Elia Brunner - ASSP Certified Sommelier & Restaurant Coordinator

Updated: Apr 1

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. 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 dont 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!

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 ballon. Litterally a flying/floating ballon! 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.

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© 2020 by Elia Brunner - The Station 100

© 2020 by Elia Brunner - The Station 100