What we drank
Emily: Armagnac & Zalotti £20
Hebe: A very large glass of Rosé £11
I’ve known Emily for a long time now and have seen her journey through the hospitality industry over the years. She has become an incredible bartender with a wealth of knowledge backing her up. I’ve been so excited to interview her and I’ve finally managed to type it up (weeks later).
Emily! Tell us a bit about you, for those who aren’t familiar with you…
I’m Emily, I’m French. I have blue hair. That’s mostly what people know about me. That’s usually the one way they spot me.
When did you start in hospitality?
I was 18. Now I’m about to turn 26. I still look very young, so when I tell people I’ve been working in hospitality for 8 years you can see them trying to calculate how that works.
Where did you start in hospitality?
I started bartending in France in what was literally like the dodgiest bar. Dodgiest, dirtiest dive bar I’ve ever come across. I won’t go too much into it, but literally, my boss was running the bar from prison. We’d only serve in plasticware, which we would re-wash by the way (just in case it doesn’t get any dodgier). I’d just send a text to my boss in prison to order the stock on a Saturday night and somehow by Monday, it was delivered. We don’t
What was it that made you stay in this industry?
I never imagined hospitality could be a sustainable job, let alone a career. The reason I got that job was
I think my favourite thing about that place is how we were three girls who were 24, had no clue what we were doing somehow running this bar and having the time of our life. I worked for them for nearly two years on and off and in the middle, I worked for a contemporary dance company. After that, I flew to Australia and that’s where everything sort of changed.
What did you do in Australia?
I mostly worked on the floor there, because I thought I was very confident with my English and in my first ever job interview I got the person ordered the most Australian order you can have, which is lemon, lime and bitters and a glass of sav blanc. I had no clue what they were ordering. I was so confused. I asked them to repeat it twice, went back to the bar and was like…I don’t know. That’s when I realised ‘ok you have a long way to go’, but all the people I ended up surrounding myself with took hospitality very seriously and worked their way up.
The two restaurants I worked for were run by very young, very strong, inspiring women who had literally worked their way up from being food runners at the age of 16 all the way to running bug restaurant chains. I saw that and I realised that I didn’t need Uni. That’s what Australia really brought me. Opening my eyes and mind to the opportunities you get working in bars and restaurants.
Somehow I fell in love and a lot of tequila later made a decision to move to London. I often say Merchant House was my first job in London, it wasn’t. I worked for a bar that I quit three times in three months. They were the kind of place where a girl wouldn’t get put on the bar. One day I overheard some of the owners and managers talking about getting a ‘hot’ girl on the bar and that’s the only job I’ve ever walked out of.
4 days later I got an interview with Merchant House, that was with you and Carey.
How long were you at Merchant House for?
I spent a year and a half at Merchant House, where I really got
I remember that Monday. It was the second-best day of my career. Liam Sparks sat with us and as a favour to Nate. It lasted I think over five hours. I filled an entire notebook worth of notes, he explained to me six times about column distillation. That was me really getting more serious about working in hospitality.
What’s does your average week look like?
The title of bartender at Callooh Callay is very broad, so a typical week is a little bit manic. I usually do 3-4 bar shifts a week. I’m also currently in charge of prep, so syrups and pre-batches for the week. I’m learning stock management, so I’m soon to be doing ordering and stock takes, which makes sense if you do all the pre-batching.
I’m also working on learning about drinks photography, once a week or once a month I get to spend a whole day doing drinks photography about all the events that are coming up.
I’m part of the William Grant 1887 collective. It’s a takes 20 bartenders (more or less) all around the UK, we meet up once a month to talk about all things hospitality.
At the moment Callooh Callay is offering us opportunities to take over the Jub Jub.
What’s your favourite part of working in hospitality?
I think a lot of people are saying the same, but it’s the team. You know, we call them bar families. You didn’t choose each other, but when the shift starts you’re going to have to make it work. You’re going to have to get along. The best teams I’ve had was at Merchant House and now Callooh Callay. You can agree to disagree as much as you want, but everybody is there to give the best service possible and you have to respect that.
The second part is that it never stops. It’s a job that people don’t think about how creative it can get. Because there is no straight path with it you don’t think about it as a career. Once you’re in there you realise there is no limit to what you can do, you can create your own job.
On the otherside, what your least favourite part of the industry?
The peer pressure into a very unhealthy lifestyle. We have to stop glorifying the sex drugs and rock n roll l
This is my one feminist question. Do you think being a woman has affected your career?
I think it’s like, if you’re any minority or overcome any challenge, you can’t let it stop you. Yeah you may have to work twice as hard to get there, but if you work twice as hard you’ll be twice as rewarded.
I remember a specific day where a guest walked up to the bar at Nuala and asked the bartender (who was very busy) ‘what’s a good Whisky’. The bartender just pointed to Redbreast 12 and the guest replied I’ll have two doubles. I realised that that had never happened to me. People would walk up to my station, look at me and with their eyes look for the closest male bartender to ask that same question. Sometimes they would ask me the question and I’d answer and they would straight away tell me it wasn’t good enough for them.
Subconsciously, I developed this method where I would bombard people with information from the get-go. I needed to, in order to gain their trust. After that, they would always come back and ask to be specifically served by me. Again, I’d have to work twice as hard for them to trust that I knew what I was talking about but I’d get such good feedback and loyalty from my guests, it would end up making me stand out as a bartender.
What has big the biggest challenge in your career so far?
I definitely consider myself an introvert and that has caused some big insecurities. Being surrounded by big, strong, alpha personalities. There’s that fear that if you shout louder you will be heard better and now I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s not true.
If you were to give one piece of advice to someone who wanted your job, what would it be?
Never stop learning. Learning in a humble way. Remembering that when you learn, you’re not learning for yourself, you’re learning for your guests.
Anything we can do to support you?
Grain Stories. Check it out and come along to the next one.
What’s your favourite drink at the moment?
Oh shit. The reason I chose here (The Artesian) is because that drink I’ve just had there is one of the top three drinks I’ve ever had. If we’re going more towards classics I’d say a Charlie Chaplin at the moment.
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