ASI & APAS best Sommelier of Americas, Canada 2018
Pier-Alexis has dedicated the past 10 years of his career to providing world class wine service and enhancing guest experience in some of the most demanding environments. The journey started in Montréal, and brought him to excel in 3 different continents; from London to Sydney to New York City and California. He has worked in some of the most prestigious Michelin starred establishments, such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal**, The Modern**, and Manresa Restaurant***.
In 2014, he won the World Young Sommelier of the Year competition held by Chaine des Rôtisseurs, which had participants from 15 countries. In 2016, he became one of very few to earn the Master Sommelier title before the age of 30, a title held by only 5 individuals in Canada and 249 worldwide. In 2017, Pier-Alexis won Québec’s Best Sommelier competition, held by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Today, he is the ASI & APAS Best Sommelier of the Americas!
We asked him few questions about the competition he just won, how he feels, and about the position of the sommelier in Canada and the Americas.
Q1: You are ASI & APAS Best Sommelier of the Americas! How do you feel?
Pier-Alexis: Excellent! I’m savouring the moment. It is an amazing achievement and looking back over the process, it has been a wonderful journey. I have a lot of love around me and I feel great. It’s amazing to be recognized by your peers. At the end of the day, that is the most meaningful for me. I love my guests and colleagues, but to have people in our industry recognize my skills is very humbling and it feels great.
Q2: Tell us what it takes to become the Best Sommelier of the Americas?
Pier-Alexis: It takes a lot of things, but what I really think it takes is love and passion for what you do and also being a great professional. I think about that very often. The wine world is an amazing world where there are amazing professionals. What the competitions show is what a true professional you are. It is not only a year that I trained for that particular competition, it is everything that I have been doing in the 10 years leading up to it. Every day that I wake up, go to work and surround myself with pros, that is really what defines you. That is what I love about those competitions. People think that you become a super sommelier by studying and learning all sorts of things, and that is part of it, but it is all about being a pro. Being a pro on a daily basis, which will shine or show and that’s what the competition does for me. Surround yourself with the right people, be dynamic, be a pro, have passion for what you do, and be able to perform and shine in the ‘clutch’ during the final. There are great professional sommeliers working in the industry but who are not interested in the pressure of working on-stage in front of an audience and I respect that. You need to be able to shoot to score when it is time to score.
Q3: This is a great professional opportunity for you. What are your professional plans?
Pier-Alexis: My professional plan is to stick to the plan! I work for a great restaurant in Montreal, with great people and a great team. For me, I just continue to do what I do day in & day out, which is work hard, being supported by wonderful people and communicate the love of wine. There is no magic answer. I’m not going to change overnight because of the competition. What I really love to do is what I do and I’m going to continue to do it, to serve the world of wine and the world of sommellerie.
Q4: How is the sommelier profession in Canada and the Americas? Is this title going to help promote the profession even more and how do you plan to do it?
Pier-Alexis: Markets are different. I’ve worked in California, New York and Montreal. There are lots of things to be done here because we don’t have the weight of professional history like Europe. We are freer in a way and sommellerie is changing a lot. To me it is not only being about being head sommelier in a prestigious 5 star hotel or restaurant. Now I see sommeliers working in all sorts of contexts, from a fast-paced environment, a bistro to more high-end. That is beautiful because it means we have a common love for what we do and can express it in different ways.
Back in the day, it was something reserved for only a certain category of restaurants and in Canada & America, I see it being expressed in a lot of different formats and that is amazing for young people to break into the field. It is like being a boulanger. Who can afford a boulanger in a restaurant? Only a few but now you see skilled people who are multi-disciplined and can bake, cook food and do desserts. A sommelier is no different. I think the future of sommellerie lies in us being able to show our love and passion in a less formal, elitist approach, and that is good news. I’m thrilled about the place and time we are in and how diversified our profession is in North America.
Q5: You are the best ambassador of food & beverage of the country you are coming from. Do you have a strategy to promote it world wide?
Pier-Alexis: I always speak about responsibility and there is a part of responsibility and respect that comes with winning. It is a title that you win and of course you earn it, but it is not all yours and it is not a self-promotion thing. There is promotion of our profession and winning has given me a voice that will help me to do good and speak about wine in a different way, to be part of the conversation and that is a true honour. That being said, I think people are looking more and more towards Canada. There has always been a great tradition of sommellerie here but we are just proving it. Having 2 finalists from Canada on the podium was a big honour and we’re extremely proud. We have a strong culture of wine in Canada and it is maturing, which is amazing. That is great news.