Photo by Light Leak Pictures
Sommeliers are the highly qualified, expertly trained professionals who curate wine lists, make pairing recommendations and pop up tableside to answer your burning questions about vineyards, varietals and everything in between. In our Somm-One You Should Know series, we’re introducing you to a handful of incredible women who’ve made this business their business.
As a sommelier and lifestyle maven who was dubbed a "global virtual wine experience guru" by The Wall Street Journal, Belinda Chang knows how to get a party started. She specializes in “making epic moments everyday occurrences” and offers guests a taste of the good life at her IRL and virtual events. Belinda has taken the hospitality industry by storm over the course of her decades-long career: along with being a widely recognized luxury experiential storyteller, she is the only BIPOC woman to win a James Beard Award in wine.
“I have almost always been the only woman at the management table and the only Taiwanese American…and I have always felt unique,” says Belinda. “I always worked harder than everyone, fought for what I believed in and didn’t take any shit, because I knew my worth.”
Belinda got her start in the kitchen while pursuing a degree in biochemistry at Rice University in Houston. She rose up the ranks at Café Annie to become the only woman dining room captain, and decided to forgo medical school to pursue a restaurant career instead. Soon enough, she was managing the legendary 26,000-bottle cellar at famed Chicago eatery Charlie Trotter’s and zigzagging the coast to develop wine programs for The Fifth Floor in San Francisco and The Modern in NYC. Belinda served as Managing Partner and Wine Director of Chicago steakhouse Maple and Ash before breaking out on her own and founding a bootstrap experience production company in 2016.
Belinda’s company has produced many of food and wine’s buzziest happenings, from a splashy pool party during Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to the annual James Beard Awards Pre-Prom, which empowers (and pampers!) women in the restaurant industry. And while she has hosted hundreds of virtual experiences for high-profile Fortune 500 clients, Belinda continues to connect with and cater to the food and wine community. She created Virtual Boozy Brunch to support furloughed service workers and small business owners during the pandemic, and says the gatherings have evolved from a digital wine class into a “sip-along, cook-along, bake-along, dance-along and many- other-things-along experience.”
When she’s not cooking up live luxury experiences, Belinda is a published wine writer, on-air contributor and regular fixture in The New York Times, Food & Wine, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. At the heart of her work is a clear passion for spreading joy, with a healthy dose of opulence.
“In general, women would shy away from that,” Belinda says. “But I want to teach other women how to do that luxury, too. You have to be fearless — acknowledge your power and use it.”