Top sommelier Dan returns to his roots
ONE of the UK’s youngest head sommeliers, who has served stars like Sir Tom Jones and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, will be sharing his wine expertise with visitors to the Llangollen Food Festival.
It will be quite the family affair for Dan Davies, 22, will be joining his father, festival stalwart Dai Chef, who will also be assisted by younger children Megan, 12, and Ellis, seven, for a cookery demonstration.
The event, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK by the Daily Telegraph and Independent newspapers, and is being held at the iconic Llangollen Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15.
A former pupil of Ysgol David Hughes, in Menai Bridge, Dan trained at Coleg Llandrillo, in Rhos-on-Sea, where he picked up Student of the Year.
He is currently head sommelier at the twoMichelin starred Whatley Manor Hotel, in the Cotswolds, and has also served two of the biggest names in the culinary world - Michelinstarred chef Heston Blumenthal and the queen of cakes, Mary Berry.
Now, he is looking forward to returning home to North Wales and helping visitors discover some exciting homegrown wines.
He grew up attending the Llangollen Food Festival and, although he wasn’t old enough to remember, he met legendary operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti in 1995.
At the time, his dad was working at the nearby Bryn Howel Hotel and spent a week as the opera superstar’s personal chef when the singer made an emotional return to the Eisteddfod, 40 years after he had first competed there as a 19-yearold member of the Chorus Rossini choir, from Modena, Italy, in 1955.
Daniel said: “I don’t remember seeing Pavarotti but I’ve seen the photos of me in my chef whites standing next to my dad!
“It’ll be nice to come up. I’m looking forward to having a bit of fun and speaking about wine.
“I’ll be matching wines to dad’s meals - they will be a selection of Welsh and English wines.
“Hopefully people will discover some new wines and see what we’re capable of producing in Britain, which is high-quality wine.”
Daniel has been by his dad’s side most of his life, but was never destined to follow in his footsteps as a chef.
He said: “I wanted to be an air traffic controller when I was 16. I was learning to fly but never ended up getting my pilot’s licence.
“I was always in the kitchen with my dad, which funded my flying at the time.
“He sat me down one day and said why not think about doing hospitality, you’re good at it.”
Daniel, who went on to study catering and hospitality at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, moved on to the five-star Cliveden House Hotel, in Berkshire, where he was introduced to the wine profession – and has never looked back.
Working as a sommelier since 2013 has resulted in Daniel rubbing shoulders with some very high-profile people.
“Sir Tom Jones was a regular at Stovells - a Mexican restaurant that I worked at in Surrey,” he explains.
“He must have come in five or six times. He wasn’t a big drinker, but he always knew what he wanted.
“I’ve also served Heston Blumenthal and Mary Berry. Heston had really good knowledge and liked to chat. He’s more into his classical wines.
“Then there was an occasion when we had Chris Martin at the Cliveden.
“I try not to interact too much because they’re in their bubble and want to enjoy their night.
“I don’t really think too much about the fact they’re famous. I’m in professional work mode and treat every guest the same.”
Phil Davies, a member of the committee at Llangollen Food Festival, said: “We’re delighted Dan is returning to Llangollen Food Festival where he’ll be joining his dad, the ever-popular Dai Chef, and his family for a culinary masterclass.
“With a record number of around 120 stall-holders, this year’s festival promises to be the biggest and the best yet.
“I can’t wait” ● To find out more about Llangollen Food Festival, go to www.llangollenfoodfestival.com
● Head sommelier Dan Davies will be sharing his expertise at Llangollen Food Festival, and, inset, at last year’s event with dad Dai Chef