Terry Kandylis, Head Sommelier, 67 Pall Mall

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th August 2016

Terry Kandylis is head sommelier at the private members club, 67 Pall Mall in London. Born and raised in Greece, Terry didn’t find his passion for wine until his early twenties. After moving to the UK he began his career as a chef du rang at Heston’s Fat Duck before moving his way up to become assistant head sommelier at Brett Graham’s The Ledbury. Having joined 67 Pall Mall as head sommelier less than a year ago, Terry has already been named Sommelier of the Year 2016 and hopes to sit the exam to become a master sommelier later this year.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Terry about being named Moët UK sommelier of the year 2016, how you have to be more knowledgeable about wine working at a members club and why he thinks wine is one of the few beverages that can trigger different emotions.

The Lounge at 67 Pall Mall
The Lounge at 67 Pall Mall

How did you get into the industry?

I used to work in restaurants when I was a student. I was studying physics and had to work in restaurants to help pay off my student loans, then I got into wine and here I am.

My interest in wine started relatively late compared to most of the people in this industry. I realised what I wanted to do when I was 23-24 so I wasn’t that young when I started out in the industry.

Although wine is a part of our culture in Greece it was never on the same level that it is over here. So although it was always part of our culture and I was always around wines I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time.

Congratulations on being named UK’s Sommelier of the Year 2016, how does it feel?

It feels great! It’s a great thing, the competition was tough and there was a good level of competition, I’m just lucky it went really well!

How did you celebrate?

I celebrated the win with some friends and colleagues with a drink. The celebrations actually lasted a couple of days. It was really good, I took everyone out for something to eat and it was a really nice way to celebrate.

Was this the first time you entered? How did it feel on the day of the final?

This was the third time I entered but I had never made it through to the final before.

Info bar       

What are your five favourite wines?

For white I would say Riesling and red would be Pinot Noir. I think I like the acidity and the elegance of those ones.

Top service experiences 

The Fat Duck – The service was pretty spot on.

Noma -  This was great too

How much pressure is there on you now after winning?

It was a very long day, we started very early, probably around 8:30 in the morning. The winner wasn’t actually announced till around 7pm so it was a very long day. There were so many tasks throughout the day as well so the most important thing for me was to stay really focused and concentrate on each task at hand.

There has been more media attention on me since winning but I don’t think that has put more pressure on me. I think people may pay more attention on what you are saying and doing because you are more exposed and need to be a bit more careful but I haven’t necessarily felt too much added pressure since winning. It’s been very good for the club (67 Pall Mall), we sent out a newsletter to the members who were really supportive and happy to hear the news so it has been really nice to have people come up and congratulate you. They really appreciate it and it’s great!

What is it about wine that interests you?

I think it’s what the wine offers you, it’s one of the few beverages that I think triggers emotions and can bring back memories from your past through its flavour and aroma. It might be a romance from your childhood or another special moment from your life, and of course the wineries are probably some of the best and most beautiful places in the world and you come across some fantastic people in this industry. Most people you come across that work with wine are very cool and down to earth and I think they are great people to generally hang around with.

What’s your main focus as head sommelier?

There are a lot of different operations involved with this job, we have quite a big team, I think there are about 10 of us altogether. The club (67 Pall Mall) is based on wine so everything is focused on that, we don’t just have a restaurant we also do masterclasses, sit down dinners, presentations so there are a lot of different things going on which makes you more interesting because it’s not just your classic restaurant. But of course this puts more pressure on you to be more organised and we have to look ahead perhaps one or two months in advance. It’s very exciting though because it gives you the opportunity to do different things and I think that makes you even stronger and more knowledgeable.

Working at 67 Pall Mall do you find most customers already have a strong knowledge about wine and wine tasting?

That’s the good thing about this club being very wine orientated. We have a lot of regular guests but their knowledge is probably higher than other customers that go to various other places. We have people come to the club that really know what they are drinking and don’t go by labels or brands because they really understand the product. So that does make your life a bit easier but at the same time it means we have to be a bit more careful because they know what we are talking about but I find they listen to you more with the more knowledge you have. When you get to know the customer better and they get to know you, you really do form a great relationship as well.

Mezzanine

The good thing for me as well is that I get to see a lot of people come in from previous establishments where I used to work. So what’s nice is that those guys are coming back and I already know them and being a members club you get a lot of people coming back so you get to know their preferences, what they like, what to avoid, etc. so it’s really great.

What was it like working with Heston at the Fat Duck?

Heston is understandably very busy so he was not really involved with the kitchen but I did get to meet him. He has a great mind although sometimes I think it’s quite difficult to get into his mind and know what he is thinking. It was a great experience, I think what I learned from there was to pay closer attention to detail and to the FOH operation as everything had to be perfect and that kind of level of perfection is great.

 You were assistant head sommelier at the Ledbury, what did you learn from your time there?

When I was there I stepped up into a more managerial position so I had to manage a team and manage the daily operations for when the head sommelier was not there. I also did things regarding staff training and working with Brett (Brett Graham) regarding the wine pairings, which was always really exciting so I learnt a lot from my time there. 

You have the advanced sommelier certificate; does this mean you are planning on becoming a master sommelier?

Hopefully one day, if I get a spot this year I will be sitting the exam otherwise I will be sitting the exam next year.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th August 2016

Terry Kandylis, Head Sommelier, 67 Pall Mall