Drinks with Hebe & Steph Dicamillo May
FAM bar, Duke Street
What we drank
Steph: London Aperitivo Spritz £10.50
Hebe: Glass of Portuguese white wine £5
Steph is one of those amazing women who has so many interesting stories. I wish I could have put them all into this interview. She’s dynamic, engaging and truly knows what she’s talking about.
Tell us a bit about you…
I’m Steph Dicamillo, obviously. I guess the easiest way is to describe my journey to London. I’ve always worked in this industry, but in quite a few different parts of it. Long story long, I was living in St Louis, working at a hotel in sales but I had always wanted to move to New York. I’d always wanted to move there and my friend said I’ve got a couch, what are you doing, just come. So I was like, fuck it. I quit my job, packed up, moved to New York and was on her couch. I started working at American Whisky in midtown, and it opened my eyes to the cocktail world and I was hooked. I never looked back at the hotel world again.
I met my now husband, Freddy at Camp Runamok and we started dating. He then applied for a job back in London and I was like oh shit what am I supposed to do? I’ve only just met you and he asked, would you consider moving to London? And I was like, actually, ok why not!
Now, I’m working with Atom brands. I as That
What’s your typical working day/ week like?
When I was doing the UK it was way more hectic than it is now, because I was travelling. For some reason when you’re in one country you tend to travel more because it’s so local. Now that I have a bigger area, you have to plan it a bit more, so it’s a bit more normal.
So usually a week….actually more recently it’s been at home quite a bit, working on a lot of that back end stuff. Training manuals, getting our activations planned and what does that look like. Doing a lot of stuff with the design team.
I usually get up by 8 am, I’ve just never been a sleeper. Nobody else is awake, so when there’s stuff I really need to concentrate on, it’s good to do that. I try to go to the gym in the afternoon and then back in for more emails. There’s a lot of logistical planning.
So, how long have you been working in hospitality?
Somebody asked me that the other day and I think it’s 20 years. I’ll be 36 this summer and I think I started bussing tables at 16. My mum and my brother always worked in hospitality. There’s a little family restaurant in our town and I started working there when I was in high school. Bussing tables first, then I started serving and then eventually I was in the bakery, I was in the kitchen at some point, bartending at some point. I worked there through college, so probably 4 /5 years off and on.
I always knew I wanted to work in restaurants and I think that probably solidified it.
What’s your favourite part of working in hospitality?
People. It’s the people. I miss bartending the most because of those random conversations and who you get to meet, those regulars. The last office job I had was sales for weddings at a hotel and I used to be like…I hate people! In that kind of context, people are just completely different, they’re demanding, they’re high pressure. You’re never doing a good enough job. Whereas in the bar their guards are down, they’re more open. Especially in the US.
Then the bar side, just the creativity of it. You’re in the same venue, but it’s not the same on any given day.
What’s your least favourite part?
The cool kids club. I think especially being at a higher level, the exclusivity just isn’t nice. I think all of us probably have a little bit of insecurity still and then when you see that sort of circle, it makes me really sad. I remember when I was first bartending in New York the reps would come in and would just be like, oh where’s your bar manager and I’m like you just blatantly ignored us, bartenders. So I’m always really conscious of not to only ask for the person who makes the decisions and make everyone else feel unimportant.
It’s my big goal for our advocacy program this year, opening and bringing more people into all training and events out there. Because five years ago I didn’t know this existed. I didn’t know this world was here. If it wasn’t for a few key people in the USA who introduced me to the USBG and all that was available, I would still be working at a hotel, nowhere near as happy as I am now.
Do you think being a woman has affected your career?
It’s affected it. I don’t know if it’s been good or bad, but it’s definitely affected it. I think in the US it was a little bit easier because hospitality is looked at as more of a professional career and it feels a little bit more balanced with women and men. Here in London there’s definitely been times where I felt just straight up, like no you’re a woman you don’t know what’s right. I had a man once tell me my opinion didn’t matter. But it’s only probably helped because I’ve become very articulate when I have to say something.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this career?
Insecurity, probably. Recognising if you’re doing a good job. Trying not to play that cool game. Having the confidence to do a good job.
Logistically, visa stuff is really hard. Getting people to understand that I did know what I was doing, even though I came from the US.
And then learning
What trends have you been seeing lately?
The trend I’m still seeing is the themed menu and the very concept menu. I think those are going to peak and fall really soon because people are going back more towards this type of bar (FAM). Bar bars and less of the conceptual, I’m only going to go there once type bar. Back to more just…bars.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who wanted your job?
To do a lot. To not say no to anything, to jump in feet first at any opportunity you can. Being patient and understanding that it’s not all in your control.
What’s your favourite drink at the moment?
At the moment? No, it always is a michelada. Goddammit, I will make them a thing over here if it’s the last thing I do.
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