The Yum List gets the inside scoop of life behind the scenes at Singapore’s famed NCO Club with head sommelier, Fabien Duboueix.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My name is Fabien Duboueix and I’m the head sommelier at The NCO Club – a newly launched entertainment lifestyle destination housing four eclectic concepts – Stags’ Room, Madame Fan, Fish Pool and Cool Cats.
My journey as a sommelier kicked off after graduating with a WSET Diploma when I was hired as a sommelier at a Relais Et Chateau restaurant in Spain.
Believe it or not, I was actually more interested in being a chef! I even went to a culinary and hotel management school in France but soon after realised that cooking as a passion was very different from cooking for a living.
Why was wine my second interest? My father was a wine advocate and bought 400 bottles of wine when I was born, so you can say I grew up drinking a lot of wines.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
Working front of house in some of the world’s finest restaurants, I was very privileged to have met many famous people, which I have concluded that most are also the nicest people I have ever met.
One distinct memory was when Phil Collins was staying in one of the hotels (which I so happened to be working in one of the restaurants). One of the associates who was a huge fan delivered breakfast to his room and asked Phil for an autograph. That wasn’t even the best part of the story. Before he checked out, to show his appreciation he went to the back of house to thank us personally, even the waiters. That was an unreal moment for all of us!
What’s the best part of your job?
Being able to call what I love my job. It is truly a blessing having the privilege to share my passion for wine and having the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life. It’s a bonus when I meet someone with the same excitement and passion.
What’s your favourite meal in the Madame Fan restaurant?
While Riesling is considered a classic with Chinese food, I think Grüner Veltliner is an even better pairing. The flavour and notes pair perfectly even with the most challenging ingredients such as asparagus, broccoli and bok choy.
What’s one of the wildest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
I’ve witnessed a lot of wild and crazy things, most which I am not privy to share. But I can share a story during my stint at Joel Robuchon where I sold four premium bottles of wine worth SGD$180,000 to one customer!
The perfect day off would be…
Having friends over for a home cooked meal by me with a couple of good bottles to share.
A day in the life of a sommelier is…
A wine-filled day at work and in the middle of books studying when I get home.
What do you do for fun?
I am a pretty good chess player!
What’s something you’d like guests to know about The NCO Club?
Good question! First of all, The NCO Club is not a private club. The name has been kept for historical reasons.
Secondly, during the planning stages, the management’s approach was simple – to curate a destination that has something for everyone. Hence, within the building, you can find a concept that piques your interest – from a champagne, oyster and caviar bar to an intimate wine lounge, a theatrical Chinese dinner experience at Madame Fan to the international live music lounge – Cool Cats.
What’s your favourite food and wine pairing?
Sometimes the simplest pairing is the best. A nice cheese platter with a bottle of Riesling Auslese would be my favourite.
What’s your view on the food scene in Singapore?
When I first arrived in Singapore six years ago, I used to think that there were a lot of restaurants but not many good ones. However, the food scene in Singapore has evolved rapidly so much over the years and it has gotten a lot more interesting. On the wine side of things, we are definitely catching up!
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
I am in the midst of preparing for my Master Sommelier exam next year!