Italian-born Alessandro Bonuzzi, 23, has little doubt what's required to be a great sommelier. "Without passion you won't go anywhere. You need to love food, wine, the restaurant environment," he says.
It's this commitment and enthusiasm that has seen him rise through the ranks at the restaurant he joined full-time as a waiter in 2001. Having shown a strong interest in wine, restaurant manager Franck Hardy helped him develop his interest and later gave him the opportunity to take charge of wine at the restaurant following the departure of the head sommelier. Although nervous, Bonuzzi seized the opportunity, having come to London from Verona to test himself in a competitive job market.
"When an opportunity such as this presents itself, you can either leave it alone or try to shine, working as hard as you can to make it happen." Bonuzzi says he finds it highly satisfying to help diners match wines with their meals, suggesting combinations that may not have occurred to them.
Designing a restaurant's wine menu is a question of assessing the types of dishes on offer and taking into account any international influences and the spices used. At One-O-One he will sit down with the chef and restaurant manager to find the best matches, which, as it offers many fish dishes, typically involves a notable number of white wines. "It is very much a team effort, and it is good to take advice, because the end result will be better," suggests Bonuzzi.
As part of his job, he researches each wine and its producer on the menu, writing in-depth tasting notes to better brief the restaurant's waiting staff about what exactly is on offer. He has also begun hosting Cook and Eat tasting evenings on the last Wednesday of each month, which are proving hugely popular with the public.
Bonuzzi says that choosing a theme for a Cook and Eat session based on a country or region's speciality engages the customers and increases his exposure and knowledge of the area, adding to his growing expertise as a sommelier - not bad for a man who had a mere two years' full-time banqueting experience under his belt before coming to London.
Joins team at One-O-One as full-time waiter
Becomes assistant sommelier
Promoted to sommelier