We get up close and personal with Stephanie Rigourd , the new director of wines at Raffles Hotel Singapore, who hails from France and is armed with 12 years of experience.
Why did you decide to become a sommelier?
When I was 16, I fell from my dream of being a national gymnast. I was gymnast for 15 years and worked really hard to become a champion and to realize my dream of going to the Olympic games. It never happened and I was very frustrated. While training hard, I didn’t study much. My results at school were pretty poor. When I had to go back to school and to find my professional way, my dad suggested I go to Hospitality school, since I have always loved gastronomy and wine; I am dynamic and really like people.
I like wine as my dad introduced me to it since I was very young.
What do you think makes a good sommelier?
Strong passion for wine which can’t be faked, being humble and accessible, getting knowledge not only from books but also from winemakers, oenologists and from travels into vineyards. It’s also important to be open.
Tell us one thing about yourself that others may not know.
I was a gymnast for 15 years, I am still practising, I used to coach little gymnasts. I am a certified judge and I judge at competitions in Singapore. Sport is an important part of my life; Gymnastic is my second passion after wine. If I stop working in a wine industry one day, I would be a full time coach.
What are the perks and challenges of being a female sommelier?
Being a female sommelier has never been a problem for me; it actually helps with some difficult guests. The major challenge is my young age and not the fact that I am a woman. People may think that as I am young, I am not a professional, but I am learning to ignore them and to listen only people who are helping me to grow.
What is your favorite local food and wine pairing?
I love Peking duck with a great red Burgundy such as a Pommard; and chicken rice from Boon Tong Kee with a fatty Chardonnay from Margaret River.