Head sommelier – Duddell’s London
A childhood food allergy could easily have derailed Konrad Tadeusz Lassota’s career in wine, if it weren’t for his determination to overcome his affliction. Konrad was born and raised in western Poland, and arrived in the wine industry thanks in part to his allergy to much of its local produce. Because of this, his mother had to find creative ways to open up a “world of unexpected flavours and aromas”.
At 17, Konrad was diagnosed with an allergy to red wine, but this didn’t stop the budding sommelier either. Determined to pursue his love of the grape, over time his symptoms lessened, and he embarked on a career in the wine industry.
“As a teenager, I worked in various restaurants while at university,” he says. “I met amazing people who were my guides in the world of wine. I spent a few years in Warsaw and Kraków working as a sommelier in five-star luxury boutique hotels and restaurants awarded by the Michelin and Gault & Millau guides. I learned from great professionals and I had the chance to get to know the wine business from both sides – working as a wine buyer for the group of restaurants as well as being a buyer for the wine merchant.”
Lassota later moved to the UK, first working as a sommelier at French restaurant L’Ortolan in Berkshire. In 2017, he joined Duddell’s in London as part of the restaurant’s opening team – which he describes as the “younger and funkier brother” of the two-Michelin-starred Duddell’s Hong Kong restaurant. Lassota takes an innovative approach to his wine list, interpreting and coding wines according to a fivefold conceptual scheme found in traditional Chinese thought, which led Duddell’s to receiving Wine List Confidential’s 2018 award for Most Original Wine List. These phases are: Metal (described as: ‘harvesting and maturity, full-bodied and robust’); Wood (‘growth and vitality’, ‘developing’, ‘well balanced between maturity and freshness’; Water (‘period of retreat, where stillness pervades’, ‘fully developed, oak-aged wines’); Fire (‘swelling and flowering, brimming with energy’, ‘youthful, light, zesty, crisp’ and ‘fruity and aromatic’); and Earth (‘soft, viscous, fleshy and round’).
Most recently, he added wine flights using unconventional headings, including ‘non-interventionist’ and ‘new world-old school’, alongside a section devoted to wines made by women. “I want to combine professionalism and relaxation,” he says. “At work, the most important thing for me is the team and their creative approach to wine.”