Chef Theresa Paopao of Momofuku - Biography

New York, NY

November 2011

Theresa Paopao’s initial career pursuits were far from wine and even further from Boston. She’s from Hawaii and has a degree in Technical Design for the Theater from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Graduate school brought her to the East Coast, but the decision to leave her studies at the Yale School of Drama changed Paopao’s career goals, so she departed for Boston and got a job as a server.

What was simply a way to make ends meet turned into a career for Paopao. She took it upon herself to learn about wines initially, and then blossomed under the more structured wine lessons at the Sweet Life Café in Martha’s Vineyard.

Paopao returned to Boston and joined the front of the house team at The Federalist, a restaurant known for its extensive wine list. Other stints in Boston included retail sales at Best Cellars and manager at the Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro. In 2004, she joined the staff at Ana Sortun’s Oleana to expand the wine program and manage service, where she received a 2009 Boston Risign Stars Award.

Paopao’s natural curiosity and independent study bolster her professional wine knowledge. She received her BarSmarts Advanced certification from the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) in May 2009 and became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers in January of 2009.

Paopao consulted with Ana Sortun on the wine pairings for Oleana’s cookbook, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. She has participated as a wine panelist for the Nantucket Wine Festival, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Conference, and the New England Food Service and Lodging Expo.

After leaving Oleana, Paopao moved to New York to serve as wine director for Chef David Chang's Momofuku empire.