Germain Lehodey – the visionary behind South Africa’s wine and hospitality legacy


Brought to you by Highland Park

Germain Lehodey, 2023’s recipient of the Eat Out Highland Park Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award, has a body of work brimming with dedication to the South African restaurant industry. To celebrate this win, Germain shared his journey to building his impactful career, shedding light on some of the pivotal moments that have shaped his legacy.

germain lehodey

Like many great stories, Germain’s journey into the world of wine began humbly, during his first job as a waiter in Paris. “The owner introduced me to winemakers in Burgundy,” Germain recalled. “I showed interest immediately. My father was a Calvados producer, therefore I understood distillation at a very young age,” he adds. He dedicated himself to studying and working simultaneously, eventually joining the three Michelin-starred Tour d’Argent restaurant. “I started as a commis sommelier and six months later, I became a sommelier, before becoming the head sommelier of a cellar of 350 000 bottles,” says Germain.


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Germain’s contributions to the industry now span over three decades, both internationally and on South African soil, and include the founding of initiatives such as the Sommelier Association of Switzerland in 1983 and pioneering events like the Pretoria Wine Show in 1986, the first South African wine list competition in 1985, and the National Cheese Festival in 2000. In addition to this, Germain focuses on education within the industry and has been a lecturer at the Cape Wine Academy since 1985. “Education in wine is important because you can produce the best wine in the world, but if people do not have the knowledge, they will not buy it,” says Germain. Further fostering knowledge in the industry, his book, Wine: the Second Sauce of a Dish, which focuses on food and wine and pairing, is a textbook at the Capital Hotel School.

Yet, one of Germain’s most significant contributions to the industry is undoubtedly establishing the SA Sommelier Association in 2010. Germain says, “Members are the ambassadors of the wine industry,” and notes the rising standards among South African sommeliers, some of whom now work globally. Germain believes that mentorship is crucial in nurturing talent. “When I was a lecturer at the Johannesburg Hotel School, I managed to lift three students to Cape Wine Master,” he says, adding that many of his students have gone on to work in the wine industry.

germain lehodey

Reflecting on his career, Germain acknowledges the industry’s challenges and rewards. Despite demanding hours and sacrifices, the industry can be rewarding. When asked what advice he has for aspiring individuals, Germain says, “You must follow your heart, be passionate, and never stop learning, be creative.” He adds that being a sommelier means acting as the link between producers and consumers, which involves continuous education. “You must love the diversity of food and wine,” he urges.

Germain Lehodey has helped to shape South Africa’s hospitality industry into what it is today. His unwavering dedication and commitment to nurturing future talent over the last few decades will continue to propel the industry forward, and his legacy will undeniably live on for years to come.

Click here to see the full list of winners for 2023!

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