When a man is remembered for his cheerful grin and even more cheerful disposition, one would know that this is a man who will go places – someone who values the people around him and someone who appreciates all that are given to him. Without doubt, Aby Tan is this man.
Tan’s wine career began in 1997 when he was the cellar master for Raffles Hotel Singapore. He had the responsibility in overseeing the hotel’s entire wine list. It may sound like a daunting task, what with the amount of wines one would need to go through everyday and when the time comes for inventory, it will definitely intimidate so many. But for him, it was like a dream come true. This represented an accurate testament of his commitment for all things wine. Not only did he handle the logistics for all the wine selections, he was also responsible in selecting perfect wine pairings for the cuisines of award-winning guest chefs at the hotel.
In 1999, having accrued extensive knowledge about wines and their nuances at Raffles Hotel Singapore, Tan joined Les Amis Group as chef sommelier for the group’s highly-acclaimed restaurant, Les Amis. He was responsible for selecting all the award-winning wines for the restaurant, guiding guests in making the correct wine choices and most importantly, training and teaching his group of sommeliers. During his time at the restaurant, he helped build the restaurant’s wine list, ensuring only the best wines were chosen. And because of his quality selections and hard work, the restaurant’s wine list was deemed the best for four consecutive years, from 2001 to 2004, by the World Gourmet Summit Awards Of Excellence.
Not only was Les Amis recognised, Tan was also lauded for his achievements – he won the World Gourmet Summit Awards Of Excellence Sommelier Of The Year for three years running as well (2001, 2002 and 2003). Moreover, he was also hailed as one of the Asian stars in the Singapore food and beverage scene. It is only apt because he is a man who has changed the way the world view, not only our restaurant scene, but our wine scene as well. Today, as the brand manager of Vinum Fine Wine Merchant Singapore, he represents over 20 wine brands under the company’s portfolio. When you own a company whose wines will be marketed by Tan, rest assured you will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Tan is really that good. Someone who not only devotes his life to his craft, he is also someone who is more than willing to share his knowledge with anyone who is interested.
Interview with Aby Tan
What does being in the World Gourmet Summit Awards Of Excellence Hall Of Fame mean to you?
Being in the Hall Of Fame is definitely very meaningful to me, providing a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. I would like to thank Peter Knipp Holdings Pte Ltd for creating this platform of recognition which otherwise would have been forgotten in time to come.
My interest in wine was realised back in 1994 while I was still working as a waiter at the Raffles Grill. I remember particularly that it was after my first sip of Chablis that made me further my knowledge on wines and its service procedure – a totally new and mysterious art to me. It was in 1996 that I was officially assigned the duties as a sommelier.
How did you realise you interest in wine?
There are just too many places and way too little time (and money) to discover them individually but if I could afford it, I would like to visit the various regions in France, Italy, Spain and Austria.
Are there any other wines regions in the world which you would like to explore but have not?
Ten years from now is too far to predict but my instinct tells me that I would probably still be involved with what I am familiar with. With given luck and opportunity, I would like to own a wine-related eatery.
How do you like to see yourself ten years from today?
As an apprentice, my mentor Tye Yee Nen (who is still working in the F&B industry) was an inspiration to me. I was also very much motivated by Shinya Tasaki’s achievement after he won the competition of Meilleur Sommelier du Monde (World’s Best Sommelier Competition) in 1995. He was the first Asian sommelier to have achieved this recognition and that was really inspirational.
Do you look up to anyone from the food and beverage (F&B) industry? Do you have a mentor?