How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve always had a passion for the hospitality industry, there is something very special about people enjoying a meal together and in my opinion, it’s an essential part of life. I started as a barista and barman while paying my way through university and once I completed my studies realised it may be too late to pursue a career as a chef so I turned my focus to the beverage side of the industry. I admired what sommeliers brought to a restaurant, the way they complete the experience and take a meal to a whole new creative level.
When did you realise you wanted to be a sommelier?
I was working in Hong Kong for chef Richard Ekkebus and was really able to experience the depths of hospitality through this position. He offered me a huge amount of support and gave me the autonomy to create an engaging beverage programme and that’s when I knew I wanted to make a career out of being a sommelier.
Why do you think there has been a surge in the popularity and importance of the sommelier in the dining experience?
The hospitality industry is very fashionable at the moment and I think diners have expanded their knowledge. Although the focus has historically been on the kitchen, perhaps because people feel they can emulate elements at home, I do think that the beverage offering at a restaurant or hotel has become more important in recent years.
One contributing factor is that most modern day sommeliers try to be more approachable to guests, helping them make informed decisions when selecting a drink. I get more excited by someone who knows nothing about wine than someone who knows a lot as I get to educate them.
How did you end up working at Restaurant Story with celebrity chef Tom Sellers? And what does your role entail?
Funnily enough, I had not heard of Restaurant Story before I was contacted by my recruitment agency, The Change Group. At the time I had a number of other job offers on the table but The Change Group insisted I meet with Tom as they thought I’d be a great fit. And the rest is history…
My role as the head sommelier includes everything to do with the beverage programme whether that be sourcing suppliers or costing up the drinks menu to training staff and pairing the beverages with Tom’s food menu. It certainly keeps me busy.
What can guests expect when they come to Restaurant Story in terms of the wine list and food pairing suggestions?
In the same way that Tom Sellers aims to surprise and delight with his food, I try to do the same with the beverage programme at Story. We have amazing cocktails on offer, beers, spirits and of course a varied wine list which includes everything from the lower price point of about £25 per bottle up to £520 for those who want to splash out on a really special bottle.
So often people expect a pairing to only include wine but that’s not the case for us. Diners should expect the unexpected as I like to incorporate drinks sourced from local distilleries and breweries as well as wines from smaller producers that have a special story associated with them.
Do you have any future events, or collaborations lined-up that we can look forward to?
We are launching a new cocktail list in the coming weeks which I have worked closely with Matt Whiley from the Pig and Patroit to create. Best known as “The Talented Mr Fox”, Matt has helped me create a cocktail offering that is completely different to anything that Michelin Star restaurant in London have done before.
In terms of wine, spirits, or mixology, what is hot on your radar at the moment?
Tequila, English Spirits, British fortified vermouths and our very own cider which we produce at Balfour Estate.
Could you suggest four top wine recommendations for the festive period?
NV Cedric Bouchard ‘Cote de Val Vilaine’ Blanc de Noirs Champange;2013 Dario Prinčič, Pinot Grigio;2011 Domaine Jean Grivot ‘La Combe d’ Orveau’ Chambolle-Musigny;2005 La Rioja Alta ‘Viña Ardanza’ Rioja.
What is your favourite tipple?
Champagne without a doubt, I love a Salon 1999. I also really enjoy tequila and would recommend trying Ocho.
What is your next step, or future plans, in terms of a career as a sommelier?
Chef Tom Sellers and I have some very exciting plans in the coming months as we plans to expand. I can’t elaborate too much more than that but if you like Restaurant Story you will like what we have up our sleeves!
What do you think makes a great sommelier?
Knowledge, passion, a good work ethic, approachability and a good sense of humour goes a long way too.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Matching beverages to food and getting to see it being experienced by guests.
What advice would you give to others considering a career as a sommelier?
Do vintage and speak to producers as you will learn more from them than any course can teach you.
Find out more about Restaurant Story here…