Audrey Doré, from El Celler de Can Roca: “There’s no Such Thing as a Good Sommelier without Passion”
Audrey Doré began working as Sommelier at El Celler de Can Roca in January this year. The Spanish restaurant, number 2 in the famous World’s 50 Best ranking by Restaurant Magazine wasn’t her first experience with the Roca brothers, as her previous role as Head Sommelier at Roca Moo in Barcelona prepared her to take the step into the globally known restaurant.
Originally from France, Audrey has worked in Spain since 2003 and holds a postgraduate Sommelier diploma in from the prestigious Campus de Turisme, Hoteleria i Gastronomia in Barcelona. We had the opportunity of interviewing her recently and she shared her thoughts on working at a restaurant with one of the longest waiting lists out there.
What’s a normal week in your life like?
“The restaurant closes Sundays and Mondays. Our week starts on Tuesday, but we don’t open to customers at noon on this day. We use that time to update the wine list, prepare the mise en place for the week and work on internal training, whether it is with our partners at the research centre -in things like fermented foods, distillation or chocolate- or with the Roca Brothers.”
Audrey adds that sometimes they get training from professionals in other disciplines and even sessions with a psychologist. The rest of the week, “we are dedicated to our customers, we have lunch and diner at Can Roca -at El Bar de los Padres, 200 metres from the restaurant- and the service shift goes from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm to 12:30 am.”
What’s the hardest part of your job?
“I guess having a schedule that is opposite to the people around us.”
And what is the part of your job that you enjoy the most?
“To be part of a special moment for diners. They often come here to celebrate a special occasion and have waited a long time to be able to sit at the restaurant, so they arrive with high hopes. We, somehow, become a part of their celebration.”
She adds that getting to know producers she genuinely admires and being able to spend time with personalities from all over the world is also something that brings her great joy.
Wine at El Celler de Can Roca
Audrey explains that “the wine list at El Celler is Josep’s selection, it is a very personal list, and you could say that the 60,000 bottles in the bodega are his personal collection, compiled during the last three decades.” They often go to wine fairs and bodegas, and “a lot of samples arrive into the restaurant”, so there’s a lot of tasting but at the end, they get those wines that excite and interest Josep Roca.
“On the other hand, there’s the wine pairing. We have absolute freedom to change the pairings and adapt to our customers, their feedback, their tastes and expectations” says Audrey.
Regarding some of her favourite wine and food pairings at the restaurant, she points out an asparagus ice cream with truffle paired with a German Riesling from JJ Prüm, Sonnenuhr Kabinett 2009. “Not only there is a harmony in the aromas, in this match, there’s a game between textures and thermal sensations on the palate.” She also highlights their piglet a la Rioja with Pedro Balda Vendimia Seleccionada 2011. “In this case the dish was created based in the aromas of the wine to achieve a total cohesion between the solid and the liquid.”
For dessert, a charming third course: Perfume Turco (Turkish perfume) with Okonomierat Rebholz Albersweiler Latt Gewürztraminer Auslese 2003. “For this dessert, there is a close circle between the aromas of roses, white ripe fruit and spices which are common to the three elements: the wine, the dish and the perfume that inspired it.”
Is there a difference between the wines ordered by locals and tourists?
“We sell a lot of wines from Catalonia, both to tourists looking to discover them and to locals who appreciate them.”
Audrey adds that often, locals enjoy the opportunity to discover German Rieslings when they visit, “as they are aware of the fact that these are some of Josep’s favourites and that the selection is very rich and varied.” She celebrates the fact that no matter where customers come from, they often arrive “with an open mind and the desire to follow our advise. The wine pairing option is the most popular as people want to get the whole experience.”
“I’d be a Sherry, and depending on the day, why not a fresh Manzanilla, an intense Oloroso or a silky PX?”
Have you ever participated in competitive sommelier events?
“I don’t have a very competitive spirit, but there’s a competition on my radar and for which I will prepare, Meilleur Ouvrier de France en 2019.”
What advice can you share with sommeliers at the start of their careers and who wish to work in five star hotels and award-winning restaurants?
“Study a lot, taste a lot, visit bodegas and vineyards any time you have the opportunity. Don’t rush yourself into getting a job at a large, famous restaurant, you can learn a lot at a small bar, a shop, a bodega…”
Trend Talks: Fresh and Local
Audrey acknowledges that trends are ever changing and when asked about her observations during the past few years, she mentions that “people now are ordering fresher wines compared to a few years ago, also lower in alcohol and with less oak.”
In Catalonia, “everyday people drink more local wines and there is a general interest to know small producers, native grape varieties and wines with less technology involved and with more personality.”
What are the key attributes a good sommelier needs to have?
“We need to listen to our customers and pay attention their taste over our own. Also, to be humble, curious and continue studying, and have passion for the trade. There is no such thing as a good sommelier without passion.”
Regarding her own approach when dealing with customers, she mentions that it is important to have tact and “never force things”, she prefers to see if a customer wants to get out of his comfort zone or if they are curious to discover something new. “We won’t approach the table the same way if there’s a couple, a business lunch, a family celebration… it is important to adapt.”
When it comes to difficult customers, “I’d give them even more love! There’s nothing more satisfactory than turning around a table that starts off as difficult and leaves delighted.”
What goals for the future can you share with us?
“To keep working, whether at this restaurant, teaching or making my own wine perhaps. And having a family.”
Before saying goodbye, we asked Audrey Doré to share some recommendations with us. Here are Audrey’s picks to…
Bring to a friend’s house: A Mencía from Galicia.
Drink while watching Netflix: A white Garnacha from Empordà.
Remember good times: A palo cortado Sherry.
Celebrate: A long-aged Cava.
MASTERCLASS WITH AUDREY DORÉ
Audrey will be visiting Dublin on the 4th October for the Wines of Spain Trade Tasting, organised by the Economic and Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy.
At 12:15 pm on the day, she’ll be sharing her expertise at The Shelbourne.
Register for the Wines of Spain Trade Tasting here (trade only).
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.