The Oxford Collection - UK Sommelier of the Year 2022 Participant, Ivan Palencia Ruiz

UK Sommelier of the Year 2022 Participant, Ivan Palencia Ruiz

We’re proud to announce that Ivan Palencia Ruiz, our dedicated Restaurant Manager at Gees Restaurant & Bar, was recently selected to participate in the Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year Regional Finals for 2022.

Ivan was amongst the youngest entrants in the competition – a notable and rewarding experience, representing Oxfordshire and of course, Gees! Well done Ivan! A win will come with time, like fine aged wine.

In light of this exciting event and to celebrate his current accomplishments, we conducted a Q&A with Ivan to find out more about his journey through hospitality…

  • How did your journey into hospitality begin?

My father is a chef in Spain. He believed in me when I decided to start a career in hospitality, and taught me about gastronomy and the importance of wine pairing. At the very beginning, I had the amazing opportunity of meeting Mariano Castellanos (Honorary President of the Association of Maîtres and Waiters in Spain), who encouraged my goal to become a professional in the hospitality sector as a sommelier.

  • What do you love most about working at Gees?

I think anyone that has been to Gees before can tell you about the personality and soul of this restaurant. I love how people go there looking for the origins of a proper meal. You do not worry about time, you do not worry about what is going on outside, you are there, enjoying your glass of wine, a delicious meal and professional service, but close and familiar at the same time. I love being part of that experience.

  • How long have you worked for Gees / The Oxford Collection?

My first job at The Oxford Collection was as a bartender at Quod, my journey eventually brought me back to Spain, but once I came back to Oxford, they welcomed me just like the first day. Now I have been working at Gees for a year.

  • What is your favourite thing about being a Restaurant Manager?

Being a Restaurant Manager, you have many responsibilities. There is a lot to do, but the Gees team has supported me since the very first day, and I know that without them it would be much more difficult.

  • What makes Gees special to you?

Gees has that Mediterranean soul that takes you back to those sunny afternoons, with antipasti and Aperol Spritzes that we all love.

  • What are your long-term goals?

There is so much to learn in the hospitality world, you never stop. I want to improve my knowledge in hospitality and become a proper food and drinks professional.

To enter The Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year Regional Finals 2022, Ivan was selected amongst many candidates after submitting his CV along with 200 words on why he is a Sommelier, what his greatest wine experience has been to date and what winning would mean to him personally. This stage of the competition comprised of a written paper, a blind tasting and practical service tasks.

On experiencing the competition, Ivan shared that it was an amazing opportunity to meet some of the best sommeliers in the UK. He believes, ‘you learn more from failures than victories’, which brought him constant motivation and strength throughout.

To end on a wise note, on being a sommelier, Ivan says, ‘We do not study or work with wine because of a title, we do it because of our love for this industry.’

When Gees reopens, like Ivan, we’re all very excited about being able to receive many more guests for lunches, dinners and special occasions.

We’re still recruiting for all roles, at all levels…