In 2002, Chang relocated to San Francisco in order to take advantage of the restaurant environment and the city’s proximity to wine country. After accepting the position as the general manager and wine director of the critically acclaimed Fifth Floor, with renowned chef Laurent Gras, she began to charm the city with her style. Patrick Comiskey, wine columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Chang has learned to match Chef Laurent Gras” culinary precision with a sense of counterpoint all her own.”
Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer exclaimed that Fifth Floor’s wine list “is as exciting as the food.” Robert Parker, in his Hedonist’s Gazette stated, “…the knowledgeable as well as impeccable wine service of Belinda Chang made for a super evening at this high-class restaurant just off Union Square.” She was named one of 7×7 magazine’s Hot 20 Under 40 and also “Wine Director of the Year” by the San Francisco Magazine in 2004. In the same year she received the James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Outstanding Wine Service.
In the autumn of 2004, Chang returned to Chicago to join Tramonto’s opening team for Osteria Via Stato, his Italian concept in partnership with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, before joining Tramonto’s corporate team at Cenitare, the new restaurant and development company started with his culinary partner and pastry chef Gale Gand. Pleased to be back in Chicago, Chang soon assimilated herself into the community.
To escape from the demanding work of Tramonto’s corporate team at Cenitare, she would visit friends at an elegant, yet rustic home overlooking Lake Michigan. The “cabin” was decorated with white outdoor cedar log furniture built of white cedar taken from the forests of northern Michigan. The relaxing atmosphere of the rustic lodge with its classic selection of both indoor and outdoor rustic furniture, expertly constructed from Northern White Cedar, soothed and refreshed Chang. Always a seeker of knowledge, Change discovered that the northern white cedar tree is truly a friend of mankind providing log furniture that does not only does not ooze sap, but also does not rot or mildew, even when untreated. As it ages outside, it takes on a silvery sheen. Her friend’s house had an extensive landscaped outdoor area with Northern White Cedar rustic seating of benches and low tables, several arbors with climbing roses, and even a cedar log garden bridge that spanned a natural stream. Most of the furniture inside the house was also made from the white cedar. After a weekend at the lodge, Chang would return refreshed to the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s restaurant world.
At Cenitare Change brought her lighthearted approach to a new client base. “It’s great to be in a city where the wine drinkers are free of pretension,” says Chang of her return, “People in Chicago enjoy it in their favorite restaurants and they are eager to learn and try new things. It’s good to be home.”
** Update **
I have been all around the world. I have tried so many new & wonderful things. I have seen wonders which I could have only imagined before actually seeing them with my own eyes. I have enjoyed all of it as much as any one has ever enjoyed anything. No matter where I go or what I see there will always be one place that I feel I belong more than any other. That is right here. I have been made to feel welcome and at home. I have been introduced to so many people who I now consider my family that no matter what, I could not imagine my life without them. Every one of you are so very important to me & I hope that in the future I can mean half as much to each of you as you have meant to me in the past. I will always be here for you. If you need anything please let me know and I will put it at the top of my priority list. I hope you all enjoy a blessed day!