    Jon Augustin

    I really enjoy the Stelvin tops for a few reasons. It keeps the wine fresher and you don’t have to worry about spoilage, and it is much easier to open not only for the bar staff but for that not so confident server that may be a little intimidated by opening a bottle of wine table side.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Guessing you like wine on tap too?

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    Jon Augustin

    Definitely. I like wine on tap for the freshness and sustainability factors it brings.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    And it’s also easier to serve. Which brings us to your staff and what kind of wine education program you have.

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    Jon Augustin

    We have a few different ways we educate our staff. First, we ensure that our leaders in each location are well versed on the wine list and this is done with some online modules and testing we have created. Second, we pass this along to our service staff in the form of featuring certain wines for the week and ensuring that we are all tasting and talking about the wines in each pre shift, making sure to talk about exciting and unique stories about each winery.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Great wines, true stories. That’s what we are all about. Do you find that people order different wines in different cities? Different regions?

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    Jon Augustin

    I would say that overall the major trends translate to the majority of the cities across the country but underneath that you find that different parts of the country have their own trends and tastes.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Which brings us to trends. Do they play the same way?

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    Jon Augustin

    They do. I want to ensure that we are giving the guests what they are looking for within the popular categories but also fins fun and unique selections within those categories.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Have you noticed any changes in what people are drinking?

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    Jon Augustin

    I would say that the overall wine drinker is becoming savvier and wanting to branch out. We are seeing guests get a little more adventurous with their selections. I think this is part of people having more access to the information that is out there, and once they find a varietal they enjoy, they branch out to other varietals that are similar.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Has this affected your wine program at all?

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    Jon Augustin

    It has affected our program in that we are having to get more adventurous as well. We just want to ensure that we are able to give our guests what they want and help to educate them on new and exciting varietals.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    What varietal would you love to share?

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    Jon Augustin

    The one varietal I would like everyone to try would be Riesling. Sweet more often than not comes to mind when we think of Riesling, but it is such a diverse grape with so many variations that I find all wine drinkers would enjoy.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    What’s your favorite part of your job?

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    Jon Augustin

    I rather enjoy the educational part of my job whether that is educating our staff on wine or learning more about it myself form an assortment of colleagues.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Did you always want to work in the beverage industry?

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    Jon Augustin

    After seeing Top Gun when I was a kid, I absolutely wanted to be a jet fighter. I have always looked up to my older brother and he started in the industry before I did so that is really where I was first fascinated by the world of beverage.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    What’s your first memory of wine?

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    Jon Augustin

    One of my first memories of wine was from my mother. Every one of us kids was gifted a bottle of Bordeaux from our birth year that was purchased the year after we were born. I won’t give you my exact year but let’s just say it’s pretty old.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Hah! Was wine part of your upbringing?

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    Jon Augustin

    The educational part of wine was in our upbringing and that has translated to fond memories and having more respect for the industry as a whole.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Do you have a favorite food & wine pairing?

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    Jon Augustin

    It’s always the classic pairing of a ’61 Chevel Blanc out of a paper cup and cheap burger.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Agreed.

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    Jon Augustin

    In all seriousness I’m a sucker for a nice Sancerre paired with a nice piece of white fish with Beurre blanc. I enjoy how each of the components can be so delicate on their own but then coming together to create an explosion of flavor.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    How about a favorite wine region?

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    Jon Augustin

    How about a favorite wine region?

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    The Mark Wine Group

    Have you been?

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    Jon Augustin

    Not yet, but I want to. I would also love to go to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Sardinia, and Tuscany.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    A European wine buff. Totally get that. Where have you been? Anywhere in Europe?

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    Jon Augustin

    Alsace and the Rhineland. I have been to Napa, Sonoma, Edna Valley, Paso Robles and Texas Hill Country.

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    The Mark Wine Group

    The Texas Hill Country is becoming quite the wine scene.  We will totally have to connect next time you are in Central Texas. Thank you so much.