Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship on the Road: Q and A with Caitlyn Rees

We caught up with the 2017 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship winner, sommelier Caitlyn Rees, who’s currently working across the world in three destinations that inspire her hospitality dreams.

Caitlyn is Head Sommelier and Manager at Fred’s at Charlie Parker’s in Sydney. She has helped shape the team since they opened in 2016, seeing Fred’s quickly grow into one of Sydney’s hottest dining spots. 

She tells us where she’s headed, why, and what knowledge she hopes to put into practice when she gets home. 

Where’s the Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship taking you, and why have you chosen these places?

Well my first stop is Eric Bordelet in Normandy. In my opinion the best cider producer in the world. Why I chose to go there? See the previous question ha ha. My husband and I are considering making our own cider as a long-term plan, we have been talking about it for years and how we’d have to go see Eric Bordelet before we started so when the opportunity came up that’s the first place I thought of. I think there’s not a lot of knowledge back in Australia about Normandy which is a region that produces great drinks – cider, calvados, and more, so I’m hoping to also get a broader understanding of the region as a whole.

Relae in Copenhagen is the next stop. To be honest I really wanted to go to Copenhagen. I feel like it’s the place to be in food and wine at the moment so I started there, then I looked at restaurants in the city and Relae spoke to me because it’s very paired back. It’s all about letting the produce speak for itself and they have a strong ethos around sustainability. A lot of restaurants claim these things but Relae really walks the talk; 90-100% of its ingredients are certified organic and they have a three-star rating with the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Being sustainable is only going to become more important as the years go on and so I want to learn techniques they’re using to achieve this. 

Finally, I am visiting Blue Hill at Stone Barns, upstate New York. This is one of the leading restaurants in the world for farm-to-table which is something we aspire to be at Fred’s and something that I would aspire to if I ever owned my own restaurant in the future. I’ve only heard amazing reviews from people I know who have dined there so I think I’m definitely going to learn a lot of things I can implement back home.

What are you most excited about to experience when you go overseas?

I think I’m most excited at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I just know there’s going to be so much I can take away from the experience and really start putting into action when I get home. 

Where did your passion for wine come from?

My passion for wine came from when I was working as a host at the newly opened Love, Tilly Devine back in 2011. It was the first time I’d been exposed to natural wine and I loved it, not just what’s actually in the glass but the energy and the community around natural wine really spoke to me.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the human interactions, whether it’s looking after a couple in the restaurant on their wedding anniversary, visiting wineries and discussing the winemakers’ philosophies, or passing on my passion for wine to someone new my team, there are so many examples.

How important is it for people who work in wine to travel to the areas of the world where it comes from?

I think it’s so important, most people who work in hospitality are kinetic learners which means they have to physically do, see, feel things to understand them best. I’ve never heard a somm say they learn about a region better by reading about it in a book! There’s also that human element, actually meeting the people behind the wine. For me it makes a massive difference to speak about a wine in a restaurant setting when I know the person who made it, I know their intention behind the wine and their philosophy. 

How do you think Australia’s wine industry compares to the rest of the world? Is there anything that sets us apart?

From what I have seen around the world, what Australia does really well is make the experience of visiting a winery amazing. It’s not so common in other parts of the world to have incredible restaurants and galleries and architecture attached to a winery like we do in a lot of our wine regions: the restaurant at Oakridge, the landscaping and sculpture garden at Point Leo, and the list goes on. When it comes to the restaurant, I think we have a very global outlook in our wine programs. Being so far away from most of the rest of the world I think there is less of a bias. For example, it’s quite common to see wines from Germany, Argentina, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand on one wine list which I think is not so common in other cities of the world.

You have achieved some impressive career milestones already. Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I’d really like to be working for myself. I’m a bit of a country girl at heart so I’d love to be living somewhere in the country too but I’m not 100% sure what I’d be doing. Maybe making wine, maybe making cider, maybe running a restaurant… 




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