Swedish sommelier champion Ellen Franzén is going for her next gold

Lena Särnholm
By Lena Särnholm
Published 15-July-2019
Interview / Sweden

The challenge. The adrenaline. The rush. To Swedish sommelier champion Ellen Franzén, competing is a necessity. Right now she is preparing for the Nordic Sommelier Championship in Stockholm this September.
”Of course I want to win. That the competition is in my hometown Stockholm makes me even more motivated,” Ellen says.

After having finished second two times in a row, Ellen Franzén won the Swedish Sommelier Championship this spring. And last year she finished second in the Nordic Sommelier Championship – this year, she is going for gold.

The final is held in Stockholm the 22nd of September, and Ellen now enters the final phase of preparation: 20 hours of weekly training – apart from the daily job as Head Sommelier at two-star restaurant Gastrologik in Stockholm.

”Sure, you have to put your private life aside, but my friends are used to that by now. They send me a text now and then to check that I’m still alive. The preparation is lonely and takes a lot of time, and not many get what you’re doing. They understand my profession, but not why I study this much,” says Ellen.

She describes a typical day when the competition is a month or two away: Practical training from 10 AM until 12, then studying theory 12 to 3 PM. And then work from 3 PM.

For Ellen, who’s always been a competitive person, it’s not only the adrenaline that’s appealing when it comes to entering a sommelier competition. Also, gaining new knowledge, experiences – and feeling more self-confident on the restaurant floor is important.

”I definitely get practical use of my knowledge, since I have to study everything, even things that I’m maybe not that in to. Like wine laws,” she says, grimacing.

Competing is in her blood, but the way into the restaurant business was kind of winding. After school, she was a seasonal worker at some restaurants, but she just saw that as something temporary. Instead, she started studying economics.

”But eventually I was drawn back to the restaurant business. There just was something with that food and wine thing, with the atmosphere and the people. And when I want to do something, I do it 100 per cent, so I joined a sommelier education at Restaurangakademien in Stockholm.”

Time to finish the coffee and say goodbye. In half an hour, Ellen starts her shift at two Michelin star restaurant Gastrologik.

Then: A few hours sleep and even more studying. In September she’s going for the gold.

Ellen Franzén on:

…what she drinks on a night off:
”I’m always in the mood for champagne. If I have to choose, I usually go for a Blanc de Noirs, and a grower rather than a champagne house.”

…managing the wine list at Gastrologik:
”I’m not particularly trend-sensitive when I create the list, but of course I get inspired by other people and restaurants. It’s quite easy just to do the same as everyone else, but I try to do my own thing. But most importantly, the wine has to work well with the food.”

…the competition on the restaurant scene in Stockholm:
”To me, competition is a good thing. You always have to do your very best; otherwise you won’t survive. Also, now that Restaurant Frantzén has three Michelin stars, foodies travel to Stockholm, which is a great thing for all of the restaurants in the city. And, among the sommeliers and chefs working in the restaurants, there’s actually no rivalry, only friendship.”

Check out the wine list at Gastrologik & Speceriet by clicking on the link below!

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