Leadership in Wine #32 - Marek Przyborek

  • Alexis Robin

Orginially from Poland, Marek has travelled the world, winning national competitions wherever he goes. He has been in New Zealand since 2017 and prior to this was working in Michelin star restaurants in the UK. He also won the Polish Best Sommelier competition in 2017. In October 2018 Marek represented New Zealand in the ASI Asia-Oceania Best Sommelier Competition where he finished 6th. 

Marek is the Head Sommelier at Skycity Auckland and the NZ Sommeliers & Wine Professionals Association 2018 New Zealand Sommelier Of The Year.


How you define leadership?

I love to think that leadership is all about motivating and inspiring the people who work with you. As a leader, you need to set goals for your team and support them in achieving them. You need to be fair and consistent with your judgements. I admire people who lead their teams by example, being great colleagues at the same time as marvellous managers and world class experts. I am so happy that my managers fit into this definition of a leader.


What are the main challenges of being a leader in the wine industry today?

Wine industry – especially looking at the hospitality side of it – is a very dynamic, diverse and challenging business. It takes a lot of time and hard work to find the right people who fit your organization and ethos. Still, too many see hospitality jobs as temporary positions not an actual career, especially when looking at the rotation on the positions of bussers or waiters.


What are your major breakthroughs in your career to become the leader you are now?

Most definitely – my time spent in the UK. I had the pleasure of working in Northcote - a Michelin-star restaurant holding the accolade for more than 20 years now, passed my WSET level 3 and Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced, as well as being a small part of one of the most established wine and hospitality markets in the world (if not THE most established). I was lucky enough to learn from some of the industry legends; Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, chefs and hoteliers. Taking part in the competitions and exams I met so many great people in the wine world. I had my time working on the floor, serving some of the most iconic wines in the world alongside spectacular dishes to wonderful customers.

The second big breakthrough is happening right now. I was appointed to the role of the Head Sommelier of SKYCITY Auckland, supporting the whole wine operation of one of the biggest hospitality hubs in New Zealand. It’s wonderful to work alongside so many great wine professionals, with many who are soon to be stars of New Zealand’s sommelier scene and share the love of wine with our customers. I am so happy to be named Sommelier of the Year in Poland and New Zealand as well as represent this great country during the ASI Best Sommelier of Asia and Oceania in Kyoto in October 2018.


If you were starting your career in 2019 in the wine industry, which advice would you give to yourself to become successful and content?

It’s a hard question, I probably wouldn’t think of doing things too differently to what I have already achieved in my professional life. I would advise my 18-year old self in 2019, to find good teachers and mentors to learn from. To work in the restaurants where there is plenty of fun. Not to give up, when you are beaten badly in competitions and to find challenges that make life worth all the crazy hours we normally do in the hospitality industry. To travel the world and learn how to understand it with every sip. To do what you love to do!

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