Sommelier of the Month - Laurent Richet
- Name: Laurent Richet
- Date of birth: 04th August 1976
- Place of birth: Longue-Jumelles, Maine et Loire, France
- Eye colour: Grey/blue
- Nationality: French
1998 - 1999: Employee at "La Reserve de Beaulieu" 4* de Luxe Hotel, 2 Michelin Stars Restaurant in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, French Riviera, France, as Commis Sommelier.
2000 - 2001: Employed at "Hotel de Paris" 4* de Luxe Hotel, 1 Michelin Star Restaurant in Monaco_France, as Sommelier (responsible of the "Cote Jardin" restaurant).
2001 - 2004: Employee at the "Celtic Manor Resort" 5* Hotel, Golf and Spa in South- Wales, UK. Host of the Ryder cup 2010. As Head Sommelier. Silver medalist at the Hotelympia's 2002 Sherry Sous Chef of the Year.
2004 - 2006: Worked in Holland via a catering agency for several months, then went to France, back to work at "La Reserve de Beaulieu" for 5 months in the summer of 2005 as Assistant Head Sommelier and then back in Holland working in a brasserie, where I improved the Dutch language.
2006 - 2008: Employed at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, as Captain at l'Escalier fine dining restaurant. Passed the introductory exam of the Court of Master Sommeliers.
2010: Qualified as a Master Sommelier. Passed all 3 exams on the first attempt and was awarded the Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Cup.
2008 - 2011: Sommelier/bar at Hotel TerraVina. Passed my Certified, Advanced and the Master exams of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Also won the Gastronomy Team of the Year.
2011 - Now: Sommelier at Restaurant Sat Bains with rooms. 2 Michelin Star in Nottingham based on Tasting menus with wine pairing.
About our restaurant
Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms firmly marks the East Midlands on the gastronomic map. Located just a few miles from the city centre of Nottingham, this Victorian farm conversion has received international acclaim for its innovative and modern approach to cuisine.
Gaining the county's only Michelin Star in 2003, Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms has rapidly gained a reputation as one of the UK's destination restaurants.
The awards and accolades continued. In September 2009, the Restaurant was awarded the ultimate 5 rosettes by the AA and was voted 9/10 in the The Good Food Guide 2012 and awarded two stars in the Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland 2012.
To this day, Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms never fails to deliver the ethos of the husband and wife team who own it: relax and enjoy.
From his kitchen, Sat Bains offers two exciting dinner options, comprising seven or ten course Tasting Menus. Alternatively, you can set your trust in the hands of this fascinating chef and let him create your very own personalised dining experience. Aptly named Unique, chef Sat Bains will supply a list of seasonally adjusted ingredients from which to choose and create a tasting menu that will take you on a unique, personalised, gastronomic journey, which is worth every sensation it reveals. Or why not watch the team or the man himself from the Chef's or Kitchen Table. Seating up to 6 guests each, these private rooms allow for a truly entertaining evening or lunch, with courses served and described by Sat and the team themselves. Who better to describe their philosophy of Taste, Texture and Temperature. Or why not try the newly installed Kitchen Bench situated in the heart of the Pastry Section where guests get a very unique insight into a busy service of this unique two Michelin starred kitchen. All of Sat Bains' dining options can be served in the small intimate dining room, the conservatory overlooking the gardens or the private dining rooms. The Front of House team, headed up by his wife Amanda, offer advice, friendly service and help with wine choices from the comprehensive list.
The restaurant seats 45 covers plus the tasting rooms adding up 18 covers. The team consists of 8 full times front of house and 10 in the Kitchen. We are closed every Sundays and Mondays giving the restaurant a full team everyday it's open.
And then there is "... with rooms". The accommodation in this chic boutique style hotel, cleverly converted from a Victorian farm, compliments perfectly the standards already set in the kitchen. Comprising eight individually designed bedrooms, (two suites and a mix of double and superior double rooms) all with en suite bathrooms and luxury linens and each tastefully and impeccably presented. Add to this, the award winning breakfast of your choice and your luxury overnight stay is transformed into a cosseted and thoroughly relaxing, total Sat Bains experience.
My role is to ensure the well running of the beverages from the selection to purchase, sells and stock controls, training and ensure guests satisfaction.
At Restaurant Sat Bains we only do Tasting Menus, which makes it a really dynamic and exciting place for food and wine matching.
Our pairings are made to match to their best, the diverse and innovative dishes that Sat and his team create in the kitchen. The menus and dishes evolve throughout the season and sometimes within each season depending on the weather or market availability.
We do not work on showcasing wines that guests would have maybe encountered before. We try instead to introduce great wines from all over the world. For instance at the moment our 10 course menu doesn't happen to have any French wines at all - nothing deliberate - but something I noticed of course - just that we paired the dishes with some great wines and vineyards from other countries that really complimented the food.
The other thing is we try not to give the same variety or country twice. It can make it challenging at times but very interesting and also fun for us as a team to seek out great alternatives and to keep evolving.
We have just started a new level of wine pairing where we showcase more prestigious wines that guests can try during their meal without having to pay the usual restaurant price tag. Great opportunities for example to taste wines like a Brunello di Montalcino from 1995.
Please tell us some background about yourself. How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
It all started when I was at catering school. I used to hate alcohol believe it or not and it wasn't before my first stage that I was told the importance of wine pairings during a guests meal. So I was given wines to taste to that effect, got hooked on all the varieties and taste notes then subsequently chose an extra study year to understand more and ended up becoming a sommelier at the same catering school.
What do you think makes a great sommelier?
A great sommelier is someone who understands where he works and creates a complimentary wine list that is in accord with the restaurant and where it is situated. It also is someone that understands his guests' needs.
Describe your typical day at work.
Every two weeks, in turns, one or two of us is on lunch. We then set up the bar, check all areas for cleanliness and readiness for service. The sommelier that isn't on lunch, starts later and takes care of bar and restaurant beverages stock up, delivery storage and 'mise en place' for evening service. The lunch sommelier takes care of inputting deliveries, emails and ensuring the wine and bar lists are clean and up to date. During service, we ensure wines are served on time especially for the wine pairings where we give a short explanation for each; this without forgetting other guests who choose just a glass or a specific bottle. We take care of our guests from their aperitif through to their digestives and coffees.
How does pricing affect the wine advice you give diners?
As I explained above, it is crucial for a sommelier to understand where the restaurant is situated and what it offers. Here, our guests have to travel to get to us and enjoy an unforgettable dinner - a destination restaurant. Most of them are either foodies, a once ever dinner for a special occasion or a once a year every year celebration. This obviously sets our level of wine sales to be more sensible as they come here to enjoy the food first and wine comes second. The impact of the wine pairing helps them to have a full enjoyment of the whole package we can offer. At the same time 60% of our wine list offers a selection of wine across the board priced at £60 mark and below.
Have customers become more knowledgeable about wine?
In some ways,yes. Most guests seem to always drink the same wines as naturally they feel most comfortable with what they know. If they come here for a special occasion for example, they may not have really come across this style of restaurant very often, meaning the variety of wines we offer can be a bit overwhelming at first. But as the wines we offer come at more sensible prices, most guests are willing to try our suggestions and varieties or vineyards they've never experienced before.
Who has been most influential in your career?
There are two main persons. First Virginia Philip MS in America and Gerard Basset OBE here in the UK.
Describe a good sommelier's introduction or presentation of their list at a table.
A good sommelier's introduction should be clear and brief in order for the guests to not be confused. There is always logic in the creation of any wine list by a sommelier and it should be explained in a way that doesn't confuse or patronize.
When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
You cannot pair wine with dishes if you haven't had the chance to try it. Here at Sat Bains we have a great understanding of the importance of our offering regarding wine pairing and Sat and his team are very helpful in helping us in that task - specially with the prevalent flavour notes of each dish.
How often do you manage to touch base and re-taste your wines?
As the majority of our wine sales are based on wine pairings, we try to change every so often the selection giving us the opportunity to re-taste some of them. We also taste every wine before it reaches our guests. That way we can ensure the quality of the wine and assess its evolution on the list, with the season and the dishes on the menus.
Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
Sourcing new wines either happens through tastings from our suppliers or reading about them in wine magazines, via the internet or other sommeliers experience.
Selling wines by the glass. Your thoughts please.
Again this is down to where you are and what you offer. We do not offer a lot of wines by the glass as the demand isn't high for us. Wines by the glass however are sometimes a great opportunity to offer something different where guests can try out a new wine without having to pay for the whole bottle. Also it should somewhat reflect the wine list (style and prices), a small insight of what can be found in it.
What are you really thinking when a customer sends a perfectly good wine back?
Well, first of all I'd have to question our selection. Have we explained to the guest what they were going to get? There are always very specific wines on a wine list that guests want to try trusting the palate of the sommelier, but sometimes just not ready to experience the different styles on offer. We always ensure we explain what they are about to enjoy even if it is just something they've had before like a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The variety we stock is great but the style they are used to enjoying at home or at their local pub might be different to the style we offer. If after all these precautions, guests still decide in having a specific variety but don't appear to enjoy or understand it, then we talk it through a bit more to recommend something more suitable.
What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
The comeback of Riesling and the understanding of new countries coming up in the market that people are interested in trying such as Slovenia, Croatia and more.
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
Riesling and Pinot Noir.
What's the key to developing staff to become well-trained to sell and serve wine?
Knowledge, being genuine, reading, listening and understanding people needs.
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
At the moment on our pairing is 2011 Egon Muller Scharzhof Riesling with the Duck Muesli. Great interaction between the food and the wine where the sweetness of each brings different aspect in the whole pairing. Absolutely brilliant.
And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Haven't encountered one. Maybe a cocktail with a Cote de Boeuf would be a weird one but yet again, it could be amazing. It's all about tasting and understanding the pairing sometimes.
How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
The only thing is to tell us what they are looking for in a wine, maybe what they usually drink on a regular basis. That way we could maybe suggest a new wine in a similar style that gives them something new and maybe experience something they wouldn't normally have tried.
Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with?
My parents. Sorry, can't choose between the two.
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
If you are just starting, one of the first things is to taste blind each varietal from different countries and appellations to really find what sets them apart and also what are the similarities.
What's the one thing you love most about your job?
The guest's satisfaction - when they compliment the wine pairings as much as the food. Makes me very happy indeed.
Where do you see your future career path?
As anyone, great opportunities need reflection but for now I am very happy being at Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms. Here I hope to keep improving my own knowledge and support my fellow sommeliers reach their goals too. My short term goal though is to win the UK Sommelier of the Year competition in 2014. With regards to long term goals, they depend on the opportunities that may present themselves but perhaps become a consultant, beverage director for a chain or perhaps one day own my own business.