This Round's On … Sushi Ichi's Tomomi Ukaji
Singapore - It may seem contrary to the times but according to Tomomi Ukaji, females have a tough time excelling as sommeliers in Japan.
Tomomi Ukaji, sommelier with Sushi Ichi.
Most never become one, often keeping their positions as busgirl or runners at top restaurants, said the 35-year-old sommelier for one of Japan's top restaurants.
She does, however, consider her employment as a busgirl at Rikka Sake bar 11 years ago as her first break. Her cheerful ambition and hard work clearly paid off, and despite the often intimidating nature of the business of wine, Ukaji continues to challenge herself, focusing on the positives. "Most restaurants prefer male sommeliers, hence the first step of breaking into the industry is always the toughest challenge for the females," she said.
"However, the main advantage of being a female sommelier is that guests tend to find ladies easier to approach and they are more likely to believe that the ladies are more discerning when it comes to subtle tastes ... I usually also play up to my strengths to help make the dining atmosphere less tense with friendly conversations and am also more attentive to the needs of my diners compared to my male counterparts."
A caring ear paired with a shrewd mind for wine and sake is always a rare talent - however you may like your drinks dished up.
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