The results of this year’s Young Professional Awards, run by the Chaine des Rotisseurs have been revealed, with two young sommeliers picking up their first ever competitive prizes.
Freddie Johnson (aged 25) from the Fat Duck at Bray won the Young Sommelier of the Year title and will go on to represent Great Britain in the national finals in Wiesbaden, Germany, in the autumn.
Magdalena Babik (aged 22), from Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, won the Gerard Basset Trophy, awarded for the best score in the blind tasting and food and wine matching sections. Ryan Duffy, of Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, was Highly Commended for his performance.
Freddie started at a culinary school in Woking, but was inspired by a wine course given by John Downes MW, and moved into the world of drinks, joining Vagabond Wines. He followed this up with a degree in wine and business studies at Plumpton College before working at Church Road restaurant in Barnes.
He is one of a team of eight at the Fat Duck, describing his time there as ‘quite a learning curve.
Magdalena has had an equally circuitous route into hospitality, working at a Fullers pub to pay her way through her university course in London, ending up at the Parcel Yard in Kings Cross.
‘I learned so much so quickly, and really loved it,’ she says. ‘That’s why I decided to ditch my studies and become a sommelier.’
On this evidence, they’ve both made great career choices. So very well done to both of the winners – and we hope to see you at an event, tasting or judging session shortly – and to see you rising up through the profession!