Working in a London pub on a working-holiday visa is a classic move for an Aussie. And when Liz Dodd did it, she fell in love with wine. “The pub had a great wine list, and that was it,” she tells Broadsheet. The passion turned into a career that saw her advance to head sommelier at Altitude in the Shangri-La Sydney.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work with some very cool somms around the world,” Dodd says, “which inspired me to [look at wine in a new way]. There’s been a farmer that’s grown those grapes, crushed the grapes, fermented them and put them in a bottle for us to enjoy.

“That’s my number one priority when serving guests: telling the story about the person who made this.”

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Dodd is now bringing that storytelling to Daero Lee and Illa Kim’s Soul Dining, the exceptional Korean restaurant in Wynyard where you’ll find the likes of wine-fermented rice bread, gochujang-doused charcoal chicken and delicate kingfish in kimchi water.

Dodd chats to Broadsheet about her new role and what to look forward to at Soul Dining this year.

Liz, tell us about your new role.
I’m head sommelier at Soul Dining. I curate the wine list; help develop all beverage with our bar manager, Jeremy; and develop the team we have on the floor.

Why did you decide to move to Soul Dining?
I wanted a challenge. My whole background in hospitality has been based around French cuisine, modern Australian and a little bit of Italian – I’ve never tapped into any Asian cuisine. And being the only Korean hatted-restaurant, it seemed like a really good opportunity.

You were with Shangri-La previously. What’s it like working with a smaller team?
I really get to spend a lot of time training and developing our team, because we are so small and have [fewer] services than we did at Shangri-La. It’s really exciting, especially because not many of them have much experience working with wine.

What do you have planned for the wine offering moving forward?
We’re going to include more niche winemakers. I want to showcase more of the Australian market, just to really support the locals and highlight the women winemakers as well – [like] Samantha [Connew] from Stargazer, down in Tasmania. She’s worked overseas in Burgundy, and her wines are always on allocation, so it’ll be really cool to get those in.

Will you be bringing any concepts or ideas that have been popular with drinkers in your previous roles?
We’re working on doing a wine tasting to go along with our tasting menu. We’re going to start off with a soft approach – just five glasses. Then we’re going to develop it into a non-alcoholic pairing, and then a premium wine pairing as well. It’s going to be a six-month project, and the owners are really excited for it. They’re like, “Have fun with it!”

It’s so nice to be given the reins in a new role.
Yeah, Illa is also very knowledgeable on wine. I’m like, “What do you think of this one? And this one?” It’s been really good to bounce off someone.

How will you be approaching the non-alcoholic pairing?
We’re going to base it off the flavours from the wine pairing. For the first one we’re going to use a silvaner – more citrus characters, a little bit of soft peaches. I’ll be using those fruit flavours and any tertiary flavours that we have in the wine, and building mocktails based on those. If a table’s doing a wine pairing and one person’s doing the mocktail, it’s going to be really cohesive.

What’s your favourite drop on the menu?
I was fortunate to start with a really good list that Illa had put together. One of her picks that I absolutely love is the 2012 Pegasus Bay Riesling from New Zealand. And I’ve brought one in from my own personal cellar: a 2001 Bindi chardonnay, from the Macedon Ranges.

Finally, what are you most excited about?
Really diversifying the wine list. We have a lot of rieslings and wider whites, but we’re going to expand into Portuguese and Spanish wines and get some beautiful American drops as well.

souldining.com.au