Singh is a first-generation Indian American, born and raised in Monterey, California. Her parents are Fiji Indians who migrated from Fiji to California. The family owned and ran an ethnic grocery store. Her father was a chef for 30 years.
Singh's first job in the restaurant business (outside the family business) was as a waitress at Bakers Square. After an aborted attempt to join the US Air Force (due to a failed medical exam), she applied for a job at a fine dining restaurant but needed better background on wines. She self-educated and re-applied for the job, impressing the interviewer who hired her and encouraged her to continue her studies. She became a sales clerk at Nielsen Bros. Market in Carmel, California which further exposed her to the wine business.
Singh passed the Court of Master Sommeliers' advanced certification test at age 21. In 2003, she passed the final exam to become the youngest woman ever to achieve the rank of Master Sommelier. (The master sommelier exam has an approximate 3% pass rate.)
Beginning at age 23, she served as sommelier at Chicago's restaurant, Everest. She later became Director of Wine and Spirits for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a large Chicago-based chain of restaurants.
Singh became especially well known for hosting the local Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) public television station WTTW's restaurant review show, Check, Please! and her regular appearances on Chicago Tonight for the "Ask Alpana" segment on Thursday evenings. She replaced the original host of Check, Please!, Amanda Puck, in October 2003 and remained in that role until 2013, when she was replaced by Catherine De Orio.
In 2012, Singh announced that she and her business partner would be creating The Boarding House, a five-story restaurant in Chicago.
Honors and accolades
- 2006 Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year by Bon Appetit magazine
- Best Sommelier in America by Wine and Spirits magazine
- Crain's Chicago Business 40 Under 40
- Food & Wine's 35 Under 35
- Best Sommelier (2004) by Chicago magazine
- 30 Under 30 (2006) by Jane magazine
- Profile at Master Sommeliers.org
- About Me at her official website
- Alpana Singh discusses restaurant venture (audio), Afternoon Shift, WBEZ, 7 May 2012.
- White, Sara D. "40 Under 40" profile, Crain's Chicago Business, 2001.
- "Sommelier Prodigy - Alpana Singh", Tastemakers profile at Food & Wine, September 2003.
- 'Check Please!' names Catherine De Orio new host
- "Alpana Singh steps out from the cellar to lead new restaurant", WBEZ.com, 7 May 2012.