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Profile: Le Champignon Sauvage's Helen Everitt-Matthias

Published:  09 March, 2009

Le Champignon Sauvage's Helen Everitt-Matthias tells how marrying a chef made a front-of-house career all but inevitable.


Le Champignon Sauvage's Helen Everitt-Matthias tells how marrying a chef made a front-of-house career all but inevitable.

What first got you interested in wine?
Necessity - we bought Le Champignon Sauvage and it was my job to run the front-of-house.

How did you end up running a restaurant?
I married a chef with ambitions to own a restaurant, and I was to put my hospitality and accounting skills to work. I had no formal waiting training, but had worked in two restaurants part-time where David was cooking. I applied how I like to be served to my own service.

What's your proudest professional achievement?
Initially it was at the end of our opening night in 1987, but that was eclipsed when we achieved our second Michelin star in 2000.

What makes a great wine list?
Reasonable mark-ups because they enable customers to afford wines they might otherwise not try. Having a good variety, not necessarily from all over the world but good examples from your selected regions. And try to inject some age onto the list, making sure the wines are ready for drinking. It is disappointing being presented with a list that contains fine wines that still need ageing.

Is there any kind of wine you wouldn't want on your list?
There aren't any wines I would discount from our list, but we made a very conscious decision to have a predominantly French list with just a nudge towards the New World.

How much emphasis do you attach to matching wines with food - and what's the best way of helping customers steer their way to appropriate wine choices?
Of course wine can help bring the flavour out of food - it can also kill delicate flavours. It is always important to remember that customers do have their own palates, so you shouldn't just recommend what you like or the most expensive wine on the list. If asked for advice, I like to suggest two or three options to marry with the customers' order. Customers react to friendly and helpful advice more than they do to a pompous and overbearing approach.

What's the oddest request you've ever had from a customer?
Perhaps not oddest, but certainly the most disappointing was: 'I see you don't have any Mateus Rosé on your list. Can I bring my own?' Shame!

What do you drink at home?
Coffee, white Mas de Daumas Gassac.

What would be your desert island wine?
Château Belingard-Chayne, Monbazillac, 1999.

And what would you want to eat with it?
A large selection of perfect blue cheeses.