Alumna Jiachen Lu
Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy & Management with Internship
Now, Jiachen is Assistant Head Sommelier at Dinings SW1, and won both the Gosset Matchmakers and Copa Jerez UK competitions in 2023 with fellow alumna, Gail Li. We caught up with Jiachen to find out more about her journey in gastronomy.
What made you decide to train in the culinary arts?
"I have always been interested in food since my childhood. My enthusiasm for food eventually expanded to include wine pairing with food. I first learned about Le Cordon Bleu when writing an essay about French food and wine in college and was fascinated about the program – so much that I told my father that one day I would study at Le Cordon Bleu. My father’s answer was 'Of course you will! Just finish graduate school and law school and get your doctor’s degree first – then you can do whatever you want!'.
In 2018, after practicing law in Chicago for 6 years, I decided to take a break from years of studying and working to attend Le Cordon Bleu to study wines – just for fun. Soon after I started the programme, however, I knew that I found the real passion for my life which eventually prompted a significant career change."
Why did you choose to come to Le Cordon Bleu London?
"London is the 'food and wine capital of the world' and one of my favorite cities – and I couldn’t be happier for my choice! Not only I could study with Matthieu Longuère MS, a great teacher and a true master in the wine industry, Le Cordon Bleu London also helped me with access to wine tastings, demonstrations and masterclasses in wine and in cuisines, internships and other opportunities to learn outside the classroom. Indeed, I had such a great experience in the wine program at Le Cordon Bleu London – so much that I came back in 2019 for the cuisine training from our talented and knowledgeable teaching chefs who had already given me a lot of help and guidance while I was a wine student."
How did your culinary and wine training studying at Le Cordon Bleu London help you to start your career?
"The training in the wine and cuisine programmes built a very solid foundation for me in a relatively short period of time. It is true that schooling is not the only way to learn in hospitality; indeed, everyone could learn from 'getting their hands dirty'. For career changers like me when time is of essence, the systematic and intensive training helps us to have a jump-start and make us confident and comfortable in a new industry."
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
"Don’t start unless you mean it. Getting a job is easy in hospitality. Having a career, however, is difficult and requires a lot of dedication. Once you start, keep learning and learning, be it wine and food knowledge or understanding of the guests, service and the industry."
What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in a few words?
"Where creativity and dreams are nourished."
How would you describe your current role?
"I am the Assistant Head Sommelier at Dinings SW3. As our Head Sommelier has been vacant for the past 8 months, I have the opportunity to learn to manage the wine program by actually working on it and have gained so much truly valuable experience."
How did you get into this role?
"In April 2022, I was back in London from the USA for the WSET Diploma in Wines D3 exam. One day my chef friend Gail (who also graduated from Le Cordon Bleu) told me that Angelo Altobelli, then Beverage Director at Dinings SW3, would like to meet me after she told him about my passion for wine. I stopped by at the restaurant a few days later without expecting a job interview of any kind. After one hour of chatting about wine, wine study and my journey into wine, he asked 'when can you start?'. Five months later, I put the sommelier pin on my suit jacket and embarked on my first official job in hospitality. The transition might sound spontaneous, but I knew that it was the right decision."
What does your day-to-day look like?
"A typical double-shift day starts at 10am. I set up the wine service station before going onto my computer to catch up with administrative emails and correspondences with suppliers. When the service starts, I make sure that the wine and sake service goes smoothly and help my front-of-house colleagues as much as I can. The one-hour break in between lunch and dinner service is designated to some quite study. Dinner can be very busy – but nowadays in hospitality and particularly in London, busy is a good problem."
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
"Reaching for a balance among work, study and my personal life."
What is your inspiration?
"All the elites in the wine industry I met have taught me so much in so many different ways!"
What part of the role are you most passionate about?
"Introducing a new grape variety/region/wine style to my guests and seeing the smile emerging on their faces."
Do you have anything exciting coming up in the future?
"After winning the 2023 Gosset Matchmakers at Cord, I as part of the Team UK completed at the 10th Edition of Copa Jerez International Sherry Pairing Competition in Spain and came back with the Best Starter and Sherry Pairing award – I don’t think I have anything as exciting coming up any time soon. Time to go back to my books and focus on for my next stage of wine qualification!"
Inspired by Jiachen's journey? Find out how you can follow in her footsteps by finding out more about our Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management with Internship Pathway, Diplôme de Cuisine or by visiting our programmes page to view the full list of courses available and start your culinary journey today.