Authentique Epicerie & Bar
Tufnell Park, north London
Authentique, selling wine and food only from French-speaking regions, was the first shop launched by founder Alexandre Bal, who has since grown the business with The French Market and The Tufnell Park Bakery.
Bal admits that having “one or two” French staff in his business definitely helps. But where to find them?
A Facebook page designed for French people in the UK seeking work or just general advice is a source that Bal has turned to in the past. As well as recruiting his head chef this way, he says he was lucky enough to also find Agathe.
“Agathe has been working for us for about 18 months now,” says Bal. “She had experience in hospitality and also worked as a stewardess for Eurostar. She really liked what we do in terms of bakery so she started at The French Market on that side of things, but very quickly we saw how much she likes wine.
“She has completed her WSET Level 2 and will be taking on Level 3 soon. She became an assistant general manager after only eight months, and just this month I promoted her to GM at Authentique.
“She is doing really well. She’s a very bubbly person, always smiling, and someone you can see will do very well in retail because she is so good with customers. They always ask for her by name. She gives them great advice and is pretty good at selling as well.”
Agathe had already been living in the UK for a couple of years before Eurostar laid her off in September 2020.
She explains how much she enjoys her new career. “I love a challenge,” she says, “and I’ve learned a lot about wine and I’m continuing to learn so much.
“I have only been GM for a couple of weeks and I have taken on a bit of extra responsibility. I like managing my team and everyone is happy to come to work every day, that’s the most important thing.”
Agathe believes that being French certainly helps. She says: “I think I understand the products more easily and when it comes to selling cheese or bread to go with the wine, I am so familiar with these things already, but of course on the wine side there is so much to learn.
“We do the wine club twice a month and I help Alex with that, and it is a really good opportunity to taste new wines.” Agathe is particularly enthusiastic about Alsace wines. “I just love them, especially Riesling,” she says.