Yanran: The Rise of the Critic

Sometimes change provides opportunity for growth. Yanran saw her opportunity to grow as a food and wine critic and ended up becoming even more. Let’s find out more about yanran’s story.

I was amazed when I sat down with Yanran and she gave me a summarized description of herself: project manager, press spokesperson, food and wine critic, writer, e-commerce entrepreneur, president of Dongcheng Catering Association and a mom of a daughter. She spoke of her titles as blasé as a math teacher counting numbers in sequence, her soft voice carrying the atmosphere while she made tea for me at the same time. I couldn’t wait to hear more.

“Wine critic” was her first well-known title. She found her interest in wine 10 years ago while working for a fortune 500 company as a project manager. In order to understand wine more, she tried wines in diverse places and wrote reviews—or “wine-tasting notes” in her words—on the most professional websites at the time. Because of her precise and vivid description of the wines’ taste and textured flavors, many professionals left comments to approve her critic pieces. With such encouragement, she insisted on writing and sharing her opinions of the grapey thirst-quencher.

With a few years’ writing foundation, one day Yanran was invited to attend a test event organized by the Guangdong Wine Association, where she ended up becoming one of 12 people as the first members’ group of “Guangdong Senior Wine Tasters.” She’s the only one from Dongguan. “It represents how I became a master from a greenhorn,” she said, “Some experts are more theorized, whereas I have more practical experience.” She used a metaphor to describe how she gained certificates to verify her professionalism later on, “I get on the train first, and buy the ticket after.” She’s now the Senior Certified Instructor of the U.S. ISG (International Sommelier Guild), National Sommelier, etc.

“Passion and interest are the best teachers.”

The title of project manager to a less demanding role bought her more time for her side hustle. Over time, her reputation accumulated, and her pieces kept showing up in the public eye. One day, an editor from the local newspaper approached her and encouraged her to write as a food critic, thus she started on her merry way.

When her critic position occupied most of her time, she decided to quit and start her own business, including content output from her WeChat account, PR management and e-commerce. Three years ago, interestingly she created her own recipe of adding black truffle into local la chang (sausage) and sold it to followers all around China, showing her real sense of entrepreneurialship. This year, she successfully sold local lychees priced at 188 RMB/500g. “Each lesson in your life can be a good experience, as long as you know how to digest it,” she commented, regarding the challenges she has faced. I was curious about how Yanran balances her job and family—this time, she didn’t smile when answering— “I felt guilty toward my girl when I became busier and busier.”

A book was placed in front of me, written by her. “Reviewing food and wine occupied my mealtimes with my daughter. I realized that morning time was the time in which I could fully be with her.” She sipped her tea and continued, “She happened to show interest in drawing but was lacking confidence at that time. So, I encouraged her to draw with a pen on paper and I would “draw” with breakfast items on the plate.” Ultimately, 65 of more than 300 created breakfasts featured in her book. “Passion and interest are the best teachers,” she told me.

Recently, Yanran has gained one more title—the president of the Dongcheng Catering Association. Originally her position was general secretary, during which time she made a proposal with details and presented it to the related department, with the slogan “To build Dongcheng Catering Association intow the most energetic catering association in the Greater Bay Area in three years.” Finally, she was nominated as the president. “I think the only unchangeable thing in life is that we keep changing. All we need to do is do what we need to do, and do it well.” Such a thought-provoking sentence. I lifted my tea, and tasted it.