Well, I paid my way through high school with my first hospitality job at a pizzeria where I manned the phones, delivered, and even made pizza from ages 15-18. At 22, after my last college scholarship check cashed, I took a chance on a bartender school an hour away. Before I even finished, I was already “ignorance on fire” by putting applications in all over town. Miraculously someone gave me a shot with such limited experience. In hindsight, it turned out that it would be one of the very best places I have ever worked. That is, until it closed down for renovations and I moved to Las Vegas to ultimately work with Tao Group. And the rest is history.
What’s your favorite cocktail at the moment and why?
The Old Fashioned. It’s the original cocktail. It’s delicious. It’s versatile in choice of spirit or spin off and it’s genius in its simplicity. For the longest time now, its method of preparation is the measuring stick I use on any new or unproven bar program I encounter.
Tell us how it felt to be competing in the Masters of the Craft competition.
It felt very humbling, honorable and exciting. To know that over 2400 people took a chance to compete against their former selves was inspiring. As each round concluded with my name being announced, I felt an undeniable sense of pride and accomplishment swell that brought me back to my younger days competing in basketball. It feels good to know that beverage is beginning to take an equal footing to culinary in our company’s eyes and in the world.
Did you learn anything new (about yourself, techniques, etc) while competing in Masters of the Craft?
I learned what our secret ingredients of pineapple tomatillo and dragonfruit tastes like. I learned that my passion for beverage is stronger than any nerves I encountered in any competitive situation. I learned that the Marriott Food and Beverage operation at the headquarters is even more awesome than I had ever even imagined!
What is your biggest inspiration when it comes to creating new cocktails?
My inspiration comes from things I love in everyday life and experiences that move me. Focus on the flavor is my mantra. Second to that is narrowing down the purpose of the cocktail – is it a competition, menu item, Instagram photo, party cocktail? etc.
What’s the most important advice you could share with someone new to the business?
Your growth towards success in this industry is dependent on the following cocktail recipe:
1 part learning the past, present, and future of the cocktail world
1 part consuming beverage experiences
1 part actively creating experiences for others
1 part teaching others what you have learned
Fill with earnings, lifestyle, friends, networks, travel, and tests.
Garnish with some gamesmanship, a smile, and a positive outlook.
Photography courtesy of Marriott International
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