Richard Vayda grew up in Chicago, and worked in restaurants there before moving to New York to become an opera singer. He sang for small opera companies but it was the nightly dinners with fellow singers that captivated him. He became a maître d’hôtel in New York before moving to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. When he returned from France, he took another maître d’ position, at a small Provencal restaurant, and started teaching wine and service classes at the French Culinary Institute. He later joined the staff of what was then the New York Restaurant School, and started teaching restaurant business courses. He has also taught in the restaurant management program at New York University. He opened a catering company in the 1980s and a contemporary American restaurant in Hunter, NY. He opened a café in South Norwalk, CT, which he operated for five years before selling it. Vayda, who holds a master’s degree in culinary management from NYU and a certificate from the Sommelier Society of America, has traveled extensively to the major winemaking areas of the world, he says, for the sole purpose of learning more about his lifelong interest.