Since our interview with James Audas in 2013, he has moved overseas to further his career and has taken up a position at Noma in Copenhagen.
We thought we would recount the time we spent with James when he was fresh from winning the 2012 Electrolux Young Waiter of the Year Award.
James Audas started his journey into hospitality like most university students. A means to an end, a way of paying the university fees. “It’s one of those industries where people don’t necessarily see it as a career. I know originally I didn’t.” Says Audas
“I was doing it to help pay for university. Working in bars and restaurants and polishing cutlery and doing anything to earn some money. But I just fell in love with it through working in some wonderful restaurants.”
After working with an impressive team of sommeliers at Tetsuyas in Sydney, James undertook a seven month stint with Tetsuya Wakuda in Singapore. Audas is regarded as the architect of Tetsuya’s famed Waku Ghin wine list.
2012 saw James win the prestigious Electrolux Young Waiter of the Year Award. His prize included a two-week trip to gain experience at an international world-leading restaurant. A visit to the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore in 2013 courtesy of Sanpellegrino. $3000 cash and $5000 worth of Electrolux premium kitchen appliances into his employer’s kitchen.
James took time out from his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for bistro.
BISTRO: What is the most challenging aspect in being a good waiter?
James Audas: I think understanding and time management. Being able to prioritize certain aspects of ones job as well as being able to adapt to any situation.
B: Would you describe yourself as a waiter first sommelier second or visa versa?
JA: I think all sommeliers have to act as great waiters. We have to know the food we are serving, have great service skills and have all the qualities of a great waiter with the added wine knowledge. So probably waiter first.
B: What set you on the path of being a Sommelier?
JA: I had always been interested in wine but working with a great wine team at Tetsuyas inspired me to learn and develop as a sommelier.
B: Can you tell us about your wine training?
JA: I completed my WSET level 3 advanced certificate as well as level one and two (certified) of Court of Master Sommelier Exams. As beneficial as all of this was, I still believe that the best wine training is working on the job and constantly tasting.
B: What is the most important aspect of being a great sommelier?
JA: The ability of being able to judge your guests. Being able to suggest great wines to those that are interested and still give great service and have understanding for those that don’t.
B: Can you be a good Sommelier without understanding and having an appreciation for food
JA: Honestly I think it would make it difficult. Food really completes wine and shows other sides and aspects. A great wine matched with food is so special. Great sommeliers have that understanding for food, flavours and textures.
B: At BLACK by Ezard you make a point of having a section every night. How important is it to stay connected to customers and the wine staff?
JA: I am in a section every night. Being in a section every night I am able to connect with customers as well as my other floor staff. It also gives you the best feedback and honestly I love feeling the rush of a busy service.
B: It’s unusual in Australia for a restaurant to feature American wines to the extent that BLACK does. What is the thinking behind this?
JA: I wanted to have a large list that had a different focus. USA just seemed to be relatively uncharted waters. American wines are a large proportion of our wine by the glass. I love showing guests wines they have not had before like a great Willamette Pinot or Napa Cabernet.
B: Is it harder to source samples and stock premium wines from American compared to Europe
JA: It has been a challenge sourcing high-end wines from the States. With a better exchange rate we are starting to see higher end as well as boutique producers entering the country.
B: What style of wine do you see becoming a trend over the next twelve months?
JA: I think natural and organic wines are certainly making waves in the wine world. Recently Sydney’s Rootstock festival showcased a brilliant array of artisanal natural wines and there was certainly a buzz and enthusiasm for these styles.
B: Where next for James Audas
I hope to continue studying with wine and developing my skills. I would love to go and work overseas possibly in Scandinavia where there is an incredible food scene.