Fifth Floor Restaurant
12 4th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel: (415) 348-1555
Fax: (415) 348-1551
Belinda Chang Doctors Up the Wine List at Fifth Floor
Belinda Chang of San Francisco’s Fifth Floor is one of
an increasing number of women sommeliers behind the wine lists at America’s
top restaurants. She was bitten by the restaurant bug while pursuing
a pre-med biochemistry degree at Rice University. She worked as headwaiter
at the university's faculty club, a position that led her to the kitchen
of Houston's famed Cafe Annie. Despite her affinity for the kitchen,
the management at Café Annie noticed her charismatic personality,
gracious congeniality, and her outstanding ability to describe food
and wine. She was encouraged to return to the dining room and, within
a year, was the only female captain on the floor.
Having decided officially to abandon a medical career in favor of food
and wine, Chang returned to her hometown of Chicago, where she joined
Charlie Trotter's as a server. At Trotter's she was trained in the wine
program developed by Larry Stone and Joseph Spellman, famed Master Sommeliers.
She maintained a wine list of 26,000 bottles and wrote the favorably
reviewed wine notes and pairings for Charlie Trotter's Meat and Game.
Following three years as sommelier at Charlie Trotter's, Chang began
her tenure at Fifth Floor, where she maintains an extensive list that
includes high-end, hard-to-find wines. Within a few months of her arrival,
Chang received acclaim from Bay Area press and public alike. A letter
to the editor printed in the San Francisco Chronicle said, "Belinda
steered us to a wonderful and moderately priced Pinot Noir. She was
a true professional and made us thankful we live in San Francisco where
restaurants attract such talented and dedicated people."
At Fifth Floor, Chang has quickly achieved her goal of taking the fear
out of wine selection for her patrons. Working closely with Chef Laurent
Gras, she fashions an ever-changing list that compliments and challenges
the complexity of his menu.
Chang admits to her parents' shock at the career change, but notes
that the importance of good food and the pleasures of long meals were
a legacy from her childhood. She finds her scientific background useful
in her new calling: it takes exceptional mathematical skills to maintain
a vast inventory of 1800 selections, and a strong analytical mind to
finesse the intricacies of pairing food and wine.