Joining the Burj al Arab more than six months ago from The Lanesborough in London, chef sommelier Peter Huy discusses the challenges he has faced and the changes he hopes to implement
Where has your career in the hospitality industry taken you?
I have worked in Germany, Switzerland and onboard the QE2.
My initial training in hospitality however, encompassed everything from service, to kitchen, to the front desk. I think this is important as it gives you the scope to choose what you want to specialise in.
However, after working in these departments I realised that none of them really appealed to me. I always had an interest in wine, so I decided to move to London and was offered the chance to train as a sommelier there.
Where was your fi rst experience as a sommelier?
I became a professional sommelier less than 10 years ago at The Lanesborough, London. I have always been involved in wine but this took it to another level, as I had to taste around 3000 different wines each year. It may sound like fun, but it was diffi cult trying to remember each wine and each one tasting better than the one before.
However, after a while it gets easier because you start to build up collections of both the wines you like and good vintages; so you can concentrate on other aspects of the job.
Why did you move to Dubai?
Every day you learn something new in London, but after spending just under 10 years there; I felt like it was time to move on and experience a new market. But I was very insistent on bringing some of my own staff with me, which I have been able to do. This was a big plus because I believe that you can only be as good as your team, and you need to work with people you can trust.
Also, finding good sommeliers is difficult, so I was fortunate in that respect.
How knowledgeable about wine are your diners?
Our guests’ knowledge ranges from very little to very extensive; there is a wide variety. What I really like about the job though is advising guests and suggesting wines, helping them to discover something new. If you can do that and they want to buy the wine again, then that is a good feeling.
Have you faced any challenges since you have been here?
I would say vintage checks have been my main challenge. I am very vintage orientated, so I keep a close eye on any changes. For me, when a vintage changes, I have to reassess whether I want the wine on the menu.
It is a long process, but fortunately the suppliers are good at letting me know of any upcoming alterations. But this is a worldwide problem so it is something that you get used to.
Also, everything seems to take a lot longer here so you have to adapt to a slower market. For example, if I want a new wine, I have to order a sample, approve it, and then wait for it to be shipped over. It is a long process and requires a lot of forward thinking.
What changes will you be making to the wine list at the Burj Al Arab?
I am currently in the process of re-listing the wine menus, so it is about seeing what sells and what guests like. Formulating the right kind of wine list is very important, but it can be diffi cult.
Wines from California are more related to the grape variety; Burgundy is more about the terroir; and Bordeaux wines are focused on the brand.
However, to combat this, the menu will introduce and describe the wines, and each country will be split according to its suitability.
For example, Australia will be divided into regions and then grape variety, whereas France will focus on the villages.