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Elia Brunner - ASSP Certified Sommelier & Restaurant Coordinator

Updated: Jul 16

Firstly thank you for your visit and if not have not already, i hope we'll meet sometime soon at the restaurant.


After a childhood in Winterthur, Switzerland, full of culinary input, being raising 16 years experiencing the true wine tradition, I moved to Michigan in December of 2011. An adjustment not quite easy, let's just start with the language issues, and that jumping in half way into the semester during High School, i gotta tell you, it was not easy.


Our big day of opening the restaurant was just short of two years into our new live in Frankenmuth. But opening a restaurant is not really how we should be calling it. Lets call it a small cafe for now, with the main attraction being an antique Christmas ornaments museum, who would have thought that?

But it really didn't take long for us to figure out this wont work out like this. There are not enough people in the world wanting to see our extremely rare collection while enjoying a Italian cup of coffee, so we had to evolve.


As the years went on, we kept doing the best we could possible do. And did I mention? None of us had at that point worked in a restaurant before, or the proper education, all we did was winging it. Strangely enough it was okay somehow, in 2015 we got our liquor license, many of you started noticing us. This was not enough, we wanted more.


With the motivation to succeed the search for proper education started. Many college visits in Michigan ended with disappointment, simply not what we were looking for, we dont want to learn the corporate way. Lots of time went by, until we received an email out of the blue, one of not only Switzerland's, but the worlds most prestigious business administration school with focus on hospitality announced a new campus opening in Chicago, Les Roches - Global Hospitality Management. So a week later, we already find ourselves in Chicago for an orientation. As the campus, which we later got to see was a construction site, we did lots of on-boarding at the Peninsula Hotel Chicago, a property that would later on have much influence of today's version of myself. In a heartbeat we signed to enroll into 3 1/2 years of world class education in hospitality management. But anyways, I was blown away by this school, and not only was it a new campus opening (the 4th of of Les Roches) but also the first non-American based school on American soil and eventually i became the first person to attend the first non-American school on US-soil, yes my student number was actually 1 (to be correct, it was 100001), but still that's pretty cool.



A couple of months, i packed up my things and moved to Chicago, and not anywhere in Chicago, our student housing was in the Loop, downtown, the hearth of Chicago, literally 2 blocks away from the bean (for the ones of you that have been to Chicago). Our shared campus with Kendall College was located on Goose Island, the olny island in Chicago, where the Chicago river splits for just like half a mile or so. But let me tell you... that view we had from our class room every day!


As school started, my entire outlook on life changed, i connected with worlds leader of hospitality, its is difficult to even put this into words, people I've met, places I've been. The impact is nearly indescribable. To mention just a few, I was invited and flown into San Francisco / Silicon Valley, where I was brought to the Google HQ, Facebook HQ, Instagram HQ, Lyft HQ, Hotel Tonight HQ, and some more. In all these places i met with executives and CEO's giving insight, what it means to be entrepreneurial, start something out of love and passion for what you do, but also the hard work it takes, persistence and never giving up, even when a situation seems hopeless. While back in Chicago, i not only got to meet many hotel and restaurant manages, but also ended up for some pretty incredible places. I got some hotel experience working at The Peninsula Chicago and later i managed to work for Roister, at that time a 1-Star Michelin Restaurant, owned by my biggest inspiration, Grant Achatz. While working there, i was lucky enough to encounter him several times, and one time, he invited his friend and mentor, Thomas Keller, yes I got to meet and talk to Thomas Keller too! The months went on, motivation and inspiration skyrocket and soon my year in Chicago came to a close.


Oh and before i forget it and leave Chicago, I also had my culinary training there, and was trained by an Italian top chef, who was not only the executive chef at the Four Seasons Hawaii for 10 years, but also the personal / private chef for Tom Cruise for 11 months! At the same time, pastry; the at that time executive pastry chef at the Radison Blue Chicago and later worked for Tickets (formally El Bulli, one of the world most iconic restaurant, and changed the way of molecular gastronomy).


So over all, of course I leaned a lot, academically, was also practically, by some incredible people in this industry, while i got to visit.. well... you know, and met.. well.. you know..






It is now June 2017 and time to put some things i learned to practice. I accepted a position at Zurich's finest dining spots, Restaurant La Soupiere inside the Hotel Schweizerhof, right on the Bahnhofs Platz. Of course I started at the bottom, getting up at 5am every day... breakfast service. Luckily, the people up there liked the way i worked, and only 3 months in, they gave me a shot as Chef de Rang, and with that also established myself within that position. instead of breakfast buffet, i got to do finest lunch and dinner service. It was great, an amazing team, good work, leaning what perfect service with highest standard is, and it is just cool, like for real. Days were long, Everyday I did lunch and dinner, meaning I have to be at work at 10am, lunch service until 2.30pm, get a 3 hour break (since i worked an hour from where i lived, not much time to go home) so spending time with the team, bar hopping (not too much, just a glass or two :P we still had a dinner shift ahead of us). Anyways at 6 we had to be back suited up ready for service, and after clean the entire restaurant, as well as set up the breakfast buffet for the morning shift, so often the days did not end until after midnight. The good thing though, bottles not finished by our guests were there for us drink (you really cant serve a champagne opened the previous day to a guest, so we really didn't have a choice but to drink it). While fun, it was though, I left home at 9am, and returned most days well after 1am, more than 14 hours, oh well... but that's what it is like to work in restaurants, really gotta love it to be able to put up with this.



Before I knew, it was 2018, time to move on, literally. Next stop, Marbella, just south of Malaga in southern Spain. It was my fourth semester, moving to a country I didnt speak the language, like not even a bit, but i managed somehow. But what can i really say about Spain? time passed really fast, it was quite heavy on academics, and well... the Mediterranean sea... some of the best fiends i've ever made, trips i will cherish in my memories forever. The Netherlands, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Tariffa, Sevilla, Crans-Montana, Zurich, the list goes on. And before i knew, it was time to find a job. While within no time time of applying to 20+ jobs on 4 different i got more than 10 offers to interviews and 5 job offers. Which one to take. Multiple offers from the Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Thailand, and Tanzania. Each of their option had their own twist, advantages and disadvantages. Now looking back at that decision, i don't know what I was thinking... I ended up choosing Africa.



Surly a factor, the position I was offered, direct management position was something no one but Tanzania could offer me. It was my best chance of doing something carzy, jump over my shadow and just move to central Africa.


The arrival was strange, my first time in a third world country. During the 6 months that I have lived in Africa i could probably go on and write for hours, and almost indescribable experience. As this post is already super long, i wont go so much into that, but soon will post and entire one just about Africa, for the ones really wanted to read it, i promise, it'll come soon! Spoiler alert, it includes lot of wild animals, snake attacks, lions, safari, the most beautiful beaches, nature and the African way of life, as well as working as the most stunning hotel i have ever seen in my entire life!



Anyways, lets skip a bit and move on. We are soon coming to a close, just one more year. My last year, and just before taking off an incredible birthday surprise from no one else but my mum. Just a week before take off, we went to Chicago, the holy grail of restaurants, Alinea. Not just a restaurant of a dining experience, this was one incredible show, like a 3 hour long theater. Cooking in front of you, without even realizing, dry ice inside table decoration, fire within that same decoration also cooking something else, later roasted sweet potatoes hidden in the "soil". A show, 18 courses, a square yard large dessert, where first part of the ceiling was taken down, put on the table, temporarily used as a plate and the entire kitchen staff came to the table to create the dessert, in the style like you would do a painting, finished off by Alinea's infamous green apple helium balloon. Literally a flying/floating balloon! Where in the world can you get that?!



So, time for Switzerland and my last year of education. With my brother i got the most stunning apartment ever, two stories, way too many bedrooms, first place and the best of all, a massive balcony with well... a view like no other, the Swiss Alps.


February 14th, 2019 - move in day. An apartment, making us feel like living in a mansion, 6 bed rooms for the three of us, two balconies, fire place, office, dining room and more... the perfect environment for a last year of absolute focus on evolving. Classes started soon, early mornings until late at night, at least the sunrises were absolutely stunning. Week days kept me busy with regular classes, papers, projects and rebranding work, weekends were reserved for my sommelier education. Taking these weekend courses surely made regular classes seem easy. While focusing on old world wines, we needed to not only be able to know all wine regions of all major countries, but also their sub-regions, and often also the sub-regions of the sub-regions, hundreds of them, and each of them have their own individuality, their grapes, their climate, soil, good years, bad years, all in all, just A LOT to learn. But of course it was not only just the dry academic part, each day included tastings and blind tastings, some days over 15 wines, which honestly, needed more energy and focus than academics. Finding all flavor profiles out of different wines, age, regions, weather and much more.



My first weeks in Switzerland passed very quick, between all the school work and wines studies, there are some limited time for the much needed skiing. Its already April, spring break just around the corner, which does not necessarily mean free time. I needed to clear out my head, inspiration, a vision, time for myself to get more ideas for the upcoming rebranding. Therefore absolutely clear on what i have to do. Pack up some clothing and start driving.


I drove all through northern Italy and France. over 40 hours of driving in 7 days and 3500 kilometers. From Crans-Montana to Parma and Modena, the mecca of food, through the Tuscany, the Antinori winery, Castello Banfi and of course Bolgheri, a tiny town (just a fraction of Frankenmuth), the home of the legendary wine maker, San Guido, who produces the king of all Super Tuscans, Sassicaia. Moving on I made my way to Pisa, Monaco, all along the French gold coast, Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez all the way to Marseilles. The Rhone Valley, where i stopped in Chateauneuf-du-Pape met with various wine makers many of which can be found on our every growing wine menu. After a quick stop in Burgundy and Paris I was already at the end of my journey and just like it had to be, the best for last - Champagne. A 7 day trip was properly finished off with pop, deep down in the caves of Epernay, where several 100 million bottles find its rest and age for us to enjoy later on.



Several weeks later, back in Crans-Montana, Switzerland after hundreds of hours of studying, I received 2 Sommelier certification, and ever since made me a certified Sommelier by the ASSP and ASI (Swiss & International Sommelier Association). And just before the semester was to come to an end there was additional recognition, the induction into Eta Sigma Delta, a international Hospitality honors society for excellence in Academic achievements and volunteer work.


Before coming back home for a last Michigan summer vacation, one more trip to Italy was needed. Together with my family, just a day after my older brothers wedding, I went to my grand fathers house, a place where you will find more to read about separately soon. The trip was not for nostalgia alone, but also because i needed to drive though the Tuscany once again while being with my family this time. We went to Antinori, where i got to see the progress of each vine, small grapes slowly growing, to what once will become some of the best wines in the world, Tignanello and Solaia. But also Castello Banfi and Bolgehri were again on the list to visit before going back home to Michigan.


The highlight for years when back home, culinary inspiration during a Chicago Trip. This time, Boka, Sepia and The Aviary. If you very get the chance to go to The Aviary, make sure to get a Black Truffle Explosion, just to have said it, try it, just do it, you will thank me later!


But for now, we are back in Switzerland for a last time, 6 month to focus almost entirely on Marketing, content creating, and well... learning how to fly a drone. And believe it or not, one day i just had the strong urge to find out how the grapes back in the Tuscany are holding up. I took some of my best friends in Switzerland, rented out an old 7-stoy military castle, refurbished into the likely most amazing Airbnb i have ever seen and once again visited my favorite wineries. While there for the third time in 2019, as life wants it, it was just the opening weekend of harvest season. Even if i tried describing the taste of these wonderful grapes, I couldn't, simply pure perfecting, just like the wines they will soon become.



The remainder of the year was all around projects, weather it was to create real-life marketing campaigns for hospitality groups, of getting to create a real event with a budget of more than $30,000 - yes we were give $30,000 to organize our own event. An event with international performances and food with hundreds of people, students and global hsopitality leaders attending.


Totally unrelated, but check out this video, all it took was 5 hours of climbing an super steep mountain, pure exhaustion but that was the result of it.



To stay up to date with all what is going on in the wold of wines, make sure to visit the Exopvina, if you are ever in Zurich in November. There are 6 boats in the harbor of Zurich, each hosting around 100 wine makers, for you to sample and learn about their wines.


And now here we are, 3 1/2 years later, what started in Chicago is now ending, its the 24th of January 2020, just before a massive pandemic, little did we know back then what was just about to happen. Here we are ready to go out into the world and find sucess, graduated with a Bacchelor in Business Administration with Distinction, specalized in Digital Maketing, Eta Sigma Delta, 2 sommelier certifications, having worked and studied in 3 continents, 4 countries and 6 cities, while having seen and experienced the world. A year of planning a rebranding and a global pandemic giving us 3 months time to put (almost) everything into place transforming from The Old Christmas Station to The Station 100 - we look forward welcoming you soon!



Elia Brunner


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© 2020 by Elia Brunner - The Station 100

© 2020 by Elia Brunner - The Station 100