Belanger brews up a storm at Caterer Awards with Sommelier of the Year win

Gabriel Belanger from Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah managed an extensive wine list
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Gabriel Belanger.
ITP Images
Gabriel Belanger.

Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah sommelier Gabriel Belanger was crowned Sommelier of the Year at the Caterer Middle East Awards 2018.

His nomination entry noted that "in 2016, wine sales at the restaurant increased by 26% thanks to his drive and leadership on the floor".

Belanger, who has been with his restaurant for three years now, impressed the judges with his ability to manage a massive wine selection that was termed by one judge as a “beast”. He also implemented a training plan, which increased sales for wine by glass as well as champagne sales.

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Benita Bohsali, head of new business at MMI, presented the trophy to Belanger.

Belanger started his career in 2005 in his hometown Rivière-du-Loup, Canada. After studying for his Diploma in Hospitality Management, he fell in love with wine during his experience at Le Café du Monde in Quebec. He then moved to Dubai in 2013 to join the Armani Ristorante in Burj Khalifa. After two years and passing his certifications with merit, he joined as a pre-opening sommelier of Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara.

"There's so much work behind this award, and it goes to my team. We tried to figure out what kind of wine guests were looking for and how we could elevate their experience. Based on that we organised our stock accordingly," Belanger said when asked how he managed such a vast wine cellar.

Highly commended in his category was Brilliant Mathelumusa from Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort.

The nominees for Sommelier of the Year were: Brilliant Mathelumusa, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Meja de Klerk, Karma Kafé, Suresh Ramanathan, Uptown Bar and La Parrilla, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Varun Kumar Nair, Armani/Hashi, Armani Hotel Dubai and Viktorija Paulauskiene, folly by Nick & Scott.

This year's awards were supported by: platinum sponsor Emaar Hospitality Group; category sponsors A.Ronai, A&T Group Interiors, Bragard, Precision Refrigeration and TSSC, Pulsar Foodstuff, 1765 Gemini; dessert sponsors EMF, Cacao Barry, Callebaut; photobooth sponsor Mintano by Sketches; social media partner Tint; water sponsor Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino; and beverage sponsors MMI, Campari, Fever Tree, and Skyy Vodka.

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