Keeping the on-trade on course

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Provisions in north London has launched a one-day education programme for the hospitality industry. The idea is to inspire a deeper connection with wine and better communication with customers, as Claire Harries reports


Provisions Wine School has launched an education programme designed specifically for the hospitality trade.

Run by wine educator Paris Barghchi, the one-day course, priced at £160, caters for professionals working in shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

Barghchi and Provisions owner Hugo Meyer Esquerré believe there is a widespread problem in finding and retaining good staff and they hope their wine school will go some way to addressing the issue.

“A big part of what Provisions Wine School wants to promote is the idea that we are here to support your business,” says Barghchi, who has 18 years of experience in the hospitality trade.

“We’re here to provide an option that is accessible, affordable and tailored to help us bring new life into an industry that needs a new generation of people who feel inspired by what they’re serving and selling.”

In addition to running shops in Islington and Hackney, Provisions also imports and wholesales. “All our wine is craft, artisanal and at least organic-to-natural,” explains Meyer Esquerré, “and we want to incorporate that knowledge, to delve a bit deeper into the viticultural aspects such as soil health, why a wine tastes like it does, and provide a deeper understanding of wine production.”

The company’s wholesale customers always receive training as a matter of course. But the wine school offers much more in its programme, including food and wine pairing.

Barghchi explains: “The course is designed to be accessible to anyone who wants to learn about wine. WSET knowledge is not necessary. Likewise, you could be at Level 3 and still gain from this course.

“I’m doing my Diploma at the moment, but I came to study very late. A lot of my knowledge has come through experience of working in a winery, of selling and learning from the people around me. And, as someone who has worked in food and wine for a very long time, I have noticed that WSET doesn’t cover food and wine relationships in the same way.

“I really hope to have chefs on this course, and other people who perhaps have a real understanding of one area of hospitality and have therefore been introduced to wine but maybe find it a bit daunting. We’re working with a wider catchment.

“We will also cover service and more about how we communicate with the general public, in a way that is particular to the wines that we’re working with. The most important thing with anything is communication. It doesn’t matter if you are the most qualified or educated person, if you can’t communicate to the customer who’s in front of you, then that information is not valuable.

“It’s not just about getting the basics down, it’s about presentation and communication. And that will be a big part of the activities that happen during the day, to give people confidence in going forward with that.”

Meyer Esquerré has been developing the Provisions Wine School for some years. He started it with the company’s former wine buyer, Sam Povey, who is a WSET educator. Nick Campbell, who works in the Provisions wholesale team, looks after the consumer courses for the wine school and Meyer Esquerré says Campbell’s background as a pastry chef further strengthens the food and wine links that Provisions prides itself on.

Barghchi believes that the industry has lost personnel with “top-end” experience and knowledge. “They’ve just dropped out of the industry because they’ve had a family, they’ve had a career change, they’ve decided that actually the pressure doesn’t work for them,” she says.

“But I try and look at it optimistically. OK, there aren’t the staff there. So let’s find people who are interested, and let’s empower them to step into a role working in hospitality, working in wine. And how do we do that? We give them the confidence to talk about something that they’re passionate about.”

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