Born and raised in Monterey, California, it was only natural that Alpana Singh would develop an interest in wine. Her family owned an ethnic grocery store in Monterey where she worked at an early age; a life experience that she credits for her present day work ethic. While waiting tables in college, she discovered her love for wine and found that it combined her varied interests of traveling, history and food. At the age of 19, Alpana landed her first job in the wine business as a sales clerk at Nielsen Bros. Market in Carmel, California. In 2000, at the age of 23, she became the sommelier for the highly acclaimed Everest Restaurant in Chicago. Three years later, Alpana passed the final level of the Master Sommelier exam.
For ten seasons, Alpana served as the host of the Emmy Award-winning restaurant review television show, Check, Please!, which airs weekly in Chicago on the PBS station WTTW Channel 11. She appeared frequently on the station’s nightly news program, Chicago Tonight, where she answered viewer questions regarding wine and spirits in her ongoing segment, Ask Alpana. Nationally, Alpana has appeared on The Today Show and Food Network’s Iron Chef America as well as in numerous publications including Newsweek, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, Bon Appetit, and The New York Times. Most recently she received the 2013 Sommelier of the Year Wine Star award from Wine Enthusiast and was also named one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2013.
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, Chef Tanya Baker joined The Boarding House’s opening team after serving as line cook and chef de cuisine in restaurants throughout the city. She was appointed executive chef in 2014 and was quickly recognized a chef on the rise by the Chicago Sun-Times. She has since been featured prominently in the Chicago Tribune, Northwest Indiana Times, Mandarin Quarterly, Thrillist and more. In 2015, the James Beard Foundation named Chef Baker as a finalist in the Rising Star Chef category for the organization’s annual, prestigious Awards.
As the only child in grade school that had seaweed, pickled daikon, and rice packed in their lunch box, Baker’s Korean mother had a large impact on her introduction to food. She spent most of her childhood in the kitchen, watching, learning, and eating with her mother. Combined with her father’s Cajun roots and his family’s affinity for gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, and other Southern dishes, Baker developed a diverse palate early on. After a trip with her parents to Louisiana, her love of Southern flavors grew deeper and she and her father returned home inspired, preparing homemade boudin and crawfish beignets for the Super Bowl. Baker’s parents played a significant role in feeding her curiosity for food then, and continue to support her love of the industry today.
Executive Chef Baker’s focus at The Boarding House lies in preparing simple, seasonal and visually appealing dishes. She applies a ‘less is more’ philosophy when it comes to food and pays delicate attention to enhance each product’s natural beauty, adding fun and elegant elements along the way. In nurturing both her culinary team and the guest experience, she enjoys close collaboration with the restaurant’s impressive team of women leaders, including Owner Alpana Singh, Pastry Chef Julia Fitting and Sommelier Kelly Peterson Bates.
Outside of the kitchen, Baker spends her time with friends and family, fishing, golfing and enjoying the city of Chicago.
Julia Fitting began her baking career in 2006 in her native Colorado where she worked at Crested Butte Cookie Company, and later served as the Assistant Manager at the bakery of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. In 2010, Julia opened Object of My Confection, her own baking business in Crested Butte, before joining L’Art de la Pâtisserie Program at The French Pastry School in Chicago where she studied under acclaimed artisans. Julia honed her craft in Chicago in kitchens including The James Hotel, Alliance Bakery, Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter, and L2O Restaurant. She most recently served as the Pastry Cook at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower. Time Out Chicago named Julia one of “Four Pastry Chefs to Watch in 2013.” She helms the bread, cheese and pastry program at The Boarding House.
Matthew Sheridan was born and raised in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and worked in fashion production, but his true calling was the restaurant business. He lived in New York for ten years, working at Le Pere Pinard, Balaboosta and Olea – restaurants specializing in Mediterranean fare and European wine programs. He then returned to Chicago and worked at Vermilion restaurant until meeting Matt Fisher at Eve. He began as a server and was quickly promoted to event planner, Maitre d’ and Manager. Matthew continually seeks new ways to exceed customer expectations by developing guest recognition techniques and ideas culled from his extensive travels, which include tours in Europe, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Israel, Jordan, India, Thailand, Cambodia, South Africa, and Hong Kong.
Kelly Peterson Bates was appointed Sommelier of The Boarding House in May 2014. In curating the beverage lists for the esteemed restaurant, she oversees wine, sprits and beer programming; trains a talented staff of servers – many of whom are also sommeliers-in-training; and regularly shares her knowledge with guests through guided wine tastings.
As part of a powerful, all-woman leadership team, Peterson Bates works closely with Singh and Executive Chef Tanya Baker, a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef Award in 2015. The sommelier-chef relationship is integral to the nuanced choreography that comes to life at the Boarding House. The duo collaboratively taste food and wine as the menu evolves, and Kelly has designed versatile bottle and by-the-glass programs that seamlessly match with Chef Baker’s contemporary, internationally inspired cuisine. Guests holding private events at the restaurant also benefit from customized offerings featuring unique, off-menu possibilities.
While studying at the Berklee School of Music in Boston – and while she was also serving at Parish Café – a wine representative for Cycles Gladiator led a wine training for the staff. It was Bates’ first official tasting, and she displayed an instant knack for identifying flavor profiles. It was the first time she learned of the Court of Master Sommeliers, and was inspired. Peterson Bates took a year off to live in Israel, where she also visited her first vineyard – the first of many. It was during this exploratory year that she came to understand the synergy between food and wine and became inspired to make it her life’s work after after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in performance and songwriting from Berklee.
Peterson Bates is working towards her Master Sommelier certification and has passed the Level 2 exam. She is also is also Level 2 Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certified – the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications – and is preparing for the advanced (WSET). She also has aspirations of completing the Cicerone Certification Program.