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Food, wine pairing drives sommelier's passion for hospitality industry

Jonathan Wakefield's love for wine and drinks developed while cruising the world.
Jonathan Wakefield's love for wine and drinks developed while cruising the world.
Image: Supplied.

While cruising the world as a 23-year-old who witnessed how different cultures enjoy their food with wine, Table Bay Hotel’s sommelier Jonathan Wakefield opened up about why he chose to be in the fine dining industry.

“When I started travelling and working over the ocean I would say, roundabout 23 years old. Seeing different cultures and how they enjoy their food and wine really drove my passion for this industry.

“My first love will always be the bar, it is where I started my career in hospitality. I enjoyed learning about spirits and cocktails, and it felt natural for me to want to expand my knowledge into the wine industry. Once I tried it, I was hooked. The service standards are what really drove me and giving the guests a great experience was always my goal,” Wakefield says.

Having been born and raised in Cape Town, Wakefield highlights how being able to enhance a guest’s experience is what he loves most about being a sommelier.  

“… not everyone has knowledge about wine and I love being able to make recommendations, answering questions and just chatting about wine to guests. It is a great way to build relationships and if I’m able to help any person who was never really interested in wine enjoy a nice glass. It makes my work worthwhile,” Wakefield explains.

With the appointment as Table Bay Hotel’s new sommelier, Wakefield describes the role as something he’s always wanted to fulfil at the hotel and note down on his  résumé.

“A feeling of pride and excitement, it’s a role I’ve always wanted to fulfil at The Table Bay and I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity. The standards are always set at a high level, I hope to continue that but also bring a more personalised service experience when it comes to wine and food and wine pairing,” he says.  

Reflecting on how time as a sommelier on-board of a ship while cruising all seven continents in his early years, Wakefield describes the moment as “not as glamorous as it sounds… yet very fulfilling”.

“… It’s hard work and long hours but it was very fulfilling. The exposure to fine cuisine and wines on an international scale was a massive highlight,” he says. “I worked in a team with a head sommelier who I absorbed as much knowledge I could and it was a fantastic experience. Service standards were incredibly high. They put me through the Court of Masters Sommeliers course while I still did my daily work. Seeing the world was an amazing side perk!”

Pushing himself to achieve the highest standards of service excellence are some of the teachings he learnt from working with award-winning TV chef Siba Mtongana. “It’s been a privilege, her food is of the highest quality and she pushes herself to achieve the highest standard, which is something I’ve taken from her in terms of not compromising on service excellence.”

Here are some food and wine pairing tips shared by Wakefield:

  • Keep it simple
  • Food and wine go hand-in-hand and you have to find a balance when pairing
  • One cannot overpower the other
  • If your food has subtle flavour, find a wine that will complement it and vice-versa for food with bold flavours

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