LM: And you work on TV. What do you do exactly?
NP: I’ve appeared as ‘The Wine Tipster’ on ITV Racing, Channel 4 Racing, Sky Sports News and Racing TV, where I’ve shared my racing tips, as well as a couple of food and drinks pairings. At this year’s Investec Derby Festival, I even did a short feature about the different etiquettes of the picnic and afternoon tea. I’ve even recorded features about The Jockey Club Catering’s local food suppliers. As luck would have it, The Investec Derby Festival fell at the same time as English Wine Week, so of course, I did a feature on Coates and Seely, The Jockey Club’s English sparkling wine sponsor for Racing TV.
I’ve equally done a couple of stints on the radio for Talk Sport and BBC Radio London, discussing both racing and wine. I also write a weekly column for Unibet, so I’m kept busy! Whether it’s TV or Radio, I am always smartly dressed in suits made by my tailor, Clements and Church.
LM: Your friends must be envious of your job surely?
NP: They do find it amusing that my job is to go racing and test wine! Sometimes, it can be difficult to convince them that I am actually at work! They understand that I have to do a lot of preparation for each gig, but when that preparation is taking a sip of quality wine or tasting plates of food from the likes of Rhys Owen, Head Chef at Jockey Club Catering, I think they lose a bit of sympathy for me. However, they know I have to travel a lot so I don’t think they envy that at all!
LM: How difficult is it to become a wine tipster?
NP: Like any other job, it takes a lot of commitment. You’ve got to really train your taste buds to notice certain flavours and what compliments them. You’ve also got to invest in yourself and get those credentials.
Just as important is to really know your industry well in order to develop a strong rapport with your colleagues. For example, working with over 100 Jockey Club Catering Chefs at The Investec Derby and 1,200 hospitality staff was intense at times, but having that background industry knowledge to run training sessions, recommend food and wine pairings, or simply keeping their diners entertained definitely helped the days to run smoothly.
I think you have to have a natural interest in the subject to really kickstart your career in this business. If you’re not passionate about the hospitality business, your customers will know, and it could ruin their day. It can take hard work and the hours can be gruelling, but it is so satisfying when you hear your clients have enjoyed themselves; that’s when you know your job is done. Whilst working with The Jockey Club Catering, I’ve noticed a real passion from their hospitality staff to ensure racegoers have the best day possible; it’s fantastic to see!
I do think we need to inspire young people to see hospitality as a long term career. It’s a fascinating industry and it can be extremely rewarding.
LM: What are your plans in the future?
NP: I have some interesting projects on the horizon! I plan to continue presenting at racecourses and food festivals. However, I do have some interesting projects in the pipeline. I can’t divulge too much now, but let’s just say, watch this space!
The Wine Tipster – Where and How?
For more information on Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, visit www.thewinetipster.co.uk.