“Anyone interested in eating in a restaurant should be required to work in one first.” One can really only truly understand this if they work in the industry.
Oh the things we see, hear, & do in bars & restaurants! May 2017 marked my 20yr anniversary & it’s been a helluva ride. An accurate description of me on the job would be something my friend Heidi’s sister said to me one night about 15yrs ago that I’ll never forget:
‘Karin, I’ve been watching you tonight, you have this incredible gift of making every single person feel like the most important person in the room!’
Right on! I’ve always quoted Confucius when explaining my passion: ‘When you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life!’ It’s nice to be appreciated when you’re doing something you love – I seemed to excel at the lost art of customer service.
I spent the first 7yrs as a bartender, landing my first job with none other than Club Med. I talk about the importance & necessity of travel & experiences rather than acquiring stuff in my blog To Spend or Not To Spend: Experiences vs. Things. With only my bartending certificate in hand & zero actual experience, I stepped behind the bar for the first time in Eleuthera, Bahamas for my first contract, then moving onto Provo, Turks & Caicos for my next.
What a year – a very drunken one. I was once given a gold pendant from a guest, right off their very own neck, that said ‘Party Animal,’ as they stated “I’ve never seen anyone party like you!” After that whole Mexico fiasco (The Importance of Finding Yourself) & regrettably back in Montreal, I worked at a variety of places, trying to gain as much experience in as many areas as I could, sure one day I’d eventually be running my own place.
From the St. Laurent nightclubs with the barely there dresses, making sure to guard my buns from the sleezy bosses with the grabby hands always trying to make a move; to the pool halls scattered with drug dealers, men in suits & tattooed bikers, thankful for the bouncer breaking up any scuffles; to pubs like the Peel Pub (Montreal’s most popular party place & watering hole) with really cheap beer & dollar shot specials – me navigating my way through the obstacle course of drunken patrons with my tray overflowing with shots in my one hand, high above my head & 5 pitchers of beer in the other. What that place (& the people in it) looked like at 3am when the lights came on I dare not say.
There was the summer season spent on a river cruise ship out of the Old Port of Montreal. We’d cruise on the St. Lawrence, me getting a kick out of ‘standing still’ bartending, but constantly tilting left or the right as the boat did. (Sounds silly now, but that was my first time working on a boat.) We had Molson boat parties on Friday nights, setting sail at midnight til 3am, with people at the bar four rows deep, so thirsty we were unable to get them their drinks fast enough. I did many a banquet, wedding & private party, sometimes through friends but mostly through catering companies. The coolest place I ever worked was this millionaire’s underground bunker/loft.
Was that place ever something!
You walked in & the first thing that greeted you was a Ducati motorcycle & an F1 car. To the left there was a big lounge area, with sofas & hightops, just like a bar. In the middle was a huge kitchen, with an island/countertop at least 20ft long. There was a wine cellar housing hundreds of bottles of the finest wines. In the back, there was a poker room, with a built-in black leather poker table, with drink holders & surrounding round red & black leather couch; behind that room, a gorgeous rectangular marble hot tub that could fit at least 8 & next to that a marble Roman-type shower that could probably fit close to a dozen. I heard rumors about the wild after-parties that took place there after our shift ended.
But after the trauma of 2004, everything changed. 2:43am: “I Hope My Murder Wakes My Neighbors.”
I couldn’t bartend anymore. I couldn’t stand being another lonely man’s eye candy, making conversation while he ogled my breasts. Rule #1 in the bars: “Don’t ever tell clients you have a boyfriend / girlfriend. You’re single, got it? ‘Gotta ‘Sell the Dream!'” Rule #2 was: ‘Don’t ever refuse a shot from a client! You lose 2 sales, yours & his!’
.. as long as they weren’t trying to make us into sleazes or alcoholics ..
I was no longer interested in selling the dream. I had just lived a nightmare. And with that I started to do the job I swore I’d never do: Server. I used to always say, ‘Screw servers, they’re servants, just running around in circles all night.’ I thought I was better than them, thought I was hot shit. Bartenders can be a cocky bunch – I was no exception. ‘I don’t run around. I stay right here; they can come to me.’
Not to mention bartenders make more money. But then there’s all that goes with it – that damned inventory, that damned restocking of the fridge, the damned balancing of your cash – while you’re somewhere between tipsy, drunk & hammered. Having dinner at 4am. Getting home when the sun came up. Sleeping all day. Rinse, repeat.
My favorite (albeit cockiest) memory of bartending was at Club Med Turkoise, Turks & Caicos. One night reception raced over to our dinner table to let us know they were expecting the arrival of a Calvin Klein model any minute. I’ve never seen a group of women jump up from a table & flock to the bathroom mirrors so fast. With the start of my shift fast approaching, I hurriedly took my place behind the bar, knowing that’d be the first place they’d hit upon arriving. “Who is it, who is it?’ is all we could think of.
I gave them a ‘Hey,’ as casually as I could, & asked them what they’d like to drink. “Make us something good,” Joe says. (In Montreal my friends & I concocted a drink that became so popular they began selling it at our favorite hangout, Cheers. We named it after a popular movie at the time,”Twister.” Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, orange juice, 7up, & a splash of grenadine.)
“This is really good. You know what you can hang with us,” Joe says. To which I replied, “Oh no you can hang with me.” Cocky? Fuck yeah. But it worked.
Next thing I know I spent the entire week hanging with Antonio, sometimes his cousin Joe, I met his sister & some other family/entourage members. I had dinner with them in the restaurant after it closed to the guests, so he wouldn’t be disturbed & we could eat in peace. We took dips in the pool, chatting away, & some days I lay on the beach next to him suntanning, opening my eyes & sneaking a peek every once in awhile in disbelief, trying to memorize his tattoos & I guess his body in general loll I was after all, just 26, & it was the first time I’d ever hung out with someone so famous, & so damn beautiful! (That was back when I was young & foolish & stupidly focused only on outer beauty.)
Some afternoons we played a few games of pool at the table by the bar, with the occasional coworker walking by mouthing ‘Oh my God,’ ‘What the fuck’ & other ‘niceties,’ visibly annoyed. Perhaps they thought I had ‘snagged’ him; but no, there was no snagging. We just hung out like buddies cuz I treated him like a normal person. Secretly I was swooning on the inside; of course I was – he was kind, beautiful, friendly, respectful, funny & did I mention drop dead gorgeous?
But looking back now, I’m happy with my memory, just as it is 😉 It was a week I’ll never forget.
You have no idea who I am, but thanks for the memories Antonio xo