1. How did you enter the hospitality industry?
It was very random actually seeing as I was 22, had been completely tee-total and therefore had not even been in a bar, let alone seen or drunk a cocktail. I was studying at Hull University, just back from a semester in the Alps when they began recruiting for a local American Diner. My sister got a job as a server, so I thought I’d apply for the bar. Got the job, did 3 weeks of intensive training and then it opened, We learnt so much – the provenance and ABV of all 15 beers, all the ABVs of the spirits we sold and full specs of all the bar food and restaurant dishes as well as the full spec of the 30 cocktails on the menu.
There was also a huge impetus on service standards and customer care and I loved it, it changed the course of my life. After the first couple of shifts once we went ‘live’, I asked to go full-time as I had discovered finally what I wanted to be when I grew up!
2. You have won several bar awards over the years, which one stands out and why?
Probably the Publican bar person of the year award. It might not be as prestigious as some of the others I’ve won but the pool of entrants was deeper and the judging panel more diverse so to be recognised by them was pretty special. It was my first national award with a big, black tie event on Park Lane so to come down to London at that time was something I rarely did which made it even more memorable.
3. Who do you admire?
My admiration is reserved for anyone who triumphs in the face of adversity – the many people out there who go out day after day fighting against whatever difficult hand they’ve been dealt.
4. You have been UK brand ambassador for the King of Soho since 2013, share your standout memory from that time?
The role is incredibly rewarding and I’ve had so many great times and done so many cool events that it’s really hard to pick one thing in particular but if pressed, I guess I’d have to say my residency at the King of Soho pop-up for London Fashion Week. It is definitely up there as it was the longest I had worked in London in one go and I was making drinks, taking pictures of drinks and talking about drinks all in the one environment so pretty perfect for me!
5. What is your perfect Soho night?
Soho has so much diversity it would be very difficult to nail it down to a particular event or venue but with my usual group of friends, it would probably involve a round of drinks at Bar Swift and food from Five Guys and music from Ronnie Scott’s.
6. What’s your theme tune?
Because I Got it Like That by the Jungle Brothers – It’s got a fantastic level of braggadocio for when I’m feeling super confident in my abilities.
7. If you could have any super-power what would it be?
Super speed like The Flash! I can be quite impatient at times and I do love going fast.
8. If Paul Raymond was still around, what would you serve him?
I think he’d be pleased with the ‘Paul’ which I devised with him in mind for the pop-up Winter Gin Palace which we did in Soho at the end of last year. The King of Soho London Dry Gin is shaken over ice with lemon juice and sugar syrup, then double strained into a Nick & Nora glass and topped with a red wine float – it’s a beautiful cocktail both visually and to drink, pleasing to the eye and the palate.
9. Your other passion seems to be photography and not just of still life! What led to your love of the camera?
I loved photography as a child and took it as a module when I did my Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Award. In my mid-late teens I kind of forgot all about it as cars and chicks took over but the advent of digital and the immediacy of results brought me back in.
I started taking my photography seriously when I had an epiphany that I should help my customers have a visual representation of the cocktail recipes I was designing. I took up model photography as a hobby because I couldn’t/wouldn’t take pictures of people. As a bartender I am extremely friendly but over my 25 years behind the stick I have become acutely aware of how much unwanted attention some people get when they are just out to enjoy themselves. This made me a bit shy in social environments so I decided to learn how to interact with people better by taking their picture.
10. If you could have a gin with any photographer – who would it be and why
My favourite photographer is Joey Lawrence a.k.a. Joey L. He has an amazing amount of talent, picking up a camera at the age of 7, he is completely self-taught and I’ve been a fan of his since he came to light back in 2004. He created the poster for the first Twilight Movie. An interesting guy, often to be found travelling for his photography projects, I’d definitely like to hear some of his stories over a gin and tonic or two.