|Agony Aunt - Matthieu Longuere|
|Monday, 23 March 2009 12:08|
‘I am the second in charge of the wine list at a well-established restaurant, but I want to move up the career ladder and eventually find a restaurant where I can be head sommelier. What kind of training should I be looking to get at this stage in order to help me progress in my career? If there is no formal training I can do, what other steps should I take?'
First of all, you need to think about the qualities required of a head sommelier and which ones you might be lacking. The Master Sommelier, a self-study exam that is recognised by professionals around the world, is the only qualification that I can think of that would make you test all of these skills.
I would also use my everyday work to see if I tick all the boxes...
As a second, you usually have some contact with the supplier. You should use this opportunity to get to know as much as possible about their product (make sure you're present when prices are discussed) and the way they operate as your head sommelier does. This also allows you to build a long-lasting relationship with them. You should also be able to deal with invoices, set up accounts, calculate prices and run an adapted system to check deliveries. Use your manager's holiday to make him trust you to do that: he should be happy to have you take on the responsibility.
You have to learn how to build and maintain a wine list that fits your establishment: with the right prices and products, and how to present them in an easy-to-use way. Try to collect lists wherever you go and study them (the smaller ones are the most difficult to create), and don't discard them.
You need to be able to pass on knowledge and train staff: the chef de rang and commis should provide a perfect practice ground.
You need to be quick to react to customers' complaints and unusual service situations: talk a lot to your colleagues and manager and think about difficult situations and how to deal with them. It can be fun to do some role-play.
Finally, you have to be committed. Don't hesitate to come back to work on your day off to learn from your head sommelier. He should appreciate that, and if he does not want to share information when you're doing extra time, you might be better off with working as an assistant to somebody who is willing do that. They do exist.
Matthieu Longuere, Sommelier at La Trompette