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From Bartender, to Chef to Wine Merchant | A year in the life

Five years ago, as an overambitious young man, newly armed with his degree in Business Law I returned to Zambia – though not the country of my birth, most certainly my adopted home. How proud the parents must have been I thought, to finally have a university graduate in our family’s ranks. How sad it was in reality when they found out I wouldn’t be using it, and that my love of food and wine - very much bequethed to me by my mother’s life time in the F&B industry – had left such an impression on me that I dived right into F&B instead, making university an expensive three-year party. In fact, I don’t even know where my university diploma is (might be in the cubby hole of my car…I think) but certainly not up on a wall anywhere!

Josh hard at work behind the bar

After four years of managing and then owning my own restaurants, I joined Under the Influence Zambia. Known to me as my wine supplier at the time, I dived into this world of beverages with gusto, believing my years of direct industry experience, as well as a foodie and cocktail bartender background would hold me in good stead as the new steward of Zambian operations. And what a whirlwind year this romance has been.

Gin and tonic fiesta!

I remember the first profound insight I had into the world of wine being “wow, you do not know half as much about these products as you thought you did”, and though a tad daunting in its scope, immersing myself in this industry has allowed for a fast-track, hands on learning experience that has thus far been the highlight of my working life. Having toured the Cape winelands, met wine makers, farmers and marketers as well as enjoy the absolute pleasure of seeing the melting pot of food, beverage and hotel industries in full collision at We Are Africa 2018 I have never been more certain of my intention to remain where I first found solace, in beverage distribution.

Lolly to make you jolly?

We’re having a blast in Zambia. Not only selling to the cream of the crop, with the finest hotels, camps and lodges in the country all partnering us, but also by delivering presenters and educators from Stark-Condé, Neil Ellis, Iona, Painted Wolf, Cederberg and more in the last 12 months alone. These ‘meet the winemaker’ opportunities allow for people to be taken on a journey to each of the estates; we bring the winelands to Zambia in different ways every day. Why you ask, have we so quickly and successfully captured such a large share of the market? It’s all very simple, we care. Working with Under the Influence has taught me the value of integrity in business, a set of values passed down from a generation of fathers and mothers who made our team who we are. We don’t just sell booze. We educate and uplift staff in partner properties, providing them the resources they need to elevate themselves every day in the industry. We actively participate in local community events, tastings and services. We believe in this continent, and our place in it.

Another Wine101 course under the belt

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