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Wednesday
Nov282007

My Interview Got 86'd: Part One

So just before Thanksgiving I got an exciting email from an editor of another website. It's a website about careers and he wanted to email-interview me about bartending. I gladly said yes, in an attempt to spread the word a lil' bit about this website. So last week, in lieu of posting here for you, my faithful and beloved patrons, I spent a few too many hours filling out his interview... only to find out someone else beat me to it. Turns out he sent a request to a number of online bartenders and posted the first one he got back. What an ass. Anyway, karma's got a bite and I'm content to know that some bartender some where is making him wait 10 minutes for his Cosmo just because he's got a funny feeling about this guy.

So as to make the effort not in vain, I figured I'd share the interview here with you guys, in two installments. Next Monday, I'm looking forward to a post from my friend and flair bartender Joey Stepp. Joey is a performer and professional barman of the truest sense from West Virginia who will share some insight on flair bartending. That'll be Monday. And now, for my brilliant interview...

Can you describe IN DETAIL your career path in becoming a Bartender? Training?

I thought being a bartender on a cruise ship would be a great way to spend the summer after my freshman year of college. I enrolled for a two-week class at the Minnesota School of Bartending, and even though I never ended up on a cruise ship, I landed my first job bartending at a country club. From there, a job bartending was always a nice supplement while I was in college studying for an English degree. For the first five years after graduation I generally had a day job while bartending on the side a couple nights a week. Eventually, I realized that my bartending job was what had been sustaining me, both financially and personally.

I've gained valuable training in almost every establishment that I have worked at, though the best experiences are the ones where you are a part of the opening staff of a brand new bar. One restaurant I opened focused heavily on scotch and wine and provided me with extensive training in fine dining service, as well as an education in scotch and wine. The last establishment I opened and worked for two years in was a flair bar, where entertainment is the focus of service. I was paid to learn flair bartending from some of the best flair bartenders in the world. Other than that, training is an ongoing process: reading industry magazines, attending conventions, participating in local promotions and tastings, and sharing stories with other bartenders.

What advice would you give to those seeking a career as a Bartender? Do you recommend the bartending schools or should someone learn on the job?

Having graduated from a bartending school myself, I won't slight the work they do. Bartending schools are effective at teaching things like basic mixology and mechanics such as freepour. The irony is that you can generally learn in your first three days on the job most everything you learned in a couple weeks at school. However, the best thing about a bartending school is that they will usually help you land your first job, which can be no small task in a competitive market.

If bartending is something you really want to do, be willing to start at the bottom. That means a few different things. At busy establishments, be willing to work as a bouncer or a busser; many bars only promote bartenders from within their current staff. Otherwise, be willing to work a year or two at a less popular joint like a bowling alley or a small pub. And be willing to work the slow shifts: usually daytime or Monday/Tuesday nights.

Bartenders at great establishments can make $40-80,000 working four nights a week - I've met flair bartenders in Las Vegas whose salary is well into six figures. But they've paid their dues. Jobs like that take years of experience to get into. The top earners in any field usually have the resume to justify it.

Go to Part Two:

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Reader Comments (1)

Whatever training it is along the way that you have had, it has very much paid off! You are BY FAR the best bartender I have ever had the privledge of receiving a drink from! What can I say... you sure know how to impress your audience!!:)

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal

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