Blues Kitchen, Camden
What we drank
Emilie: Marmalade Cup – Four Roses, grapefruit liquor, lemon, marmalade £9.75
Hebe: Espresso Martini £10.50
We also had a cheeky Rye to finish the night off.
Emilie is a bold tenacious woman. After working in this industry for many years, she has collected a wonderful array of talents. Everything she talks about is filled with spirit and you can’t help but be swept up with her enthusiasm.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF…
I’m Emilie and obviously, I’m French. I’ve been in London for 9 years and basically, I started here, at the Blues Kitchen. This is why I decided to come here. I’m just a small French woman who always worked behind the stick in France. I spent 2 years in New York as a spirits portfolio manager but came back to London to open a pop-up bar at Vaulty Towers. Now I’m a global ambassador for Ferdinand’s, Bonpland and doctor Polidori.
I did back and forth between all the sides of this industry until I realised the brand work was my favourite and I could combine sales, bar work, marketing etc. When I was a sales rep I missed the bar and when I came back behind the bar, I missed the work on the field. Being Mrs Ferdinand’s now, I don’t need to choose what I prefer in this industry.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN HOSPITALITY?
I’m 36 now and I was behind the stick at 15 years old.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO HOSPITALITY?
I was studying art and working in bars/ restaurants to pay for my studies. It was a small job for me, just to pay for my rent and studies. I come from Armagnac and when I went to Paris (I followed a band) I discovered what it was to be a bartender.
You have to imagine 20 years ago a woman bartender, it was nothing, we were nothing. There was nothing cool about it. Guest shifts at this time didn’t exist and I was pouring Picon bier (the only cocktail I think I was making was Ti Punch and Caipirinha).
But I was obsessed with England. My favourite movie was This is England and I was watching Ab Fab. The art, I was really punk, obsessed with the Sex Pistols, The Strangler, Joy Division and the Who. Without really understanding English it was still the coolest country in the world, especially from my deep countryside. I always said, when I’m 25 years old I will live in Camden. One day I just literally wake up and I said fuck it. I left my flat in Paris, left my friends, left my work. I had £100 in my pocket and took the Eurostar, ended up in London.
First things first I found a shitty hostel and just walked around Camden with my resume. That’s when I saw the Blues Kitchen. I was like, I want to work here.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL WORKING DAY/ WEEK ENTAIL?
So now, I don’t have an office and I don’t have a bar to go to with a rota. My day to day is to first organise my schedule. I’m not an early bird. I wake up early, work in front of my laptop with my two phones and two litres of coffee. Then I go out to visit my customers. It’s trying to be organised, make phone calls, a lot of reading and trying to balance my week with venue visits and admin. I have to deal with a lot of markets, so sometimes without noticing I get stuck on my computer trying to juggle sales in the UK with my next visit to the U.S and brand development etc.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF WORKING IN HOSPITALITY?
Meeting people. I love people and I hate people. The most sociable anti-social woman you can find. I think, besides my knowledge of booze, the thing I know the best is people. I’m good with people and I hate to deal with people, but I love to meet people. I get to extend my culture, I get to share knowledge. The things I know, I would never know if I wasn’t working in the hospitality business.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE PART?
I think…I’m really organised. I’m really rock and roll, but I’m also really organised. My work now is to deal with different markets and people. It’s the feeling of being out of control. For example, now, I’m waiting on someone and they don’t read their emails. They don’t reply to you, they cancel last minute. Everything being out of my control, when I should be in control.
DO YOU THINK BEING A WOMAN HAS AFFECTED YOUR CAREER? HAS IT BEEN POSITIVE, NEGATIVE OR A BIT OF BOTH?
100%. If I was not a woman, I would not be in London. I decided to leave France to become a bartender and feel legit. Here, being a woman bartender, not a problem, never a problem. It was a problem in France.
Now I’m not a bartender, I’m a brand ambassador, it’s come back to being a problem. I feel I need to prove, I need to show you. I know how you make pisco, I know about Rhum Agricole etc, but because I’m working for a brand, I don’t want people to think I know only this brand. I actually have a big background of spirit behind me. I picked this brand because I love it. It’s about stories and people, I work only with my gut and love to grow with the brand.
The problem with being a woman for me now is that maybe I have more to prove. I’m a fighter. The most difficult thing is to be French, living with an English guy and representing a German product. I need to explain more why I’m doing that, rather than just talk about the product. Before a presentation (not everywhere of course) I find I need to give a little resume.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU’VE HAD being a Brand Ambassador?
I have to be honest, working without a schedule. You pick your own schedule, your own challenge. I don’t need somebody to push me to work, but it’s hard. Ferdinand’s are in Germany and I’m the only one here. I have a really supportive husband, but still. Waking up every day, giving yourself goals. This is the biggest challenge for me, being efficient, creating your own schedule and organising trips/ visits in other markets, the infinite emails back and forth. I have to stop micromanaging and learn to delegate. It’s always about feeling in control and moreover because I care, my enthusiasm and passion sometimes are tiring for me (and others as well haha).
WHAT TRENDS HAVE YOU’VE BEEN SEEING, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS NEXT?
Bartender guest shifts. For me, hospitality is a trend in itself. If I was 20 years old and someone asked me what are you doing for a living, I would be like, I’m a bartender. Whereas 20 years ago…So, I would like to be an artist, painting but actually I’m working behind the bar, but I don’t want to do that my whole life. This is why I think the next trend is hospitality itself.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE WANTING YOUR JOB WHAT WOULD IT BE?
RUN! Ahaha, no I’m joking. Shut up and learn. Observe.
IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO SUPPORT YOU?
Ferdinand’s! Mrs Ferdinand’s in Da Place! Let me take over your bar and let me tell you stories, I am working with amazing genuine and passionate people at Ferdinand’s and I would like to spread the world!
TO FINISH OFF, WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DRINK?
Everyday for the rest of my life, Rye whiskey, neat. But right now, I’m obsessed with Americano. I’m tasting all the bitter I can find on the planet. Amaro, bitter and vermouth. I am obsessed.
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