My City Series | Harish Acharekar
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Harish is a certified sommelier and one of only a few Indians to receive a certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. From a young age, Harish was always curious about beverages. After receiving an opportunity to pursue a ‘Wines of the World’ course with Four Seasons Hotel, Mubai, he gained a comprehensive knowledge about the grape varietals and the region.
His fervor of fine wine drives the creation behind his unique and expansive wine lists. He specialises in curating wine and food pairings, which test the senses and create an interactive cultural experience. Harish believes that a good sommelier should be persuasive, confident, knowledgable, witty, friendly, and have exceptional customer service. This ideology shines through his passion for wine and its importance in community and human connections.
1. Born and Raised or Expat?
Born and brought up in Mumbai, India.
2. How did the idea of Consulting on beverages come about?
It was during my job interview at The Table Restaurant, where we were discussing how we can explore my strength and being a part of the restaurant. I am currently the only Certified Sommelier working for a standalone restaurant in India. Considering my previous experience of training at various colleges , restaurants and hotels we brainstormed about conducting the deconstructed series for the consumers. Till date we have successfully curated 10 such events in a span of one and half years. I also host personalised sessions for individuals and couples alike.
3. What are your fondest memories of Wine Education, when you started your business?
A friend of mine owns a hospitality school and wanted a trainer on wine and spirits, he happened to mention it to me. I was a bit hesitant thinking if I could do it, but I went for it. The first 30 seconds of the presentation was a tough one. But once I started everything flowed. From there, I didn’t look back, I was invited by the same school for 3 consecutive years and then as word of mouth grew, I was invited to other schools to conduct a Master Class on Sommelier and Bartending. My experience training the students helped me set up my own Deconstructed series with The Table Restaurant in which we educate the customers on wine and spirits through various modules such as wine 101, cocktail 101, sparkling wine of the world etc.
4. On your Day-to-Day routine?
I work in India’s 3rd leading restaurant ‘The Table’ in Mumbai as a Sommelier and General Manager. Mumbai is a city of dreams and every one travels from far and wide to work. I usually travel for 3 hours back and forth in a day for work in Colaba near the Gate Way Of India, which is a tourist destination. My job profile is unique as it involves selecting and tasting the very best wines and spirits for the restaurant and savour delicious food. My day starts with a few emails and checking reports on previous day. At 6:30 pm we have our team briefings which is the most important time of our operations where we discuss about guest preferences and details of service, I am usually overlooking the dinner operations and recommending wines to the guests ensuring they have a pleasurable experience in the restaurant. I end very late catching the last train home, usually reaching at 2:30 am.
5. Tell us some of your favourite spots in Mumbai?
I love to dine at KoKo an Asian Bistro, I enjoy the vibe at this place which compels me to go there again and again, and the food is a delicious mix of Japanese, Chinese and Thai. The cocktails are well crafted with attention to detail. The bartenders have flair while they mix cocktails and it’s a true theatrical experience.
6. Where do you go to escape?
I endeavour is to exceed guests expectations at work but after work I love being a guest at various restaurants, cafes, street food eateries and satiate my palate. Especially in Colaba where I work, it’s a touristy place; It doesn’t feel like Mumbai as the streets are filled with expats all around enjoying their stay in Mumbai.
7. You can’t take a vacation, so you decide to have a staycation, what do you do, where do you eat, where do you stay and why?
Mumbai as a city has its own corners to hide. Renaissance at Powai is the perfect getaway facing the serene fresh water Powai lake. The temperature literally drops by 5 degrees as it is hugged by the beautiful Aarey colony which is a part of the Sanjay Gandhi national Park. The Hotel has a good mix of restaurants and cafes to chill, with casual or fine dining.
8. What local brands of wines do we have to know about?
1) Zampa Chêne Grande Réserve, Nashik, India, Tempranillo Shiraz
2) Fratelli Sette, Akluj, India, Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese
These two are my recommendations for anyone who wants to enjoy a good local wine.
9. Where’s your next adventure?
I like dining in open air bistros, enjoying a chilled beer or wine, the vibe of happy people around me sets my mood. I look forward to checking the following places off my travel list - London, New York, San Francisco and explore the hospitality scene there.
10. Does Travel breed creativity?
Travelling has tons of benefits, like making new friends, gaining new experiences and creating new memories to name a few. But there’s a lesser known benefit of travelling – Travel actually helps creativity! Travel makes one feel enlightened, I myself have travelled to 8 different countries and the experience has been mesmerising. The fact that once exposed to different cultures we tend to see things differently. I’d like to quote what Mark Twain said – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
11. The ultimate dancing feet reliefs post liquid courage?
Bollywood dancing is the go to dancing after a couple of good drinks
12. Where to shed those kilos, detox the body or protect the temple?
I have been an athlete since my teens; I enjoy playing cricket once in a while. Sometimes I do go for a morning walk to the garden in my locality.
13. Are there any philanthropic programs or projects that you’re passionate about or would like to shed some light on?
As a part of our CSR activity we as a company host a charity bake sale one Sunday morning of every month at The Table where 100% of the proceeds go towards the NGO we support. We have freshly baked treats from our very own Mag St. Bread Co. bakery. We have been receiving fantastic response from the customers and since they know why we are doing it, it is always a sold out affair.
14. Entrepreneurs, Tastemakers and Trailblazers, Where do people like you hangout in your city?
New local haunts tend to attract the curious and the creative.
15. Give a shout-out to someone in your city that is doing groundbreaking things, and what is it that makes them a trailblazer?
I think it has to be Ms. Gauri Devidayal who has been exploring the hospitality scene in a true sense, within no time she has built an empire of her own. By creating an innovative dining space which is fresh and unique in it own way in the country. She launched an experimental kitchen space called Magazine St. Kitchen where we host pop-up dinner parties showcasing visiting chefs. It’s a hit amongst our network, where the tickets are sold out the moment they go on sale, They also have their own farm at Alibag, from where we source fresh produce for The Table and our new sister restaurant Miss T at Colaba.
16. A locals-only, off-the-radar, black book spot?
17. What’s the next big thing when it comes to wine in India?
Currently wine in India is at its Boom. Various International investors have come on board with different wineries to produce quality wine. Recently, Grover zampa has taken over Charosa and Four Seasons winery, renowned French winery JCB has collaborated with Fratelli to produce new labels. Various producers are experimenting with different grape varieties which they haven’t done before and there is a huge investment on research and development to produced new styles of wines and also Indian wines are getting it's due recognition.
18. Currently working on?
Recently, I consulted Wine Villa for their wine menu, which has 56 wines by glass and 100 labels. Currently I am looking forward to working on many more projects like this..
19. Advice for budding entrepreneurs?
My advice for anyone in this industry is to explore, learn, create and share their knowledge to grow.
20. We’re living in a world where our attention to new innovation doesn’t seem to have longevity, how do you find your inspiration to make new waves with long-term prosperity?
I believe for any innovation to attract attention it has to either generate curiosity or break expectations. I do understand that only change is constant and it is imperative to evolve over a period of time. As a sommelier I have been trying to tap different markets by constantly designing various models for the consumers, students and staff alike. I work at the feedback optimistically and find the connect with the audience I am catering to.
21. Your ultimate playlist?
I love to listen to old Hindi classics by Kishor Kumar, Mohammadd Rafi