How to master food and beverage pairing according to an expert

The latest Academy seminar introduced one of the most important features for a restaurant, something that can enhance or undermine any culinary effort: food and beverage pairing.

Guiding the members through this fascinating first foray into the Drinks Management area of the Academy’s educational program was Ciro Fontanesi, master sommelier and coordinator of the Wine Academy at Alma, the International School of Italian Cuisine, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

After providing a little background on the history of the sommelier, Fontanesi explained his seven guiding principles for food and beverage pairing. These included a focus on characteristics such as rhythm, texture, and seasonality, inspired by his time working with the late Italian master chef Gualtiero Marchesi, and in some of the world’s best restaurants.

“It’s not a simple topic,” said Fontanesi. “When we speak about flavours, tastes, we’re talking about a million different sensations... but it’s enjoyable for that.”

He then went on to provide practical examples of a pairing he helped put together for a wedding gala dinner, which veered from cold extractions, to wine, to spirits, beer and even tea (Fontanesi is also a tea sommelier). The goal was, he said, not to balance the flavours of the dishes, but to understand what the chef was trying to say and to complement that by “following the sensation and the idea of the dish.”

As ever, the seminar was available exclusively to members in the Academy’s private Facebook group. Following the presentation, they were able to debate and discuss with Fontanesi in a special Q&A session.

The seminar is part of an educational program that will continue to support the Academy’s goals of nurturing the next generation of culinary talents, whilst connecting young chefs with the most influential figures in global gastronomy. Those taking part previously have included top chefs such as Manu Buffara and Ana Roš, and figures working in different disciplines within food such as author, professor and strategy consultant Vaughn Tan.

Photo: Getty Images