An interview with top sommeliers Karin Visth (KOKS, 2 Michelin stars, Leynar) and Dominik Ginzinger (Sager + Wilde Hackney Road, London), May 2020
Interview Top Sommeliers: Kalk und Kegel
How has the lockdown affected the gastronomy in your country or city and how has it affected your restaurant?
Dominik Ginzinger: At first very similar to Austria, but this crisis hit England much more intensively and also later. I am afraid that we will not feel the full effects until the next few months, but every restaurateur will also do everything in his or her power to ensure that the businesses can get back on track with full vigour. At the beginning of the lockdown, we at Sager + Wilde – like probably every other gastronomic establishment – were overwhelmed by the situation. However, we were quicker and more motivating than ever to take on numerous new ideas and projects.
Karin Visth: Here in the Faroe Islands, very effective virus control has been applied to get the COVID19 virus under control and the islands are now officially virus-free with no deaths. The Faeroe Islands also have the highest test rates in the world and are also very isolated from the rest of the world. Gastronomy on the islands has been suspended for two months. All restaurants, hotels and bars were closed, only take-away offers were allowed. Restaurants are now allowed to resume normal operations. However, as KOKS has mainly foreign guests and the borders remain closed, we are not yet able to reopen.
In times of crisis it became clear that, under the motto “support your local business”, many people specifically support small and medium-sized enterprises that operate sustainably and regionally.Dominik Ginzinger, Sager + Wilde
What could you do “proactively” for your restaurant during the lockdown?
Dominik Ginzinger: Quite a bit! We have set up a bottle shop ‘Sager + Wilde to go!’ on our website and deliver some of our wines ourselves. In the meantime we have opened a deli at Sager + Wilde Hackney and sell wine, beer and the Mezcal line ‘El Destilao’ by Michael Sager at take-out prices. We also work closely with ‘Provisions London’ and offer their selective selection of high quality cheese, charcuterie and antipasti. Our sister restaurant ‘FARE’ prepares homemade, authentic Italian pasta dough, which we also sell in our deli.
Karin Visth: The first weeks we did a lot in and around KOKS. We could use the time to build a smoking oven, to build a henhouse so that a chicken family could move in and we worked on a new composting system, in addition we built a greenhouse. Now that a restaurant business is allowed again, we will open a pop-up restaurant, which will be in a relaxed atmosphere in the capital Tórshavn.
I believe that the crisis will make guests even more aware of regional food and specialities.Karin Visth, KOKS
How are you preparing for the time of re-opening?
Dominik Ginzinger: As it currently looks as if we will not be able to reopen our operations before July, we are concentrating on our current projects and continuing to work on sustainable concepts for the future.
Karin Visth: The day the lockdown was announced was also the day the KOKS wanted to start into a new season. So all preparations for a new opening were already done. So the KOKS team is ready. There is a new menu, a great wine accompaniment and many small renewals.
What measures will you take as top sommeliers, regardless of possible regulations?
Dominik Ginzinger: This is a question which I cannot answer at this stage, as the government in England is still at a very different stage from that in Austria. But as I mentioned before, we are currently working at full speed on sustainable and future-proof concepts for the period after the lockdown.
Karin Visth: We are a small restaurant with only 26 seats, so there is enough space between the tables. Except for all hygienic measures and cleaning, nothing is planned.
As top sommeliers, how do you think the crisis will affect the future of gastronomy and especially sommeliers?
Dominik Ginzinger: I take a very positive view of the whole thing and think that the gastronomic industry will focus more on the essentials again. In times of crisis, it became clear that many people, under the motto “support your local business”, are specifically supporting small and medium-sized enterprises that operate sustainably and regionally. This is also reflected in the summer series. The focus will be even more on relationships with the winegrowers whose work is personally appreciated.
Karin Visth: COVID19 will certainly have financial implications. We may have to leave the very expensive wines in the cellar for the next few months and sell more cheap wines. I believe that the crisis will make guests even more aware of regional food and specialities. This would be in our favour.