Last year’s winner of Best Business Community Leader, Percy Brandon, is general manager of Vintners Inn/John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa. Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Brandon moved to Canada in 1991, and Santa Rosa in 2000. He attended the Catholic University of Lima, Peru. In Vancouver, he attended the school of economics at the University of British Columbia.
He’s worked at Vintners Inn since August, 2000 and lives in a rustic farmhouse on property at Vintner’s Inn, with his wife, Olenka Orjeda, and twin toddler boys, Vincenzo and Giacomo.
What got you interested in your career? Has it been a lifelong interest?
From a young age I was interested in cooking and entertaining. I started working in a restaurant when I was 15 years old. Once I emigrated to Canada, necessity had me find a job in the restaurant business. I started in the kitchen and moved my way throughout the different areas of the business until I finally joined a management team. From then on, my career rocketed!
How long have you been in business?
I’ve been in hospitality, on and off, for most of my life. I tried other careers along the way, but I always came back to food, beverage and hospitality. I finally let the “bug” bite, and made it my main career in 1995.
What did you do professionally before you started your current career?
While in Canada, I worked in human services, both as a childcare caseworker and an immigrant services caseworker. I also worked as an Auxiliary Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.
Do you have a big family?
Oh yes! My mother was the second of 12 siblings; from her side I have 38 first cousins, most of whom I’m still in close contact with. From them, I have many nieces and nephews. My father was 12th of 13 siblings. I have relatives on his side I don’t even know all over the world. I’m number 11 of 12, although we didn’t all grow up in the same house.
What do you love to do outside of work?
I love to travel to places in the U.S. and around the world. My wife and I love driving to San Francisco to enjoy the theatre, opera and the ballet. Of course, we pair that with dining at various restaurants in the city.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
After so many life adventures, to finally find the love of my life. Olenka is my soul mate.
Are you a risk-taker?
Absolutely. I left home when I was 19 years old and jumped on a plane from Lima, Peru to Vancouver, BC, Canada. I didn’t know anyone, hardly spoke the language, but was filled with huge dreams and passion to prosper and be successful. After 10 years in Canada, I packed the household in a five-ton truck and headed to Northern California in search of new adventures. Now after 20 years, I’m living the dream.
What’s the best New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made?
To leave home, determined to search for a new beginning, circa 1981.
What’s your strongest sense?
What’s your all-time favorite town or city?
San Francisco. There are so many interesting neighborhoods, great restaurants and amazing new opportunities.
What’s your favorite subject to discuss?
Food. I absolutely love to talk about flavors, styles, presentations, recipes, origin of food as well as ingredients.
As a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
I wanted to be a doctor.
If you could spend an hour doing absolutely anything, what would you do?
I’d like to get a massage.
What advice can you give about how to conquer fear?
Charge ahead and take the risk.
Is there a family tradition that has a special meaning for you?
Since we have no family close to us in California, Olenka and I created a tradition a few years ago called “The After Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Celebration.” We host a big party for friends who share supper with us as our chosen family, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. That’s full of fun and warm moments.
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