Tis the season to entertain, and so brings with it a bit of stress around hosting. Dubai is notorious for its restaurants and bars, but not many people tend to entertain at home. I partnered with Lindsay Trivers of The Tasting Class to share her key entertaining tips to throw the kind of soirée your guests will be talking about for weeks afterwards. Scroll down to hear more about how she grew her business, The Tasting Class, here in UAE.
Lindsay recommends welcome drinks to be refreshing and thoughtful, but not too much work, as you’re probably stretched in the kitchen as it is. Think outside the box and serve the cheese platter at the start of the night with some dips, charcuterie and crudités. It’s easy to pull together and visually appealing. Try to prep as much of the food in advance as possible, right down to pre-chopping herbs for a garnish or salad. Pre-measure ingredients that you’ll need to cook together right before serving, and pre-cook items like potatoes that can just be finished in the oven right before you eat. Ambience and table settings go a long way to make a night special, think placemats, cloth napkins, napkin rings, snazzy cutlery and pretty plates to create beautiful table settings.
Full Name: Lindsay Trivers
Title and Company Name: Founder of The Tasting Class
What year did the business start? 2015
Why did you start the business?
I felt there was a lack of opportunity for people to build their wine knowledge in the UAE, despite there being a buzzing nightlife and restaurant scene, and there being plenty of quality wine available in the region.
Who is your target market and why are they so important to reach?
My target market is basically anyone who enjoys wine. It’s largely expat professionals between the ages of 25-55. They are important to reach, as this demographic already enjoys wine for the most part, and we just help them develop this personal interest, and give them the skills to enjoy it more.
Share 3 of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt so far in business.
- Have a daily list of priorities and stick to it. There will never be enough time to get everything done in a day that you need to, but if you can identify and keep on top the most pressing and important tasks, everything will keep moving in the right direction.
- Trust no one. That’s a little cynical, but I want The Tasting Class to keep its reputation of being a quality product, and that means personally checking up on every detail of a class.
- Keep your projects and time focused. I’ve got big plans for The Tasting Class; things that will take years to get up and running. At first I tried to get everything up and running at once, but that meant I spread myself too thinly, meaning none of the projects could be rolled out properly. Now, my team is bigger, and we focus on only a few key projects at any time. 2015 and 2016 were all about getting public and private home tastings up and running; 2017 was all about breaking into corporate tastings and becoming an approved provider of WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) qualifications. I’ve got an exciting plan for a major project for 2018 too, but I’m not quite ready to reveal all just yet.
Who do you admire or look up to in business?
When I was toying with the idea of giving up my job and becoming an entrepreneur, lots of resources advised me to have a mentor. I thought that meant that I should find some rich person who wanted a pet project and follow them around all day. Now I know that there are mentors everywhere, in this region particularly. It’s more of a community of hungry hustlers who are figuring it our simultaneously, than a mentorship program. I admire anyone who has gone it alone, whether they’ve succeeded or failed. In the early days of The Tasting Class, I was warned to watch out for a certain type of person who is always scheming or negotiating that next deal. These are now my favourite people to work with. They are creative, their thoughts aren’t limited by systematic rules, they are great at thinking on the fly. I also read an article today that listed off women making a big impact in the wine world, which I found really inspiring as well. Fingers crossed I can make a similar list one day.
What hurdles have you faced as a woman in your industry, if any?
The wine industry does have a reputation for being a bit of a ‘boys’ club’. I’ve had a few testing experiences this in the past, but now I just look back and use it as fuel for the fire.
For the most part, not being a fuddy-duddy, snooty, old fella has worked to my advantage. I think people find it refreshing to learn from a vibrant person who can clearly communicate about wine, without over-complicating things.
Also, one of the best parts of being your own boss is that whenever you encounter someone packing some negative ju-ju, whether misogynistic or otherwise, you just walk away.
Are more or less women entering your industry, and why do you think this is?
More women are gaining notoriety in the wine industry. I think there are a number of reasons for this. One is that formal wine education is more widely available, so women can just go get the qualifications they need to progress, and apply for better jobs, as opposed to waiting to be recognised and developed inside a restaurant or wine company. Also, I think hospitality is increasingly a ‘younger person’s game’, so the sommelier role is being filled by whoever is talented, and happy to upskill to run a wine programme, regardless of seniority in the industry. Basically, out with the old (who happen to be a lot of men) and in with the new (which happens to include a lot of women). Also, drinking wine for a living? It’s a pretty easy career path sell for a lot of women.
What is your one piece of advice to those looking to start a business in your same industry?
Keep developing and actioning your plans no matter what rejection you experience. You’ll need to prove your concept before a lot of key partners will take you seriously. So just keep chipping away at it, no matter what.
What is a quote you live by?
- Don’t compromise the product
- Done is better than perfect
- Always get a visual confirmation
What’s next? Share your plans for the business in the future.
At the moment our focus is developing the corporate entertainment side of the business, and getting our WSET qualifications widely established in the region. We are the first to offer the programme to consumers in the region – rather than limiting eligibility to industry professionals alone – and this has meant I have met and trained a wonderfully diverse group of wine enthusiasts this year. We have a few other exciting prospects coming up too, which I look forward to sharing as soon as I can!
For more information on The Tasting Class, and a full programme of upcoming tastings and events, visit TheTastingClass.com