Belinda Chang

Belinda Chang

Belinda Chang, Director of Wine & Service and Managing Partner of Maple & Ash and Eight Bar & Patio, in Chicago, shares her career timeline and advice for up-and-coming talent.


Be fearless, do all of the work, mentor more and always have a bigger bottle of champagne than everyone else, chilled of course. If you do all of that, all will be awesome.


EXPERIENCE
Over the years (decades!), I have often been embarrassed to accept compliments for my “impeccable” career choices. I think that is because in fact, my career trajectory has had less to do with the opportunities that presented themselves but has everything to do with how I fully committed myself to each position and did the most possible in it. Never be afraid to accept a daunting challenge. Always hire people who are smarter than you, who can teach you things and make you look good, and always do more than everyone else - that is what I have done and will continue to do.
Robert Delgrande taught me to “always use fresh lime juice”.
The most important thing, and unfortunately the thing that is all too often lost in my area of expertise, wine, is the desire to serve the guest to the best of your ability.
Danny Meyer told me “don’t you dare lose your accent”.
My first real restaurant job was with Robert and Mimi Delgrande in Houston at their James Beard award winning restaurant, Café Annie, which is now RDG. Working in that kitchen, at the host stand, behind the bar and finally as a dining room captain, rocked my world and set me on the path to a life long career in service. All at the same time, they were so thoughtful, smart, fun, irreverent, authentic and fabulous, and I loved going to work every day to see what would happen next! The experience showed me that I only wanted to ever work with the best and with people who only want to win.
Charlie Trotter taught me that “nice is not enough”.
My parents were consummate hosts when we were growing up in the New Jersey and almost every weekend they threw an epic dinner party. My earliest memories are of my Dad, a research chemist, mixing up whiskey sours, and my Mom, a corporate librarian, cooking nine course Taiwanese feasts for an ever rotating cast of characters. It was so exciting and wonderful. I am not sure why they were surprised when I chose entertaining as my career!
A few of my recommended reads are: "Setting the Table" by Danny Meyer, "Trotter’s "Cookbook, "Dining Out: Secrets from America’s Leading Critics. And I think it is super important for restaurant professionals to understand where we came from and how we got here, and all of the OGs are in this book, "Chefs and Restaurateurs" by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg".
There are so many resources for inaccurate wine information out there on the internet and to my mind there is no substitute for this book. Every major wine director has a copy of "The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia" on his/her desk!


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