May 2018

Raise a glass – UCB graduate wins GQ's Sommelier of the Year

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Hospitality and Food Management graduate Sonal Clare has hit another milestone in an already glittering career in service after winning Sommelier of the Year at the GQ Food and Drink awards.

Now a restaurant manager at Michelin-starred restaurant Purnell’s in Birmingham, congratulations came flooding in from top chefs, TV personalities and food critics as Sonal received the coveted award at a glitzy ceremony at London’s Rosewood Hotel.

Sonal’s passion for hospitality started during his university placement year at Nuremore Hotel in Moneghan, Ireland. With no vacancies for chef experience, Sonal instead opted for a placement as a waiter, kick-starting a lifelong passion and a dazzling career in front-of-house with some of the UK’s best restaurants and hotels.

Glynn Purnell, chef patron of Purnell’s and UCB Fellow, said the award was only too well deserved.

“This is a huge accolade for Sonal,” said Glynn, who was awarded an honorary fellowship from UCB in 2014. “He has worked for me at Purnell’s for 10 years and he puts 100% into every service. I am so proud of his achievement.”

“I am so honoured to have received this accolade,” added Sonal. “The reaction from everyone since I found out has been completely overwhelming and I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s such a privilege to bring this award home to Birmingham.”

Overseen by a panel of judges, including editor of GQ Dylan Jones, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix and previous executive chef of Fino and Barrafina Nieves Barragán Mohacho, GQ was flooded with thousands of entries from restaurateurs across the country this year, all hoping to ace one of the competition’s 12 categories including Best Front of House and Best Restaurant.

In the end it was Sonal’s dedication, knowledge and unwavering enthusiasm that set him firmly among the awards’ winning line-up. Judge Nieves Barragan, owner and executive head chef at London’s Sabor restaurant, said: “It is very important that a sommelier works together with a kitchen, and knows every course on the menu, and that is why Sonal is a fantastic sommelier.

“He is a wonderful representative of everything a true sommelier should be.”

Find out more about the range of hospitality courses offered by UCB’s College of Food. 

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