Ellen Traylor ‘12 graduated from Newman University with a communication degree and has used it to pursue her passion in the restaurant business — specifically as a certified sommelier.
She achieved the first level of her sommelier testing in 2017 and became certified in March 2020. She said there are two more levels of the process, advanced and master, and for now, she is considering taking the steps to become an advanced sommelier.
“I feel like I’ve always gone back to food. The industry helped me get through school to pay for what the scholarships couldn’t and I enjoy it a lot,” said Traylor. “There is always something different, it’s a job that’s always changing and moving, and I love talking with people. I love to travel, too, so I feel like the idea of food and wine is a great way to relate to that, even though I’m not physically traveling. I deal with wines from all over the world, mostly France, and that makes it exciting. And the fact that I can connect with people so much makes it a great career.”
Traylor works at Tartine Bistro, a French Bistro in Rocky River Ohio. She handles the wine program, creates the menus, and organizes and helps facilitate the events. Her restaurant offers approximately 400 wine choices — about 30 of which can be purchased by the glass.
She holds weekly meetings with representatives and typically does not add a new wine without tasting it first.
“Chef changes the menu frequently, so I make sure we have wines available to match what he’s offering,” she explained. “I facilitate wine dinners, and while I’m on the floor, I’m serving or bartending. But I constantly get pulled to tables for questions. Most of my day is talking with tables about pairing their wines.”
Achieving a dream career that she loves and spending her days as a certified sommelier is something worth celebrating. Yet Traylor recently celebrated another big goal she has dreamed about — completing an Ironman but not quite in the traditional way.
Traylor had registered for the Ironman Wisconsin, which should have taken place Sept. 13, 2020. Due to COVID-19, the event was canceled. She decided to do it anyway. Solo.
With the help of her supporters, Traylor created her own Ironman course, careful to plan every detail while staying within the rules and regulations that would come with the real thing. She had been training for three years to be ready physically and mentally, and she didn’t want to let all that training go to waste.
She had friends and family nearby during the feat, stationed at different points of her course, acting as a pacer while she ran and cycled and even putting someone in a kayak while she completed the swim portion. Safety was important to her as she was doing this on her own.
“By the end of my training, I was doing some part of the Ironman requirements six days a week and my seventh was yoga or a recovery run,” explained Traylor. “I just worked my way up and focused on learning how to fuel my body. I had a really bad bike crash about six weeks before race day. I fractured my tailbone and dislocated my hip and had to take about two weeks off other than swimming a little. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.”
Traylor said she’s always been accustomed to a full and busy schedule. Her time at Newman University as a student helped her hone time-management skills and build solid work habits.
Basketball brought her to Newman, but she also chose the university because of its proximity to her hometown: Owasso, Oklahoma. She was a student-athlete and worked a part-time job in the restaurant business all while focusing on her academics. The staff and faculty played a large role in her motivation to succeed.
Traylor said three people come to mind immediately when she thinks about her time at Newman.
“Dr. (Sonja) Bontrager was really good at inspiring you to look outside of where you are. She has amazing compassion and drive for knowledge. Coach (Jaime) Green inspired all of us on the basketball team, made us better all the time.
“And Dr. (Audrey) Hane, she is who I connected with the most. She was really good at inspiring me to look at different opportunities, internships, work-study or programs in general. She was good at connecting the dots, thinking of things and showing by example. I had a lot of inspiration from her.”