It was Seneca who said “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This was the first thought that came to mind when I heard that local lad Brent Bartlett is off to France to take up his position as assistant sommelier at JAN Restaurant in Nice. Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who I recently interviewed for my article on heritage chefs for the September edition of Sawubona magazine, is nothing less than a phenomenon. Our first Michelin-starred South African chef. I asked Brent, whose family I have known for many years since his sister worked for my PR company many years ago, how he got the job. I knew that it had nothing to do with luck…Timing, maybe?
Brent has worked in some high-end restaurants in London, spent time in some of France’s top wine-producing regions, particularly during harvest season, and is currently a sommelier and wine farm freelancer where he enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion for wine. He is the founder of Noble Vine, the launch of which I attended a few years ago, at Beau Constantia. I was immediately inspired by his passion and vision. This boutique business has seen success hosting food and wine pairings, stocking private wine cellars and curating bespoke wine experiences. Over a cappuccino last week, was reminded that there is no excuse for not following your dream. Believe in yourself, and your dream is more likely to come true. When a friend told Brent about the job with Jan he sprang into action, got his paperwork together and applied. Two Skype interviews and it was in the bag. He will be working under the head sommelier at both Jan’s and at Maria’s, their new private dining room named after Jan’s grandmother. Brent is currently brushing up on his French, and looking forward to introducing discerning diners to the very best of South African wines. His biggest ambition? To pass the master sommelier exam. Good luck Brent, fly our flag high, stay humble and don’t forget us when you are famous!
If you would like to share my experience in Champagne, where I was hosted by Champagne Taittinger, grab the October issue of Food & Home Entertaining, which is on sale now. The story, “When in Reims” is timed to celebrate Global Champagne Day on 20 October. Taittinger will be hosting an event to celebrate this day. Tickets are available through Quicket.
Back home I am currently tweaking recipes for my “Best of Burgundy” cookery demo in October. I bought some amazing terrines from the French Market in Gardens Centre last week, which inspired me to cook up a storm. Watch this space!