US-born sommelier Sandia Chang began her career in wine in California, before moving to Europe with stints working in restaurants like René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen and Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York. In 2010 Chang moved to London to take up a sommelier position at the five-star Berkeley Hotel in Mayfair, which offered a more traditional experience than Noma or Per Se. In 2012, she opened Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia with her husband James Knappett, ex-head chef of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. The gourmet hot dog and grower Champagne venue was partly inspired by Crif Dogs in New York’s East Village, which is accessed through a secret door. The couple’s fine dining concept, Kitchen Table, opened in a private dining room at the back of the restaurant shortly after.
What’s your (favoured) vintage?
2002 – my favourite Champagne vintage.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
I love manzanilla Sherry after a long day at work.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
I presented a fish tableside once to a famous chef. Instead of saying it was a stripe bass, I told him it was a turbot.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a somm, what would it be?
I would definitely advise to go and do a harvest. Now that I have my own restaurant, I never can find the time to do it, but it would be such a valuable experience.
Has a wine every given you an epiphany? Which one?
Yes, Jacques Selosse Substance.
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
When a customer hates Chardonnay but drinks Chablis!
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
Thomas Keller for his enduring pursuit of perfection and being a gentleman in all aspects of the word.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Nebbiolo and lamb go amazingly well together.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
My parents’ backyard in Chino Hills, California.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing?
I would be a chef.
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
I find Bordeaux really difficult to get along with.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served?
Thomas Keller, my idol!