Maja is a breath of fresh air. Her bright energy is infectious. After our interview, I looked at pictures of her cat (it was truly a highlight of my day) over an espresso martini. Shouldn’t we all spend more time like this?
Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name’s Maja. I’m a bartender/ barista. I’m 27, I like cats and I’m the Grey Goose coffee ambassador, it’s a relatively new role. It’s quite exciting and it’s never really been done before.
How long have you been working in hospitality?
I actually poured my first pint when I was 7 years old. It wasn’t child abuse I promise. My dad had seasonal bars by the lake every summer that we used to stay go. So I poured my first pint just standing on a beer case. So since then I’ve kind of been doing bits and bobs in hospitality. My first ever job in hospitality was when I was 15. It was a crappy bar on the beach by a lake, so it wasn’t anything glamorous, but it was a job!
What got you into that, was it just a job that came up?
Actually back then, at 15, I also had one idea, which I didn’t realise would become my career – I really wanted to be a bartender. Back then, in my head, I had this idea the being a bartender is ‘like super cool’ (and for the record – it is). Another factor was the fact that my dad has always been involved in bars and restaurants. He’s always been close to hospitality and I just kind of stuck with it.
What does your typical working day/ week entail? I’m guessing with your job it’s never the same.
Well, no, as I don’t really have a typical day, being a brand ambassador is a super dynamic role. There will be some weeks when it’s very quiet, some can be admin heavy when I get to catch up on certain things. And on some weeks, cool requests come through last minute and I end up having a fully packed week. But it’s mainly filled with trainings and visits to cool London bars.
What’s your favourite part of working in hospitality?
Seeing bartenders creativity, for sure. It’s also cool seeing it from a different perspective now. And the fact that London’s industry is very much like a community, so I guess these two things – creativity and community.
What’s your least favourite part?
Do you know what, I was actually thinking about this one. I don’t know if I have one. Maybe back from when I was working in hospitality and there would be certain customers, for example. The thing is that human beings can be very rude. You see these people and you’re like, that person definitely never worked in hospitality. It comes down to always treating people with respect.
Do you think being a woman has affected your career? Has it been positive, negative or a bit of both?
If I have to be honest, even if it has affected me I’ve chosen not to focus on it. Maybe it’s the way I was raised – I’m Polish so maybe it’s that Polish stubbornness. I know it’s going to sound really bad but I’ve always been quite unapologetic for who I am. Obviously, if you do that you need to be humble at the same time. You have to learn to admit when you’re wrong. I’ve always taken that approach of if someone else can why can’t I? So yeah, if being a woman has affected me at all, I just did not pay attention to it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had in this line of work?
I guess how different it is from working behind the bar. You kind of have to realise that it is a different side of the industry. It’s still the drinks industry but it’s no longer being behind the bar. You’re talking to bartenders mainly, not customers. Whilst it’s loads of fun, it is very different. So I guess getting used to that and getting used to the more corporate side of things.
And then there’s also the fact that the role that I am in is very new. It’s never really been done before, so I kind of had to pave my own way. That was quite challenging, but it was also a very fun challenge!
What trends have you’ve been seeing, what do you think is next?
I have to say – definitely coffee! It’s something that we’re seeing more often across the industry. If you look at the place that we’re in (Grind London), these guys are doing amazing coffee cocktails. Bartenders are actually becoming a lot more interested in speciality coffee as well, rather than just putting instant in, which is very cool. There’s a bigger demand for better ingredients and better quality.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting your job what would it be?
That’s a hard one, as my job hasn’t really been done before and the predicament I am in is very unique. But I guess coming from both a coffee and cocktails background would be one piece of advice! And equal focus on the quality of both.
Is there anything we can do to support you?
Go follow me on social media. I post little educational coffee stories from time to time, too. Oh, and drink better coffee!
To finish off, what is your favourite drink?
I will give you a crappy answer that I give everyone, which is I don’t have one. I guess right now what I would drink is Martini Fiero with soda or a Grey Goose with soda. It really varies – there are times when I’ll just have a neat Scotch too!
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