Atul Tiwari, Food & Beverage Manager at The Oberoi, Mumbai. A graduate of IHM, Dehradun, Atul has over a decade of experience in the hospitality space. He defines himself as a gourmet aficionado and it is this passion that keeps him hunting down latest food and beverage trends across the world. A winner at the ‘7th Indian Sommelier Championship’ held in 2014, Atul is a diehard wine enthusiast and keeps updating his knowledge as also always looking out for new finds for his portfolio as a sommelier. Starting as a sommelier and rising to restaurant manager (and now F&B chief), he has curated some of India’s top wine dinners and worked alongside some popular chefs from around the globe. Ever since he first visited a vineyard post his ISC win, he has been busy covering other significant vineyards around the world – from Barossa and McLaren Vale in Australia, to Champagne and Burgundy in France, Piedmont and Florence in Italy, to Catalonia and Priorat in Spain, as also Napa Valley and Sonoma County in the USA. His other accolades include the national award for Young Restaurant Manager of the Year by FHRAI and Top Chef Awards for Delhi-NCR, and also the Sommelier of the year by Bar Awards India. We wish Atul all the best and are glad to count him as a key support in all our endeavours at ISC.
What’re the ‘Must Dos’ you suggest for budding beverage professionals?
Start tasting wines. Form a group and taste and train your palate. Don’t just focus on theory, learn service, learn to sell and become a storyteller. Sommellerie is knowledge but it is also a lot about personality.
How working with big restaurants like ‘Eleven Madison Park’ changed you as a professional?
I learned that our profession is not just about team work, it is like becoming a family. I learned how discipline is the most spoken word in the restaurant. I learned to see beyond our daily work and how to gift dreams to my team members and make them feel special. I learned it is not about working with the best people but with the best in people.
Do drink preferences change in our lives?
Yes they do. Our senses only evolve with time, it is a matter of exposure which enables us to love and enjoy other things. Our experience shape our tastes.
How has winning the Indian Sommelier Championship changed your life?
A complete game changer. Suddenly everyone started looking at me with a lot of expectations and the pressure to never disappoint kept me ever on my toes to keep learning. ISC gave me my first opportunity to travel abroad and from that point on, there was no looking back. I take ISC not as an award that I won but as a turning point in my life.
Apart from mastering wines, what other skills must a sommelier possess?
A sommelier must work on his/her people skills. A sommelier should always look smart and well-dressed. A sommelier should be hands on and fluent with their sales techniques. A sommelier should always share their knowledge. A Sommelier should have a great sense of humour.
What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?
After work I crave for some sparkling wine or sometimes, a gin and tonic. I like to enjoy a good red wine in the evenings.And I love to end the day with a measured single malt.
What’re your advices to young professionals seeking a career in this field?
Taste wines, read articles, learn theory but learn how you add your personality when you explain or share your knowledge. Make wines fun and interesting. Stay dedicated. Don’t simply try to become some sort of a “celebrity Sommelier”, learn instead to be a wine lover first. If you think you have it in you, go for WSET and CMS certifications.