FOUR catches up with the two leading wine buffs from2015 Michelin star awarded restaurants;Sunaina Sethi, Co-owner and wine buyer for Mayfair’s Gymkhana, and Sandia Chang, Co-owner and sommelier for Fitzrovia’s Kitchen Table, the pair will talk about what makes a great wine, a great wine pairing, and indeed about sommeliers themselves.
Where were you born and where did you grown up?
Sue |I was born and brought up in North London, and continue to live there. I went to university in Nottingham, and spent some time working in Germany.
Sandia |I was born in Saudi Arabia. I lived there for the first 15 years of my life and then moved to Los Angeles California.
How did you get into your line of work? Was there a particular moment where things just clicked into place or that you realized the direction you wanted to take?
Sue |It was purely an accident! We opened Trishna in November 2008, whilst I was still working for HSBC in Germany. When I returned to London in 2010, I was looking to get into Management Consulting, and decided to help out at Trishna until the right opportunity came my way. Within the first few days of being there, I realised that this is what I wanted to do, and there was no going back.
Sandia |I’ve always loved the hospitality industry. When all the kids in my school wanted to be lawyers and doctors and ballerinas, I wanted to be a waitress. I went to college for hotel and restaurant management and then followed by training at the Culinary Institute of America. This industry was what I’ve always wanted to be a part of.
What does the ‘unexpected pairing’ events between Gymkhana and Kitchen table mean to you?
Sue |I have a lot of respect for Sandia in all she does, and what makes it even better is that she is also a great friend. We have also had a lot to discuss in terms of different ideas and wines, and have also travelled together to Champagne a couple of times. For me it is a great opportunity for us to show not only what we do on a day to day in our own restaurants, but also what we can bring to our guests as a pair.
Sandia |For me it allows us to showcase some food and wine matching a that are not what everyone expects. I always feel like there is not just one wine that will pair well with a particular dish. There are endless great parings apart from the traditional combinations.
Can you tell us a bit about what guests at the ‘unexpected pairing’ can expect from the collaboration between yourselves?
Sue |It’s all in the name. Expect to try things you wouldn’t naturally put together; wines from regions you wouldn’t naturally taste, and champagnes from producers who may not have heard of.
Sandia |I’m looking forward to pairing the different styles of Champagnes with Indian spices.
What are a few interesting things going on in the spirits world? What’s on your radar at the moment?
Sue |Emerging regions for wines are very much on my radar and have been for a while. On the spirits side, it is ever evolving and there continue to be new, artisanal products constantly appearing.
Sandia |The spirit world seems to be very into bitters, amaro and bringing back the classic cocktails. On my radar are tequilas and mescal.
Do you cook at all? What kinds of things do you like cooking at home on your days off?
Sue |My husband doesn’t leave the kitchen when we have time off, and we entertain very often. We experiment quite a lot, so as well as the home Indian comforts, we play around with new creations all the time.
Sandia |I do cook. The downside to being married to a chef, he never wants to cook on his days off. I usually make Chinese food at home, noodles and stir fries. Those are my comfort food.
Favourite cheap eat?
Sue |An old family favourite has to be Colbeh, for Persian food. It’s ourSundaynight go to.
Sandia |At home, instant noodles. Restaurant, Flesh and Bun’s chicken wings.
What are FOUR spirits/wines that you always keep handy?
Sue |I also have a supply of Malvasia, Kozlovic from Istria in Croatia, as well as the Pulenta Cabernet Franc from Mendoza, Argentina. Spirits wise – a large selection of gins, and to please the rest of the family, a careful selection of Single Malt whiskeys, as guided by my father
Sandia |Champagne, Riesling, gin, and whiskey.
Find out more information about Gymkhana here |www.gymkhanalondon.com