Claremont Fan Court School

Esher, Class of 2005

Clara Monckton – Rubin

Interviewed for the 2023 annual Alumni Review, Clara shares her memories of performing in 'Sweet Charity' on Claremont's JGC stage and offers valuable advice for any soon-to-be alumni who are considering a career in hospitality:

Since leaving school, Claremont Fan Court alumna Clara Monckton – Rubin (Esher, Class of 2005) went onto study Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. She soon embarked on an incredibly interesting career in the world of Hospitality and wine but fear not, the end is not nigh for Clara. She hasn’t even hit her stride yet! Now Head of wine at Hawksmoor, Clara credits her teachers for their encouragement and gives her best advice to soon-to-be alumni who are considering a career in a field like hers.

Clara, you were at Claremont Fan Court between 1998 – 2005. What are your stand-out memories from your time at Claremont?

So many excellent and formative (/crushingly cringe-worthy) memories from school days exist for me, I look back very fondly at my school years. It’s never a surprise to people that know me now, but I was always drawn to theatre more than sports; our annual productions, the play was the thing. I still don’t know how it got clearance, but performing Sweet Charity; a story about a sex-worker’s attempts to raise herself out of poverty as she navigates late-1960’s New York… as a school play? Pretty fun. Therefore, without a doubt it’s the teachers I had that stand out; Bob and Hilary Longman, Alan Hitchcock, Kenneth Kimber, John Frood, Gordon Hunt. Brilliant, patient, insightful people.

What led you to become head of wine for the Hawksmoor restaurant group?

So many things but mainly my career in wine and Hospitality is down to my love of social anthropology; it’s people, it’s international trade, it’s history, it’s how we dine together and interact, all in a bottle. I still remember filling out a UCAS form in the careers room at Claremont and being utterly blown away that I could potentially spend three years of my life actually reading that. Excellent.

Are there any personalities in the Hospitality world who have inspired you?

Some really brilliant people have contributed to the Hospitality industry even in my lifetime; Gerard Basset, Kate Nicholls, both quite rightly with an OBE each to their names. But mostly, hospitality can be a really fragmented and sadly, silo’d place. So many incredible people with skill, warmth, and diligence go unnoticed.

What have been your career highlights to date?

Honestly? Too many to name and I don’t feel I’ve even hit my stride yet. I regularly fan-girl over tasting with brilliant winemakers or influential industry people, I get to open great bottles at once-in-a-lifetime occasions, and people always ask me what the most expensive wine I’ve ever tasted is… but I think they miss the point of wine when they do that.

Best highlights are always the under-the-radar occasions when you can get on with the really great work. Hawksmoor’s chosen charity year after year is Action Against Hunger. In September we collaborate with other great chefs and hold a four course dinner with an incredible set of auction prizes; it’s the most important night to raise money for this awesome cause. Most recent highlight has to be putting together an incredible list of epic one-offs that raised 20% of the night’s contribution… not to mention my team and I got to taste every wine we opened.

What advice would you give soon-to-be Claremont Fan Court alumni considering a career in Hospitality and/or wine?

Do it. The UK is finally starting to give recognition to Hospitality as a skilled-profession and there’s so much to do within it. I can, hand-on-heart say that I will never be bored by what I do; there’s always something new to learn about and then before you know it, it’s another vintage and the landscape changes again.

There’s infinite travel opportunities and it’s a wildly diverse community. Not to mention I can pick almost any country to visit and make a connection to someone there who I know it would be rewarding to share a glass of wine with.

Do you have a favourite wine you would recommend to our readers?

You can imagine how many times I get asked this; from international panel discussions to casual party chat. If you imagine grape varieties like instruments you can follow them around the world being played by different winemakers, in different climates, that change every vintage. I keep coming back to Grenache and Chenin Blanc; France, Spain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, they always deliver.

Do yourself a favour and get to a really good independent wine shop and get chatting to the crew there.

Clara’s cast profile in the Sweet Charity programme, 2003.