How I got here:
I went to catering college in Egypt where studied a lot of wine, before moving to London in 1973. I got a job as commis waiter at The Savoy Grill in 1976 and progressed through the ranks up to head sommelier in 1989.
I remained head sommelier until 2003 when Gordon Ramsay Holdings and Marcus Wareing came in to take over the Savoy Grill. After just three months myself, Franco and Andrew Marasca – who was the restaurant manager back then – were asked to join Rocco Forte’s Brown Hotel in Abermarle Street.
The three of us remained there for three years until Andrew retired in 2008, but at that point me and Franco were asked by the managing director at the Langham to join his team, as they were just undergoing a refurbishment.
On working with Gordon Ramsay:
We didn’t like to work with Ramsay when he came to the Savoy. He had this reputation. He brought in his own people and wanted to do his own thing. We liked more classical cuisine, a mixture of new and old.
On working with the Rouxs:
When we heard the Roux family were taking over the Landau restaurant here at the Langham we were over the moon. It was a good move by our managing director Katie Benson to bring them here. Albert and Michel are very nice people to work with. We are very happy here.
On working with a close team:
I think myself and Franco are quite successful because we’ve been working together for over 25 years and have formed a very close friendship along with our mentor Andrew.
My favourite time:
The highlight of my career is working at the Savoy and doing all of my service at the Savoy Grill. Plus serving all those great people. All the pop stars you know.
My biggest achievement:
People tell me I’m a legend. I don’t think I am though - I love doing my work and serving people; they’re the most important thing. I just give my best. I’ve trained a lot of people who have gone on to become head sommeliers and restaurant managers. Now I get emails from people in Italy and France who’ve become general manager even. We used to train Stuart Johnson, the general manager of Brown Hotel, but there are so many I cannot remember their names. That’s what I love to do.
In my future:
I’m looking forward to retiring next year. Franco’s going to kill me because he’s got a few years to go yet. I’ll be on hand anytime he needs me or gets stuck though. That’s if I don’t move to New Zealand to be with my daughter. It might be nice to retire in the sunshine.