Photo: InSing Photos
Britt Ng, Assistant Sommelier, db Bistro Moderne
How did you get into the world of wine?
I graduated from NUS with an engineering degree, but soon realized being an engineer was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I entered a work and travel programme, and worked in a theme park restaurant in the US for about three months. After that I came back, applied for a job at Marina Bay Sands and got hired as a service attendant at db Bistro Moderne. At that time, we had a head sommelier who was very good in educating people about wine, and I started to pick up wine knowledge from him. That was slowly how I got into the wine business.
When did you realise you wanted to become a sommelier?
As a service attendant, I learned about the food side of the restaurant business. Then I became a captain, and needed to learn more about wine. As I slowly progressed and my interest in wine grew, I started assisting my head sommelier in areas such as wine stock taking, and learned more about the different wine countries and regions, the varietals. When our head sommelier left us a year ago, there was nobody looking after the wine programme so I stepped up to the plate.
The Best Sommelier Competition was your first sommelier competition ever.
Yes, it was my first competition and I decided to give it a try after Han Yew Kong of Osteria Mozza urged me to do so. Very luckily, I managed to get into the finals of the nationals and placed second, which earned me the chance to take part in the regional Southeast Asian competition.
"Tokaj, a sweet wine from Hungary, pairs well with a durian soufflé on our menu. It comes with mangosteen sorbet."
What was the easiest part of the competition for you?
There are three parts to the competition: practical, theory and a blind tasting. The part that I was most comfortable with is the practical part. That’s because it involves dealing with wine in a restaurant setting, which I have experience with. I am very comfortable suggesting food and wine pairing, opening a bottle of wine in a professional level, serving people from left to right, that kind of thing.
And the toughest part?
The most challenging part for me was the theory, because there were times when they asked me things that I had not heard of before. For example, they asked me for an overview of a sub-region of Spain, what style of wines they produce, what grapes grow best there, and which of its wines I’d recommended. There was no way I could smoke myself out of questions like these, which I didn’t know the answer to.
What are some of the things you learned from the competition?
One thing I’ve learned is that the standard of Southeast Asian sommeliers is pretty high. For instance, the finals were live, and the sommeliers recommended food and wine pairing confidently in front of an audience.
Have you come across any unexpectedly good food and wine pairings?
We have a durian soufflé on the menu, with mangosteen sorbet. At first it was a bit tricky to find a wine that went with it, but I discovered that Tokaj, a sweet wine from Hungary, pairs well. Tokaj matches the sweetness of the mangosteen sorbet, and its herbaceous and floral notes overcome the pungency of the durian.
What do you drink on your days days?
I drink very little wine on my days off. I enjoy cocktails, especially the handcrafted artisanal cocktails from places like Maison Ikkouku, 28 Hongkong Street, and Tippling Club.
db Bistro Moderne | Address: #B1-48, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue | Tel: 66888525 | Opening hours: Tue-Fri noon-10pm, Sat-Mon noon-11pm
In between her bowls of bak chor mee and plates of prata, Joyce Huang be found in various corners of the world digging into streetside fare, trawling museums and practising hand signals with locals.