Quebec sommelier Hugo Duchesne is very close to the goal: he finished second in the Best Sommelier of the Americas competition last week in Chile.
Posted on February 24th
In Santiago the 2022 edition of this competition took place, where Hugo Duchesne flew to represent Canada, from February 16 to 19. The nominated Quebec’s Best Sommelier in 2020 hopes to win this title sought by about twenty candidates. , but Argentinian sommelier Valeria Gamper won the awards. Quebecer finished on the second step of the podium, the silver medal around his neck.
Failed? “I was going there to win, that’s for sure, but what I learned there is immeasurable. I made the international final, got into my body! I feel like I am giving well showI gave it my all training “, he launches at the end of the line.
Winning this competition would have allowed her to become Quebec’s second representative in the Best Sommelier of the World competition, which will take place in Paris in 2023. Canada will be represented there by Pier-Alexis Soulière, who won the title Best Sommelier of Canada 2021.
The pain of competitions
When he was young, Hugo Duchesne devoted himself to a career in teaching literature. After his master’s degree at McGill, he intended to go to France to complete his doctorate, but he decided to take a break … and sommelier course.
It was while he was working at Hamel cheese dairy, at Jean-Talon Market, that he was introduced to the world of wine, he says. “The owner is an enthusiast, a wine collector. He really instilled in me the simplicity, the pleasure, the modesty of wine discovery. Wine has become an echo of literature for me, of the desire to learn, of I have always had a secret desire to leave literature for the sommelier, and I have allowed myself to at a certain point. »
A sommelier teacher at ITHQ until recently, Hugo Duchesne loved competitions by guiding his students in various competitions, including sommelier Carl Villeneune Lepage in the Best Sommelier of the Americas competition in 2018, then at Best Sommelier in the World in 2019, in Belgium.
It was like an accident. I’m not a pageant guy, it wasn’t a string that thrilled me, until I taught. In Belgium I realized I was in the wrong seat; I don’t want to be a coach, but a candidate!
Hugo Duchesne, sommelier
From that moment on, Mr. Duchesne set himself the goal to participate in the provincial competition, which he won. Although he did not repeat the victory in the Canadian competition in October, he was selected to participate in the Americas, where Canada could send two candidates.
Meanwhile, the professor made the difficult decision to leave his position at ITHQ and accept director of customer experience and operations for the group that notably owns Le Coureur des bois, in Beloeil, and Restaurant h3 , in the middle – town. He has served for six years as a part-time sommelier for these venues recognized for their wine programs.
For several months, the father of three intensively devoted himself to preparing for the competition in Canada, then in the Americas. How do you study, surely, for competitions so great?
“I can easily put in three to four hours of study in the morning, then go to work, where I have wines made, blind spirits, decanteing situations, decanting, sparkling wine service, magnums, on tables of 16, of 8 … All the staging of competitions, on a daily basis, we do in the restaurant ”, he explains.
The adventure is far from over for the sommelier. He plans to return to his studies next week, with the goal of getting his Master Sommelier certification – only two people can boast of having this diploma in Quebec, he told us. He is also focused on the next Best Sommelier of Canada competition, which will take place in 2023; his title Best Quebec Sommelier guarantees his participation.
“Competitions are not an end in themselves. I don’t have to prove anything, I do it, because it makes me better professional, more hospitable, more human. Pushing the competitive side to its climax in competitions can’t stop profession and means that when in the dining-room, only the simple pleasure of wine remains. »