by Rob Cottman
I have had the fortunate opportunity to meet many people throughout my life and travels, and every single one of them has taught me something about getting where you want to go. In this current chapter of my life as Executive Chef of World Cafe Live, I am grateful to work alongside many people in both the hospitality and music industry who are working hard daily to stay sharp in their respective fields. Here you will find my interviews with some of those people, and an exclusive inside look behind the scenes of who we are and what we do and why we love it.
MEET SEAN MCCLOUD
One of my favorite parts of my job is getting the opportunity to create new events inspired by new connections, especially with new partners. Coming out of the pandemic, I have been looking forward to putting together a new dinner pairing series. After reconnecting with Sean McCloud, I learned of his new venture A Taste of the Culture, a subscription service spotlighting Black owned wine and spirits. We have combined the best of what his company has to offer with a live experience centered around curated menus to highlight each brand. We will be kicking off the series July 12, and I had a chance to sit down with him and learn more about Sean’s inspiration.
RC: Congratulations on the success of A Taste of the Culture. What motivated you to start your own business, and what has the response been like so far?
SM: Thank you! There were multiple motivations. Number one, my family is a huge motivation, my wife, my son. I started A Taste of The Culture in 2020 when my son was 1 year old. It’s great to set that example for him at a young age. I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my wife, especially emotional support. She supports my crazy ideas but also reigns me in when I need it. Secondly, outside forces came together for me to start the business. I had dreams to be an entrepreneur as a kid but I never knew what exactly I wanted to do. Unfortunately, 2020 was full of a lot of turmoil, especially for the Black community. That motivated me to create a business that focuses on empowering the Black community and utilizing my past experience.
The response so far has been great. Like any new business there have been growing pains but I have been overwhelmed by the support. I made an appearance on Good Day Philadelphia in April 2021. I’ve had members in 15 states throughout the country, of all ages and backgrounds. I’m blessed.
RC: Why was it important to you to specifically highlight Black owned wine and spirit brands?
SM: It’s important to specifically highlight Black-owned Wine & Spirits because there aren’t many other people/organizations doing it. Honestly a lot has changed since I started the business in 2020, but there is still a long way to go. There aren’t many businesses with a large reach that focus on highlighting Black-owned Wine & Spirits in the same way. If the Black community doesn’t support Black-owned brands then who will? Obviously, that’s not 100% true but many of Black owners and leaders of these brands have to work so much harder to generate press and awareness. It’s also important for me to specifically highlight Black-owned brands because it supports Black entrepreneurship.
RC: How did your previous work in the industry prepare you to step out on your own?
SM: My previous work in the industry is so important to my creation and management of A Taste of the Culture. I wouldn’t be able to do this without that experience and I’m grateful. I’ve worked on behalf of some amazing suppliers and brands but I thought it was time to put my skills to use for people that look like me and don’t have millions of dollars to support their brands. I’ve had the pleasure of holding many different roles over the years including marketing and selling Wine & Spirits on premise, bars, restaurants, etc; as well as off premise, retail stores and also events. I’ve worked on behalf of brands at marketing agencies as well for a distributor selling brands. That unique blend of experience gives me not only the know how but the confidence to make it happen.
RC: What is the most recent addition to your liquor cabinet and how are you preparing it at home?
SM: The most recent addition to my liquor cabinet is Loft & Bear Vodka. Loft & Bear is a premium, Black-owned Vodka from LA. I was in LA in April and I was blown away because Loft & Bear has a distillery right downtown. The vodka is made from Winter Wheat, so it has a lot more texture than most vodkas. I love trying new things with Loft & Bear, I’ll make an Old Fashioned with it, not a conventional vodka cocktail at all, but it works.
RC: What is the one piece of advice you would give people when they are looking for new brands to try?
SM: When looking for new brands to try, keep an open mind. There are over 200 Black-owned Wine & Spirits that I know of. Many of them didn’t have millions or even thousands of dollars to get started. If you are drinking a Black-owned Whiskey in 2022 that’s 5 years old, more than likely it was sourced from a distillery. But how else can the brand start? These brands have to start somewhere and the more opportunities the brands and brand owners have to be successful the better they will be. Someone had to give Johnnie Walker a chance. Someone had to give Makers Mark a chance when they first started.
RC: What can people expect when they come to our first collaboration event on July 12 that is SOLD OUT, and why will this be a can’t miss experience?
SM: You can expect a unique, informative and elevated experience. Yes we will eat and drink well but we will also learn a lot about Whiskey as well the Uncle Nearest brand and Nearest Green the person. It’s a can’t miss experience because it is an amazing 4-course meal, cocktails and Whiskey conversation. You’ll also walk away with a gift from A Taste of The Culture & Uncle Nearest for attending!
RC: When you’re not flexing your entrepreneurial muscles and running your business, what’s your favorite way to spend your time?
SM: I’m all over the place. I still work full-time in the CPG industry but I spend the rest of my time with my family. I also love traveling and I’m into cigar smoking and the cigar culture. It’s similar to Wine & Spirits in a way and they are intertwined in many ways so I often find ways to enjoy them both together.
RC: Where can people get the latest information on what’s next with A Taste of the Culture?
SM: People can get the latest information on what’s next from A Taste of The Culture at our website, atasteoftheculture.com as well our social channels, we’re pretty active on Instagram @atasteftheculture, Twitter @atasteofthecul1 and TikTok @atasteoftheculture. Our next members subscription box will ship in August and also look out for standalone cocktail boxes available throughout the Summer.