My Story Started at GRCC: Bistro Bella Vita’s Tristan Walczewski says GRCC business, culinary classes prepared him for success

Tristan Walczewski sitting at a desk looking at a wine glass.

Tristan Walczewski believes in taking “intelligent risks.”

Start at Grand Rapids Community College and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful.

When an unconventional opportunity came along, Walczewski grabbed it, confident in all he’d learned at GRCC.

“My first year spent studying at GRCC was actually Music Education,” he said. “After revisiting my study, I chose to transition to business.”

Walczewski went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management, with a minor in international finance, from Davenport University.

Shortly after graduating, he decided to pursue a new goal: sommelier certifications. He earned an Advanced Sommelier Certification last year and hopes to gain a Master Sommelier Diploma in 2023. 

“I knew I wanted to do something unconventional, that was dynamic and fast-paced,” he said. “As I was completing my undergrad, an opportunity arose that I never considered as a career path and I was fortunate to be granted the opportunity to try it.”

He’s now general manager of Bistro Bella Vita in downtown Grand Rapids and beverage director for the dining establishment’s parent company, Essence Restaurant Group. In these two roles, he draws equally on what he’s learned in his sommelier studies and in business classes as GRCC.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my speech and communication course along with the very helpful Microsoft classes,” he said. “Professional communication and an understanding of finance are vital in any position.

“The GRCC professors were educated in their fields, and many were working actively in their field in addition to teaching, which I found to be helpful in understanding the real world application of the curriculum.”

Let GRCC help you start your story. The first chapter starts at

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