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This Sommelier Series is supported by The Foley Food & Wine Society

Marcello Cancelli
Area Wine Director, Boka Restaurant Group

One of the veteran sommeliers in the Chicago scene, Marcello Cancelli was first introduced to fine wines in an incredibly romantic way. Cancelli recalls finishing up his shift each night at Jean Claude Bistro in the late 90s, to gather around a table with fellow servers and the late legendary chef Jean-Claude Poilevey smoking cigarettes, sipping wine and talking life, politics, and whatever came to mind. These intimate evenings would spark Cancelli’s passion for fine wine and send him on his path to becoming a sommelier. In the years leading up to this experience, Cancelli emigrated from Brazil to pursue a career in theater. To make ends meet, he became a waiter at Jean Claude Bistro and the rest would prove to be history. The self-taught sommelier took his nose for notes to four-star restaurant Carlos’, to become the restaurant’s sommelier and command a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list of over 2,000 selections. Over the years, Cancelli has become a decorated professional in his field, creating original beverage programs as well as developing award-winning wine lists for every restaurant he’s touched throughout his career. The Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers cherishes the rich relationship between generations of families cultivating vineyards to create a wine that makes its way to a cellar and finally to be carefully chosen by a sommelier for a guest to treasure sip by sip. Recently, Cancelli was promoted to Area Wine Director for the Boka Group, overseeing the wine programs at Swift & Sons, Momotaro, Bellemore, and Cira. Boasting nearly three decades of experience, Cancelli still finds himself as enamored with wine as ever before, and he doesn’t see curtain call happening any time soon.

Olivia Noren
Food & Beverage Manager at Sofitel Group

Chicago native Olivia Noren likens being a sommelier to a mind reader. Guests loosely describe a desired flavor profile, and the sommelier then translates that abstract idea into the perfect bottle of wine from the restaurant’s extensive selection. But it’s not clairvoyance; it’s taken years of experience and study for Noren to develop these powers. The Lincoln Park High School graduate was first introduced to fine dining on a school trip to Charlie Trotter’s, as a reward for hard work in the classroom. 

It wasn’t until Noren moved to New York City in 2008 that she would get a behind-the-scenes look at how Michelin-starred restaurants operate, working as a food runner. Noren quickly found herself falling in love with the art of food and drink in the big apple, and she began working her way through the ranks from food runner to server to bartender. In 2013, Noren began studying to be a sommelier while bartending at Montmartre. It was there that she crossed paths with seasoned wine director Keri Levens, who quickly became a mentor. Within the next few years, Noren shifted from managing a 200-bottle selection to a 15,000-bottle collection and constructing menu pairings at Le Bernardin, a Michelin 3-star restaurant. Noren returned to Chicago in 2017 as an Assistant Sommelier at Sepia before transitioning to being the Beverage Director & Consultant at Michelin-star Japanese fine dining restaurant Yūgen. Presently, Noren holds the title of Food & Beverage Manager at luxury hotel Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile.

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