Award winning sommelier Stefan Kobald - Posted on Jun 02, 2014
In the world of restaurants and hotel food and beverage, chefs are the rocks stars. But what about the sommeliers? The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa are passionate about their wine programme, so much so that they boast a team of award winning Sommeliers in this their fifth year of mentoring a sommelier to represent South Africa in the Chaine des Rotisseurs Jeunes world finals.
Adding great value to this esteemed team is sommelier Stefan Kobald, who recently took top accolades at the Chaine de Rotisseurs in Durban and will represent his country at the world finals later this year. The youngest sommelier in the country, Stefan’s ardour for the grape is apparent from the moment he meets his dinner guests with his selection of wine pairings, guiding their meal along an enlightening and rewarding path. As a young man who grew up in the realm of all things culinary, the son of award - winning chef Martin Kobald, Stefan knew at a young age that he was destined to work in this industry. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began his career as a junior chef, but soon realised his love of the grape would supersede his love of food and he forged his own path and a name for himself as a sommelier. Under the mentorship of the Saxon Wine Programme, headed by Managing Director, George Cohen, an honorary member of the Chaine de Rotisseur, Stefan threw himself into wine and food pairing, working as the junior sommelier at the hotel’s experiential fine dining restaurant, Saxon five hundred. It was here, under the mentorship of Francis Krone and later Gareth Ferreira, two heavyweights in the industry, that he honed his palate and developed his great love for the art of wine.
As someone who believes in the true worth of mentoring, Stefan’s dedication to his art and great zeal for working hard has paid off as he stands among the ranks of South Africa’s finest Sommeliers with his recent accolade recent win at the Chaine de Rottiseur is testament to the significance of mentorship. “Had it not been for the incredible group of people I work with and learn from on a daily basis, I would not be here,” he began. “Having being afforded the opportunity to not only learn from some of the greatest names in the industry, but to be able to travel and write our Court of Masters exams in London is an opportunity I am fortunate enough to have been given by the Saxon wine programme.”
“To be mentored daily by a programme that has seen ten of the country’s top sommeliers go on to reach their goals, the Saxon wine programme encourages us to continuously study and sample wines from around the world, which not only keeps us current by understanding one’s wines in both a global and local context,” he adds. “Our role is at the hotel is far more complex than simply pouring wine,” says Stefan. “We need to be able to determine from only a few questions what our guests like and utilise our knowledge to offer a selection to a budding wine lover. It is here where the detective game of sizing up a guest’s tastes begins. We start by asking about textural sensations and metaphorical flavours. It’s quite a challenge and in the end you have tried to give the guest absolutely everything that they want. The essence is to create a holistic dining experience.”
Sometime over the last decade and a half the role of sommelier has changed. No longer is it a role reserved for straitlaced men donning tastevins. It's grown to become one of the restaurant's most important positions. “I am extremely proud of my dynamic team and it is such an honour to be the only company in the world to have maintained the title, and for five years running,” said Managing Director George Cohen. “The Saxon has unparalleled commitment, not only to our staff and their specialist training, but also to our valued guests as we continually strive to offer a memorable experience. Naturally, we are delighted that our commitment for excellence and passion to always step outside the box in food and beverage were upheld by our young team members. I speak both for myself and my entire team at the Saxon when I say that we are truly honoured to continually receive such prestigious awards from one of the industry’s most respected institution.”
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