Elvis Ziakos, Head Sommelier, The Greenhouse, Mayfair

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th July 2016

Elvis Ziakos is head sommelier at The Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair, London. Starting his career in his native Greece, Ziakos was head sommelier at Athens restaurants Kohylia and Spondi, before moving to the UK in 2012 and joining the team at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. As head sommelier, Elvis and his team look after the Greenhouse’s extensive collection of wines which boasts to stocking more than 3, 000 labels. With a high level of expertise and passion for wine, Elvis selects the best options to complement each item on the menu.

When The Staff Canteen caught up with Elvis we found out why he believes wine is a lifestyle, handling the pressure that comes with working in a Michelin star restaurant and why he doesn’t keep too many bottles of his favourite wines at home.

The Greenhouse

How did you get into the industry?

I discovered from an early age that I had an affinity for food and wine, I was seven years old when I had my first tasting experience with a Cabernet Sauvignon. So for me growing up in Greece surrounded by family with an interest in food and wine, it felt natural for me to head in that direction. Once I left school I made the decision to continue my culinary studies and got my first job working in the Italian restaurant Mezzo Mezzo based in my hometown of Greece in 1995. After a couple of years I became head waiter and that’s really when my culinary career started to take off.

What made you want come to the UK?

Before I moved to the UK I was head sommelier at Kohylia and Spondi restaurants in Athens. I moved over to the UK in 2012 where I joined the team at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. What made me want to come over to the UK was really the desire and love for the endless study and wine tasting there is over here.

What is it about wine which interests you?

I just find wine an extraordinary field, it’s forever changing and there are so many factors surrounding wine which I find really fascinating and I love learning about all those different things about wine. For me wine is a lifestyle .

You were sommelier at Marcus Waering at the Berkeley, what was it like working with Marcus?

Working with Marcus Wareing and being a part of his team was such a great experience. The team all work to the highest standards and it was a fantastic learning curve for me. To have worked with such a high profile chef like Marcus was an incredible experience and I learnt so much from him and the team which has really helped me progress in my career as a sommelier.

How much pressure is there on you now that you have taken over from Marc Piquet as head sommelier?

There is a bit of pressure, of course there is, there is always going to be some no matter who you take over from in a role especially if they have been in that role for a while. But for me being professional is essential, that’s the main thing I need to do and rather than wasting time worrying about taking over from Marcus I personally need to just stayed focused. I need to focus on producing a faultless quality job at what I do, and that will prove I can do the job.

Is there more pressure being head sommelier of a restaurant with a Michelin star than one without?

There is more pressure working for a Michelin-starred restaurant than one without because the attention to detail and discipline at that kind of level is essential but through enough experience anyone can handle that type of pressure. If you gain enough experience and make sure you are doing the best job you can you can tackle that type of pressure working for a Michelin-starred restaurant can bring.

You supply an extensive list of wines at The Geenhouse, how do you know which ones to pick when it comes to wine pairing?

For me wine pairing is the most fascinating part of my job as head sommelier. Having a good knowledge of wine is definitely essential for making sure you get the pairings right but it also has a lot to do with getting to know your customers and their preferences as well which is also key, as is menu tasting. It’s important to try the different ingredients and settings from the menu that the chef has created in order to select the appropriate wine.

What is generally involved when choosing the wines?

Quality, maturity, taste and respect for our guests.

Do you ever get it wrong?

Yes I have gotten a pairing wrong before but it is always a good lesson to learn and making sure I get it right for next time.

How do you stay up-to-date with all the latest labels and wines from around the world?

I personally think London is the most sophisticated wine city in the world. There are so many sources within London which can provide daily tastings, discussions and meetings which is absolutely fantastic.

It is worth mentioning that Mr. Abela, owner of The Greenhouse is a wine and food hero. Through Mr Abela we get to taste and discover some of the most iconic wine producers there are which in return really helps expand our horizons and keeps up well up-to-date with all the latest labels from across the globe.

How many sommeliers do you currently have working at The Greenhouse?

We currently have a team of five sommeliers at The Greenhouse.

Do you get a lot of customers come to The Greenhouse specifically to try the wines?

Yes we get customers come in on a daily basis wanting to try our range of wines. Our vision at The Greenhouse is to deliver the very best epicurean experience for our guests.

Do they know a lot about the wines themselves?

Yes, most of our guests that come in to sample the wines are quite knowledgeable and have a good understanding of what they like and what they want when they come here.

The Greenhouse has won the Wine Spectator Grand award every year since 2005, how much pressure is there for you to maintain this standard?

Pressure leads to perfection which is essential at this level to maintain standards.

How many bottles of wine do you keep at home and what is your favourite?

I have so many favourite wines, there is just an endless amount to choose from, but when it comes to selecting a wine, for me it really does depend on a lot of different factors. A lot of the time it really does depend on the time, the season, the company and of course the type of food I’m eating. However, I generally prefer to purchase my wine when I need it rather than keeping them stocked up at home. The problem being that the more I fall in love with a certain wine the more chance I will drink it all until there’s nothing left! I do try to drink in moderation though.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th July 2016

Elvis Ziakos, Head Sommelier, The Greenhouse, Mayfair