Career Profile: Ashraf Saleh

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant

Ashraf Saleh, head sommelier at Galvin at Windows
Ashraf Saleh, head sommelier at Galvin at Windows
Ashraf Saleh’s career began at eight years old stock taking for his family’s restaurant in Egypt. He is now head sommelier at Galvin at Windows and has aspirations of leading his own restaurant and hotel empire.

How I got here:

My parents have been restaurateurs and hoteliers for over 35 years, and I was even born in a hotel owned by them in Germany. When I was eight years old my parents moved to Egypt where they’ve been for 20 years and now own six restaurants back home.

I was forced to do a business degree in Egypt as my parents didn’t want me to go into the industry like them – they thought the hours were too hard. But after I got my degree I really wanted to learn more, so I came to the UK and did a BA in Hospitality and Foodservice Management alongside a WSTC wine course in Food and Beverage Management.

I then went and got a job as chef de rang at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus at The Berkeley, but I was only there six months – I didn’t feel comfortable working there. So I left and found a position at Galvin at Windows as head waiter.

I worked my way up to assistant sommelier and a 16 months ago I became head sommelier.

On working at Galvin at Windows:

I think Windows is excellent. I see continuous training and the passion behind it – it’s not just a business but training people to get them qualified and skilled. I send my sommeliers on courses that cost £600-£1000 which we get sponsored by suppliers. You really have a chance at Windows to try out your ideas, and if you make a mistake you just learn from it and move on.

On growing up in hospitality:

Because I grew up in this environment the industry was my playground in a way. My parents are very passionate about this so I really learned a passion for hospitality from them. At 8 years old I was doing stock takes in their restaurants and taking orders, and at 10 I was working in the kitchen all the time. So I was really bought up in the business.

On why training is important:

Education opens your mind to different aspects. You can think you know everything and then you learn something new and think how did I miss this? You get to see things from a different perspective. Continuous training is very important and it doesn’t matter if that’s from a course or inhouse, just that it occurs.

Why I chose sommeliery:

I’ve always been interested in wines. Back home my parents were into wine and so I wanted to learn more. While at Windows I sat down with Fred Sirieix and told him I wanted to do more with wine and we got started on the relevant courses. I’ve now been head sommelier for a year and a half, and for the moment I’m helping out running the restaurant a bit.

My greatest achievement:

My biggest achievement for now is being 27 years old and head sommelier at one of the top restaurants in London. I’ve done a few awards too like the Award of Excellence from the Academy of Culinary Arts.

On my future:

I want to go more into food and beverage management then eventually I’d like to go home and maybe do F&B there. Ultimately I will go on to run my father’s business and open some of my own ideas for my own places back home.

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1 comment

well done

Posted by michele,

Ashraf is a really driven and talented youg guy.

I am sure he will succed in his vision.

all the bst ash

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