Our very own Niall Flynn chatted to Good Food Ireland about what has driven him to become involved at the highest level in the wine world and gives an insight into his life as a professional Sommelier, working at one of Ireland’s best fine dining restaurants.
When and how do you begin your working day?
I usually get up at about 9am and go for breakfast in one of my favourite cafes near where I like to run in the mornings. I have croissants and coffee then I usually head off for a 5km run before going home to shower and get ready for work.
How did your passion for wine begin?
My passion for wine began in Italy. I lived there for ten years and food and wine is a huge part of the culture. I was working in consultancy before I changed career. First I started training in a restaurant in Bologna then did my wine study while I was working. I qualified in 2016. It took me a year and a half to do the course. During the training I started to think that I already had a passion for good wine and this was a job I could really see myself doing. I really love it so when I qualified I started looking for potential positions. It was like a Road to Damascus event in my life really.
What gives you the most satisfaction from your job?
As well as getting to work in something I am really passionate about, I love to chat to our customers and find out what they want in a wine. I like to create the perfect experience for diners at Loam. To elevate their enjoyment by marrying really good wines with the lovely food.
Which part of your job do you like the least?
I don’t like vacuuming! I sometimes have to pull the hoover out when we are setting up the restaurant for service. I wrestle with it mostly! The other thing I don’t much enjoy is when you get a big delivery of wine which has to be checked off and dealt with and put into the store. It’s one of those jobs that just has to be done and done right.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in the wine industry? ?
If you’re passionate about it then throw yourself in there. Obviously you will have to work hard and train. But when you do that, what you get in return is a job you love.
If you weren’t a Sommelier, what else would you like to be?
Well I changed my career in consultancy for this job so I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I’ve found what I really love! Perhaps if I had to change again it would be to something to do with food and wine tourism.
Are you a technophile or technophobe?
Somewhere in the middle really. I like my gadgets but wouldn’t be a crazy technophile. In fact I can be a bit of a Luddite when technology doesn’t work. I try to back away from social media on a personal level. I set aside time in my day for emailing, plus I use Skype to keep in contact with friends. But that’s about it. I do realise though it’s a vital tool for the food and wine industry in the way it’s a good showcase for what you are doing.
What are the daily challenges of your job?
Every day is a challenge. There’s always something new to learn. But just getting into work and making sure administration stuff is done, checking stocks and putting away deliveries properly etc. Plus making sure you have everything you need for the service. These are all challenges. You have to be prepared, calm, ready and good to go for each service, to enable yourself to deliver the best experience to customers.
How do you manage the work/life balance?
I have my mornings to myself when I get to eat breakfast out and go for my run. Sometimes I also fit in work things too. I don’t head into work till about 3pm so I have time to do lots of stuff before I go. The great advantage of this job is that my time is flexible to be able to fit things in around it. But also my life is all about my job, so it never feels like a struggle to manage a work/life balance.
How do you relax when you get time off?
I like to travel but I don’t do it as often as I would like to. I like to meet friends for some nice food and wine. I also like to cook for my friends. I love reading. Currently I’m re-reading some of PJ Wodehouse’s books. I absolutely love his work. He wrote the ‘Jeeves’ books based on the service industry with Jeeves as the valet to Bertie Wooster, which are great stories. But some of his other possibly lesser known books are absolutely brilliant.
What is your guilty pleasure?
It’s a toss up between chocolate and cheese! I don’t know which would win. Probably chocolate! I try to avoid buying it because once I start there’s no stopping.
What’s your favourite Good Food Ireland place to visit?
I like to go to Ard Bia in Galway City for a casual pop-in place. I really love the food and the atmosphere.