Daniel's Head Sommelier Chris Dooley Once Worked At This Famous Restaurant

An enduring icon of New York City's dining scene since 1993, the restaurant Daniel is expected to hold considerable prestige and more than a few culinary secrets. But one thing everyone knows, or soon will, is that Daniel's new head sommelier is more an intuitive storyteller than elusive oenophile. Chris Dooley, who ascended to the position in Autumn 2021, per the Daniel website, knows his vino and earned his spot at renowned chef Daniel Boulud's flagship restaurant on New York City's Upper East Side. But Dooley's backstory leans heavily on the progression of an artist who found his niche, merging a passion for theatre with the daily unfolding stories of people having dinner and wine.

Dooley hails from Ohio and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in acting from Northern Kentucky University, per his Daniel profile page. While pursuing a career on the stage, he honed his personal engagement skills and storytelling acumen while waiting tables to earn money. Dooley's fledgling connection to the world of wine flourished, eventually landing him at the famous Eleven Madison Park restaurant, far from Dublin, Ohio. 

From Ohio to Michelin Stars in New York City

Dooley's burgeoning love for wine under the tutelage of wine expert Lauren Daddona in Boston inevitably led him to choose between acting and hospitality, explains Daniel. Dooley knew he had to make a choice but ultimately realized that the two careers held similar characteristics. In an interview with Wine365, Dooley notes how he unknowingly developed overlapping skills while serving diners at higher end establishments with expansive wine lists. He describes it as transferring his love of storytelling from stage to tableside. So, he packed his bags and moved to New York City.

That's where Dooley stepped into his future as a wine sommelier at Eleven Madison Park. The famous restaurant, which holds three Michelin stars, both refined and defined him in the wine industry. While rising to the position of Assistant Wine Director, Dooley learned the details and minutia of connecting with diners and developing business instincts with a sense of ownership, per his Daniel biography page.  

Dooley told Wine365 that a piece of advice he received at Eleven Madison Park has stayed with him until this day: Ask for forgiveness, not for permission. He revealed that the trust amongst employees there inspired them to be the best versions of themselves. Self-reflection and learning from actions, consequences, and motivations proved integral to getting him to where he is today.