Piotr Pietras, Director of Wine, HIDE

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th May 2018

Piotr Pietras is Director of Wine at the recently-opened London-based restaurant Hide - a collaboration between Hedonism Wines and Ollie Dabbous.

With a wealth of experience and as a recipient of the Wine Spectator's Award for Excellence, there is very little that Master Sommelier Piotr Pietras doesn't know about wine. 

The Staff Canteen caught up with Piotr to chat about his distinguished career, his new role at Hide and what it is about wine that makes him tick.

Hide Dish 2
 One of Hide's dishes. Photo: Joakim Blockstrom

You have recently started your role as Director of Wine at Hide where you are working with Ollie Dabbous and Hedonism wines, how did this opportunity arise?

I was approached by the company in early Autumn last year. We met a few times; they introduced a clear vision that resonated with me. I did not need to think twice when I found out who was involved with the project and what they were trying to achieve. We came to an agreement in December and I started officially in January.

Can you tell us a little bit more about Hide?

This is a fine-dining venture between Ollie Dabbous & Hedonism Wines; at a site based at 85 Piccadilly with two restaurants, signature cocktail bar, four private dining rooms and a spacious walk-in cellar. With around 6800 wines available, Hide has the most extensive wine list in the UK. What is more, it is priced more than fairly and everyone is welcome.

What was it that attracted you to this role?

It is a very ambitious project - there is a team of 17 sommeliers, huge wine selection, multi-venue operation and with Hedonism Wines’ background. I can also say with confidence that this is going to be the most talented, driven and qualified team of professionals in London combined in one place: Ollie Dabbous, Matthew Mawtus, Oskar Kinberg, Luke Selby, Aymeric Pollenne – just to name a few…

hide
Dining at Hide: Joakim Blockstrom

Before that you worked with Ben Murphy at Launceston Place, how would you describe your time there?

I had a truly fantastic time there. It is a small, neighbourhood restaurant, but it has a soul and family feel to it. After joining Launceston Place at the beginning of 2017, Ben Murphy and Sandro Alessandrini (General Manager) put the restaurant on to another level. It was a pleasure to participate in that process and I think the best is yet to come for this place.

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

While I was studying Hotel Management in 2010, one of my university friends told me about a room service waiter vacancy at the Sheraton Hotel (he was a manager there). I decided to give it a try and liked the vibe from the day one, as I could meet and speak with international guests plus I could observe all the processes we talked about during the lectures. Progressively, I was given more and more duties, so at one point I could manage a small wine cellar on my own.

What is it about wine that interests you?

The complexity of the topic: people, people, people. It's having a sense of place. History. Evolution. Expression of grape varieties. Then you can see that all in your glass.

You moved to the UK in 2013, what attracted you to London? Was to progress your career?

London is undoubtedly the European capital of the wine trade. There is so much to see, taste and learn here that the decision could not be easier really. I made up my mind in May and came here in June.

Info Bar

Top 5 service experiences

Atelier Amaro * (Warsaw, Poland)

Le Bagatelle * (Oslo, Norway – closed down)

5 Fields * (London, UK)

Hedonism Wines (London, UK)

Pollen Street Social * (London, UK)

How is a career as a sommelier over here in the UK different to that in Poland?

In the UK, restaurants that treat wine seriously have at least one sommelier on board, so collectively there are hundreds of sommeliers in the country. As a professional, you have lots of ways here to progress and many restaurants to work for - the market is very dynamic. Plus, customers have such a diverse taste that you can sell almost anything from Armenian Areni Noir or a 100-year-old Madeira up to rare & astronomically-priced Sine Qua Non.

By contrast, in Poland there is only a handful of sommeliers, the average spend is much smaller and the sales focus around more classic regions, so sommeliers there do not have a chance to explore as much as their peers in the UK. For instance, a variety such as Chenin Blanc (a very successful one in the UK) or classic regions of California is not well-known in Poland yet. On the other hand, Italian Primitivo became one of the country’s favourite varieties, while in the UK it is rather insignificant.

We will never be a top wine-consuming country in Europe, but the trends and habits are visibly changing – which means there will be more space for sommeliers too.

You have worked for some big names such as Gordon Ramsay and Richard Corrigan, do you find there’s more pressure working in such a well-established environment? 

https://www.thestaffcanteen.com/public/js/tinymce/plugins/moxiemanager/data/files/Piotr Pietras/HIDE 21689 AW WEB.JPG
Crab dish: Joakim
Blockstrom

From my perspective it is all the same – I felt confident in every restaurant I worked for. I would say that guests may have some preconceptions when booking a table in a place owned by these famous chefs. I always try to deliver the best possible service regardless of the branding or rating - hospitality is not a variable virtue.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I had my mentors in Poland when I started my journey, then as I came to the UK it was Gerard Basset MS, Ronan Sayburn MS and Isa Bal MS that has had the biggest impact on my path, I believe. I was also inspired at a later stage by my generation – Jess Kildetoft MS and Mathias Camilleri MS - who are great examples to follow – approachable, competent and very focused.

How do you and Ollie work together when selecting wines?

We did taste wines together with Ollie, his head chef Above, Luke Selby, and obviously my sommelier team. We had plenty of samples (narrowed down from a huge list) to taste with our tasting menu dishes. One by one. It was a long, yet very insightful process. I am a big supporter of wines being properly tasted with the food on a regular basis rather than following your intuition and coming up with a random selection.

The wines we thought might work well were not necessarily always the best choices, so we used alternatives which made the pairing much more interesting. The advice from Ollie and Luke was also very helpful, giving us slightly different perspective. We ended up with 3 wine pairings: Classic, Discovery and Hedonistic. All very different, but equally exciting.

What does it mean to you to be only one of two Polish sommeliers to be awarded Master Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers??

It is a huge privilege to join Adam Pawlowski as Poland’s second MS. Not only does it bring me a sense of fulfilment and stimulate to do even more and better, but it also helps in a way other Eastern European sommeliers realise that anything they want to achieve is within their reach – it is just a matter of dedication, focus and consistency. Latitudes may limit the actual wine production, but not necessarily the potential and drive of sommeliers.

wine callar hide
Wines at Hide: Joakim Blockstrom

You have competed in and won numerous competitions, what is it about entering competitions you enjoy and why would you recommend other sommeliers to do the same?

It is a hunger to pursue the knowledge and excellence in what we do every day. On the top of that I am also a competitive person which means I am not going to hesitate – “should I go for it or not” – I just do it - I like this adrenaline kick around these events too.

I would recommend other sommeliers to enter competitions, as they can improve themselves in every possible aspect – both by preparing and participating – theory, tasting, service, wine and food pairing, stress resistance, public speech, etc. In addition to that, you can see what is missing or needs to be improved by observing other candidates compete – it also makes you stronger.

In 2016 it was your first-year judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA), how does it feel to be a judge rather than a competitor?

It is a great feeling to be judging alongside world’s top wine professionals. Judging rather than competing, I am definitely more relaxed, but equally focused and I treat this opportunity very seriously as our goal is to blindly filter, select and award exceptional wines. Later on, these wines will be bought and drunk by consumers around the world – so it is important to stay sharp and objective during the process.

What do you look for as a judge?

All elements are important to me when judging wines: freshness, fruit quality, tannins, use of oak, finish, a balance of these features as well as the quality/price ratio.

What advice would you give to someone looking to begin a career in the hospitality industry?

Be surrounded by inspiring, approachable and helpful people. If possible, start your career in a place where you are supported by a good mentor who can show you directions. Have hunger and fun, stay ambitious and focused, travel in your free time to broaden your horizons and also be patient – as the industry despite being interesting it is very demanding, too. Don’t forget this is a SERVICE industry – so if you do not like the interaction with people, you’d better choose another profession.

By Emma Harrison

@canteenemma

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th May 2018

Piotr Pietras, Director of Wine, HIDE