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A man of many talents, we spoke with Mathias Camilleri, Head Sommelier of The Five Fields restaurant in Chelsea, to find out more about his inspirations, favourite dish and drink recommendations and how he celebrated winning the 2015 Young Sommelier of the Year (UK & the World) award.

Tell us more about your background? How did you get into the industry?
Growing up, I didn’t focus on food or wine as a child – music was my main passion to begin with and I actually studied jazz. Through this, I first moved to China. However, due to circumstance I ended up moving back to France. I decided music wasn’t the career I want to pursue. It’s still a great love of mine but I wanted a change, something different.

In China, I became very interested in wine. Whilst abroad, being around friends, cheese and wine had begun to really fascinate me. When I returned to France, I realised that being a Sommelier was something that would really excite me.

So, that’s how I ended up in the world of wine. I started from scratch. I found a job as a commis waiter – then went back to school, learning for two years to develop my knowledge as both a waiter and Sommelier. After graduating, I moved to England. I began as a commis Sommelier at The Vineyard at Stockcross in Newbury for 6 months – it’s a wonderful place, they have so many American wines.

After six months, I moved to London and worked as a Sommelier at Medlar restaurant in Chelsea for almost three years. Then, in February 2016, I joined the Five Fields restaurant as Head Sommelier. I’ve learned something new from every place I’ve worked in – it’s been a fantastic journey.

What does a typical day involve for you at The Five Fields?
My role involves acting as the ambassador for the chef. I represent the restaurant when people are eating and drinking – I’m there to highlight the spirit of the chef’s cuisine. I like to act as a guide – from novices to wine experts, it’s great to talk with guests and help them understand more about food and wine pairings.

It’s important for a Sommelier to have knowledge about both food and the chef he’s working for. Those are key – that’s my main duty during the service. After that, it’s all about discovering – lots of tasting, reading and trying. It’s also important to take care of my staff – we have a small team which provides fantastic opportunity to help teach and elevate other’s knowledge. There’s a lot of training – not just the Sommeliers, but anyone who is curious and looking to learn more.

How did you celebrate winning the Young Sommelier of the Year (UK & the World)?
I was in Australia with competitors from all around the world – when it finished, it was great to relax and just enjoy the moment with everyone around me.

How do you choose your drinks list?
We have a very dynamic chef who works with seasonal ingredients to keep our menu as exciting as possible. We have our own garden in Sussex also – it’s a great asset to the restaurant to help follow the season. Dishes change quite often – so it gives me the opportunity to keep my wine list dynamic too. It’s great for the customer – there’s always something new to try.

Do you have any winter dish and drink pairing recommendations?
Lanson Ivory Demi sec is a very popular match with the Foie Gras of our Tasting menu.  The dish itself is a pâté – very rich and delicious, whilst the Champagne is beautifully sweet. Most people think of sweet wine when they think of Foie Gras. If the wine is too dry, it will take over the flavour. The sweetest works to contrast the texture.

However, I didn’t just want a simple sweet wine. I wanted something with a certain elegance and specific flavour. For me, this Champagne provides an excellent compromise. The contrast between acidity, sweetness, and the bubble balance the creamy texture of the Foie Gras – it’s a great way to cleanse the palate. It’s also unusual and less common – it’s very fun to play with Champagne’s versatility and surprise our guests.

Do you have any recommendations for New Year’s Eve drinks?
Any celebration should be enjoyed with Champagne! It’s a drink for the special moments. 

If you were not a Sommelier, which career would you like to pursue?
I love eating. I would love to travel all around the world and work for a Michelin star guide. It would be amazing to tour around the globe trying superb food. I love the hotel world too – hospitality and service will always fascinate me.

Do you have any role models?
I am fascinated by Gerard Basset and his career. He’s outstanding – and a very successful and generous Sommelier (best sommelier of the world, Master Sommelier, Master of  Wine, OBE, MBA, OIV).

Hungry for more? Discover more sommelier and chef interviews by clicking here.

PLUS: For more information about Lanson’s Ivory Label or its vast range of Champagnes, click here. If you register you will receive a FREE Lanson “Little Black Book of Champagne.”

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