The Yum List chats with Dinesh Kumar, rockstar Sommelier and Operations Manager of Le Midi and Midi 57, Bangsar.
What drew you to a career in the Food and Beverage industry?
I started off in the music scene playing undergorund rock gigs in Germany after finishing studies at the City and Guilds London Institute. The scene involved a few "musts" such as women, drugs, alcohol, food... so I chose the latter two... as I thought it would be the safest:). I grew tired of the scene as it was self destructive and I was not making much money (which I still don't in F and B). I still play in a band and my music definitely plays a part in my hallucinatic pairings. I am, and have been for a long time, a huge fan of Marco Pierre White (British celebrity chef, the youngest to ever to be awarded 3 Michelin Stars, donned the Godfather of modern cooking) and eventually ended up working with his protege, Gordan Ramsay.
What do you think makes an excellent sommelier?
I wouldn't call myself perfect or excellent but rather daring and bold. Experimental has been my style since I began in the industry. This is what I am, my personal character (which most professionals think should have never existed he he!)
What is one of your no fail wine and food pairings?
The no fail ones are basic for anyone such as Chambertin with pork and, Sauternes with foei gras. I find these boring.
Do you have a surprising/ innovative/ controversial food and wine pairing? Tell us about it.
I have LOTS which turn heads! For example, match Massandra Kokur (Ukrainian sweet wine from the Tsar) with caramelized Maine lobster with Armagnac sauce and apple puree. Or... squid inked popcorn with Chateau Palmer... and off course my self-made wine "Constructivism" (and I don't call it molecular). My weekend people watching, studio sessions, past underground scenes and skateboarding sessions have helped me to develop a constructive wine series into a playful experience. EG I tried snorting a merlot and smelt Eden Valley :-)
How about spirits or beer? What is one of your favourite pairings with food?
I don't handle beer well (chaotic after 4 glasses). Spirits though... Gin and desserts do well together, especially apple crumble...I'M A DESSERT FREAK.
In this industry, especially the part where alcohol is involved, you must see some interesting things. Tells us about one of them.
Plenty... but I don't get amused as most involve people who don't know when to stop. One story though involves colleagues from a world renowned restaurant (no names mentioned) who had a challenge of downing some Lafite Latour and Romanee Conti's straight from the bottle at one go. Results were an enormous bill from the club and a few were suspended from work (shown on the news the next day on TV). I never said I was one of them (but oh I love a good Romanee Conti he he!).
Thank you Dinesh! Now where to find Ukrainian sweet wine and Maine lobster...
What are your favourite food and wine pairings?