Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Lucas Delforge

Please allow me to introduce to you Lucas Delforge !! Not only is he a wonderful sommelier, but also an amazing teacher. When Lucas finished his studies in the early 80’s at the PIVA hotellerie school, he started his HoReCa career as commis (eventually chef de rang) at restaurant Steytelinck Castle to climb up as maître at restaurant Halewijn. The highlight of his career was without any doubt the 10 years he worked at the Michelin awarded restaurant ‘t Fornuis in Antwerp (that is already holding that star for over 30year now). After over almost 2 decades Lucas thought it was time for a career change and after following a teacher course he started teaching at the place where all his passion for the profession started, PIVA hotellerie school…. the student became the master.

For many years Lucas is also a trusted value behind the scenes of Best Sommelier of Belgium contest. Where he together with his students give their best to make the whole day an even better event with their impeccable service!!

I personally already know Lucas for a few years now and after meeting on various occasions I can really understand why his students (even many years after graduating) love him as much and have enormous respect for him!! He has an enormous knowledge on wine (and everything around it) and knows how to share it with others in a way that nobody else can. He can make the most boring thing a very interesting topic (a true gift – born story teller). Him being such a well-respected person in both the teacher’s world as the HoReCa world, he just had to be on the list of all the other top sommeliers I already interviewed in the past year and stand in that same spotlight.

1. What is your favorite wine region to work with?

This is a question I don’t need to much time to think of, Languedoc and Roussillon. I discovered this region a few years ago. What I like about it is that you can find every type and quality of wine in this region. Mark Maes, someone I studied with, was the person who helped me discover this wonderful region and told me the things I shouldn’t miss out on. We used to call this region the ‘new world of France’. As you could create a full wine list only with wines from this region as it is so versatile.

2. What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

Work hard, study hard, but most of all always give your guests the best of the best. Guests often have to do and work a lot to be able to come enjoy an evening at your restaurant. That’s why you give to every customer 100% to give them a top culinary experience. Not only for the ‘richer’ customers, but also the people who have to save up for months to be able to experience a top gastronomical meal. Serving is an art, but unfortunately not to many people understand its importance. And modesty, a sommelier serves and is not a Rockstar. A while ago I read the quote: 'knowledge and underwear are very important in life, but you should not show off to much with them’. Delete please :-) .

3. Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

I have to admit that I’ve seen many youngsters underestimating it. As it is much more than only telling a story at the table of some fancy restaurant. Starting as commis, and working yourself up becoming chef de rang. Studying, working, exams, competitions, traveling .. and knowing a few different languages is definitely a plus because of the international ‘clientele’. 4 or more languages would seem right I think. But it is the most wonderful job in the world, I know lots of people have a strong opinion on it (partially correct). But our passionate colleagues are a different breed :-) ;-) , colleagues, but most of all real friends!!

4. When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I was actually quit lucky. My first boss, Jean-Jacques Debusschere, took me and my girlfriend to Paris for a dinner at Jacques Cagna in February 1983. This was for me (coming for a normal average family) a true revelation: a tasting menu with which we drank a Puligny-Montrachet Premier cru 1979 and a chateau Petit Village '76. The presentation of the cheese chariot, the dishes, the atmosphere were all so overwhelming. And then the sommelier who poured some wine into a glass at another table to ask for my opinion. Don’t forget, I was only 20 years old!! Did my passion start here? Certainly, especially because of the unforgettable gastronomic experience and also because I have been married to that girlfriend for 32 years now.

5. Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

Again a very easy question to respond to, without any doubt William Wouters. We’re both from the same neighborhood in Antwerp (’t Stad), the area around the Central Station. All the things he has already achieved, Chapeau. Of course over the years I met lots of great examples, but William for me is the biggest of them all…why? He doesn’t leave a message on Facebook for my birthday, he calls me!! And besides William there are Harry de Schepper (also marvelious guy), Herman Dedapper, Frank Desmet, I’ll stop before the list gets too big :-). Basically all professionals with the required modesty.

6. What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?

What I find a good combination is important, but what the customer wants is the most important. Fortunately, many of them follow my proposals. It will always be a nice experience for everyone.

7. Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

The cradle of wine for me is Burgundy. I must go there every year at least one time. But in total honesty I would say every wine region, just to understand the terroir and get to know the people behind.

8. For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

Muscat d'Alsace by Kientzler mostly because of the great memory that is linked to it. Nothing special, but for me it is.

9. What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

My first wine trip to Champagne, Bourgogne and Alsace. Oops this is more than 36 years ago (time goes fast). Also the trip to California. That was a once in a lifetime, with José Lemahieu, Frans Lathioor and a few other big examples from in the world Hôtellerie schools.

10. A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Enjoying a Café Complet at the Piazza San Marco in Venice on a sunny morning, in great company at the moment the orchestra starts playing… just splendid.

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