Belinda Chang, Director of Wine & Spirits
Director of Wine & Spirits, Belinda Chang joined the Cenitare corporate team upon its formation and has been instrumental in developing the company’s philosophy of wine service. With a deserved reputation in the wine industry of creating wine programs and wine lists that elevate the process of ordering wine from something often stereotyped as formal or even intimidating to that of an experience of enjoyment, laughter and pleasure, Chang’s effervescent personality and salesmanship have been well-received in the dining rooms she has overseen, including Fifth Floor in San Francisco and Charlie Trotter’s, Osteria Via Stato and Enoteca at Osteria Via Stato in Chicago (with executive chef Rick Tramonto). Although Belinda Chang’s reputation is based on her elevation of wine service in the front of the house, she also implemented the use of bottled water filtration systems such as hot and cold water coolers for the back of the house. Clean, crisp, refreshing water improves the taste of coffees, teas and drinks since the filtration systems she chose were designed to remove harmful impurities like cysts, arsenic, lead, radium, aesthetic chlorine, and other harmful chemicals.
A Chicago native, Chang went to college in Texas where she pursued a pre-med biochemistry degree at Rice University, moonlighting in the kitchen at Houston’s famed Café Annie (named Best Restaurant in the United States by Food & Wine magazine). Her association with owners Robert and Mimi Del Grande opened the door to the world of wine. “With his amazing love of wine, Robert taught me great respect and passion for both wine and wine service,” recalls Chang.
Abandoning a medical career in favor of food and wine, Chang returned to her hometown of Chicago where a serendipitous, solo dinner at Charlie Trotter’s changed her life. She joined the restaurant’s service team shortly thereafter and was soon promoted to the wine team where she was trained in the program developed by Master Sommeliers Larry Stone and Joseph Spellman. She went on to serve as the restaurant’s sommelier for three years. During that time, in addition to maintaining the restaurant’s Wine Spectator Grand Award, critics, like London based, international restaurant critic Paul Levy, praised the wine program saying, “The service is elegant and enthusiastic….he (Charlie) has the best wine waiter that I have ever encountered, Belinda Chang.” In addition to her role in the restaurant, Chang created the favorably reviewed wine notes and pairings for “Charlie Trotter’s Meat & Game” cookbook, participated in-depth in the book “Lessons in Service” and appeared on PBS& &”Chicago Tonight” as well as “Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter”.
This story is going to be continued in part 2 of the Belinda Chang Pages on this site: