Alpana Singh: The Rise as a Master Sommelier and Restaurateur

Alpana Singh: A Trailblazing Journey from Sommelier to Restaurateur

Born in November 1976 in Monterey, California, Alpana Singh’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, hard work, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. Raised in a family that owned and operated an ethnic grocery store, Singh’s early exposure to the culinary world and her father’s 30 years as a chef laid the foundation for her future endeavors.

Early Passion and Challenges of Alpana Singh

Singh’s foray into the restaurant business began as a waitress at Bakers Square, a stepping stone that set the stage for her remarkable career. An initial setback in her attempt to join the US Air Force led her to a fine dining restaurant, where she recognized the need for a deeper understanding of wines. Undeterred, she embarked on a self-education journey, impressing interviewers upon reapplication.

Her experience as a sales clerk at Nielsen Bros. Market in Carmel, California further immersed her in the intricacies of the wine business. This laid the groundwork for what would become an extraordinary career as a Master Sommelier.

Mastering the Art of Sommelier

Singh’s dedication and commitment to mastering her craft culminated in passing the Court of Master Sommeliers’ advanced certification test at the young age of 21. In 2003, she achieved the pinnacle, becoming the youngest woman to attain the esteemed title of Master Sommelier, a feat with a mere 3% pass rate.

At the age of 23, Alpana Singh assumed the role of sommelier at Chicago’s renowned Everest restaurant. Subsequently, she became the Director of Wine and Spirits for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a major Chicago-based restaurant chain, showcasing her versatility and expertise.

Media Presence and Entrepreneurship

Beyond her roles in restaurants, Alpana Singh became a prominent figure in the media landscape. Hosting the local PBS show, Check, Please!, and contributing to Chicago Tonight’s “Ask Alpana” segment, she became a household name. Her engaging on-air personality earned her national attention and appearances on platforms like The Today Show and Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

In 2012, Singh took a bold entrepreneurial step by opening The Boarding House, a wine-centric restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The four-story establishment garnered widespread acclaim, earning accolades from Forbes Travel Guide, Food & Wine, and other prestigious publications.

Diverse Ventures and Philanthropy

Singh’s entrepreneurial spirit extended to the culinary reality TV realm, where Alpana Singh judged on Food Network’s “Food Truck Face Off.” Simultaneously, she opened her second restaurant, Seven Lions, on Chicago’s iconic Michigan Avenue in 2015.

Active in her community, Alpana Singh served on the Choose Chicago Board of Directors and played a crucial role in bringing the James Beard Foundation Awards to Chicago in 2015. Her philanthropic efforts and dedication to the culinary scene were recognized with the 2006 Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year award by Bon Appetit magazine and other prestigious honors.

A Shift in Focus and Empowerment

In a pivotal moment in late 2020, Alpana Singh, expressing solidarity with women who had come forward regarding sexual harassment within the Court of Master Sommeliers, renounced her Master Sommelier title. This courageous act emphasized her commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment in the industry.

Personal Life and Legacy

In her personal life, Alpana Singh’s journey reflects resilience. Despite a divorce in 2014, she continues to thrive both professionally and personally. Running, traveling, and photography fill her spare moments, showcasing a well-rounded and fulfilled life.

Also Read: Radhika Govindrajan: Exploring Multispecies Ethnography

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