Glodean Champion with Katie Finn.

“Do what you love, in the service of people who love what you do.” —Steve Farber

I was introduced to this quote a couple of months ago, and I haven’t been the same since.

In November, I was invited to an intimate dinner party at a dear friend’s house so we could meet a woman named Glodean Champion.

Glodean comes with an impressive resume. She is a Six Sigma black belt (I had to look up what that meant), motivational speaker, life coach, mentor, educator and masterful storyteller. She is also an accomplished author, and when we met at this small gathering of girlfriends in Rancho Mirage, we were there to experience her debut novel called Salmon Croquettes, a moving coming-of-age story of a young Black girl growing up in Watts during the riots of 1965.

Throughout the evening, Glodean entertained us with stories of how the book came to fruition, how the characters developed in her mind, and the amount of love, time and research she put into it. Meanwhile, we were eating a home-cooked meal of salmon croquettes (natch), black-eyed peas, cornbread and coleslaw, prepared by Glodean and our wonderful friend and hostess for the evening, Jacqueline Harth. To say it was a magical and eye-opening night is an understatement.

But what struck me most was a quote, rather similar to Farber’s quote, that Glodean shared with us at the end of the evening. In the most warm and loving way, she said, “Go do what you love, and service the people who love what you do.”

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

This quote made me reflect on my own career. At a time when many of us make resolutions for how to be better, or break a bad habit, or live a better life, this quote kept resonating in my head.

I began my career in the restaurant business just like every other sommelier. Back in the day (I’m not sure how it’s structured now), you had to be affiliated with a restaurant or hotel to even apply to take the exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers. I find this ironic, because in a restaurant or hotel, the wine aspect of the day-to-day business becomes very small.

When I was in my early 20s, I moved to Maui, Hawaii. I had been working as a manager/sommelier for the Roy’s in Newport Beach when there was an opportunity to become a cellar master for a new restaurant opening in West Maui. Hmm … an all-expense-paid move to Maui, where I get to create my own wine program? Let me take four seconds to think about that.

Of course, there was also a boy involved. I was madly in love, and it just so happened that the boy I was in love with was a chef and got a job in Maui at the same time.

Unfortunately, the general manager of the new West Maui restaurant didn’t exactly agree with the owner about having a female cellar master. After he briefly reviewed my extensive wine-program proposal, we had a short interview which seemed more perfunctory than inquisitive, at which time he offered me a position as a cocktail waitress. I was a certified sommelier with management experience, and I had moved 2,500 miles away … to be a cocktail waitress? No. No thank you.

Devastated, I immediately called my friends at Roy’s, and within a few days, I was working at the location in Kahana. Positioned in a small strip mall on the second floor, this restaurant was iconic on the island, and it was a wonderful job … but I was right back where I started.

d where I should go, the answer became clear. It was time to go home. I needed to come back to the Coachella Valley.

For the most part, I was happy. But the downside of being a manager/sommelier in a restaurant is that very little of your time is actually dedicated to wine. Aside from preshift meetings where I chose a bottle or two off the list to explore with the team and learn more about, and the occasional time when a server would ask me to go to a table to help the guests choose a bottle for the evening, I was far busier helping bus tables, seat guests, deliver drinks and run food than I was actually talking to people about wine.

Was I loving what I was doing? No.

Turns out, the boy I moved there with was a bad guy who broke my heart. That wound up being the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

After a few sleepless nights in Maui, contemplating where I could go, where I wanted to go, and where I should go, the answer became clear. It was time to go home. I needed to come back to the Coachella Valley. This place has always been magical to me. I feel strong here. Rooted. Capable of anything.

I left the restaurant business and devoted my career to wine. Just wine. All the time.

That devotion led me to a move from the Coachella Valley to Napa, where I met some of the most influential people in the business—and more importantly, I met my future husband. And he’s a really good guy. It turns out, two kids later, he’s a really great dad, too. As if it couldn’t get any better, he understood my love of the desert and agreed to leave Napa, and move back to my magical Coachella Valley.

As for me, well … I found this really cool little wine shop in Palm Desert, and they needed some help. I started there in January 2018, working just a couple of hours a week. I’m now one of the owners. And I can say in no uncertain terms: I do what I love. And I have the immeasurable joy of servicing those who love what I do.

My wish for everyone this New Year is to find their passion; listen when opportunity knocks; take a deep breath; have a glass of wine; and go for it!

Katie Finn

Katie Finn drinks wine for a living. As a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and as a Certified Specialist of Wine, she has dedicated her career to wine education and sharing her...

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