Robert Houde has been in the wine and food business for over twenty-five years. He began his fine dining restaurant career as a server at the then acclaimed Lela B's restaurant in the Crockett Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, in the Fall of 1987. After four years with The Crockett, Robert spent four years with the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, and one year with classic French restaurant Chez Ardid in San Antonio, Texas.
With nine years of fine dining wine and food service under his belt, Robert returned to Chicago to work with world-renowned restaurant Charlie Trotter's. After four intense years with the Charlie Trotter’s wine team, he was promoted to head sommelier, and continued in that role for two more years. During his tenure, Robert helped the restaurant achieve The Wine Spectator’s award for “America’s Best Restaurant,” The Wine Spectator’s reader’s poll award for “Best Restaurant in the World for Wine & Food,” as well as the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Restaurant” in 2000.
Robert moved to the wholesale/import side of the wine business in the Winter of 2000, joining Vin Divino Ltd., an importer and distributor of fine Italian and Austrian wines in Chicago, Illinois. Robert handled sales to the top Chicago restaurant and retail accounts, and conducted staff training for both accounts and the sales force. He quickly became a portfolio manager for several top importers locally–Terry Theise Estate Selections, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Peter Vezan Selections, Torbreck Vintners and World Sake Imports, as well as helping to manage the Vin Divino Austrian portfolio nationally. Robert also helped top Spanish wine importer, Jorge Ordoñez, expand his distribution in Illinois from 2005 to 2011.
In March of 2009, Robert, along with partner Mark Hutchens, launched Robert Houde Wines, LLC, an Illinois-based importer and distributor specializing in artisanal European wines. The company began with 30 small estates from Italy, and now represents over 180 fine wine estates, including the Italian portfolio of Marc de Grazia Selections, the Austrian, German and Grower Champagne portfolio of Terry Theise Estate Selections, the French and Spanish portfolio of Europvin-Christopher Cannan Selections, and several Robert Houde Wines direct imports.