New York City sommelier charged with burning outdoor dining structures

One of New York City’s star sommeliers has been charged with allegedly setting fire to multiple outdoor dining structures in Manhattan in recent months after he was caught on CCTV.

The 35-year-old sommelier, Caleb Ganzer, was named one of Kos & Wine magazine’s sommeliers of the year in 2017. He most recently worked as a managing partner at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, but in a statement the bar told the New York Times that he had been placed on a leave of absence.

The New York City Fire Department said Ganzer allegedly set fire to the outdoor dining structures of two restaurants in January and July, and in another instance in June, he had set fire to a pile of trash on a street corner. All three fires were set late at night at locations close to his restaurant.

He is being charged with two felony counts of arson and several other crimes associated with the fires.

“Every act of arson has the potential to spread rapidly, endangering the lives of New Yorkers and FDNY members,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro in a statement. “Thankfully in these incidents there were no injuries and the suspect has been apprehended before another fire could be set.”

Ganzer had previously worked at high-profile restaurants including 11 Madison Park, which was named the best restaurant in the world in 2017.

Surveillance cameras caught Ganzer setting his latest fire in July, WABC-TV reported. Afterwards authorities were able to connect Ganzer with the two earlier fires.

In a recent interview with Sommelier Business, Ganzer discussed the challenges of working in the restaurant industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There were so many different waves of emotion; in the very beginning, there was denial, bordering on feeling personally attacked, because no other industry was hit as hard. It feels we were never really very valued,” he said at the time. “You just can’t help feel a little extra sting knowing that you can’t do what you do remotely from home or whatever, so it’s just sort of existentially crippling.”

Ganzer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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