What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My venture into being a mixologist was brought about from my life of being in and around the industry. My mom worked in restaurants and bars in London, and as a kid, that was the arena that I hung out in. My first job at 15 was washing glasses in bars. I studied photography in college, and the money I made working behind the bars paid for all my chemicals and equipment. At 19, I worked in the famous Atlantic Bar & Grill that opened my eyes and changed my life as I discovered the world of bartending. I then made it my business to work with talented bartenders and managers in the industry to get the best training and experience. I have since helped open more than 20 different venues.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
Opening any establishment is incredibly hard. So much is involved and it’s a highly stressful endeavor. The long hours, the responsibility to deal with every single detail, managing teams and getting everything going on time takes a toll.
However, despite all that insanity, it births the most rewarding aspect of the job. When you see it all come together from an idea on paper to its reality and all the guests that come in are enjoying the experience that you’ve created for them, it is indeed the best part of the job.
What’s one of your personal favourite dishes and drinks?
Having spent the last year living in Bali, one of my favorite places is Naughty Nuri’s with their fall-off-the-bone ribs. They also serve cocktails with fun theatrics. Definitely a place I’d take friends who are visiting.
Being a big fan of Tequila, I had my own Tequila and Mexican cantina from 2005 – 2010 called Green & Red in London and the inspiration came from the time when I was working with Julio Bernejo who owns and runs Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco. The Tommy’s Margarita is my preferred expression of that cocktail using premium Tequila, fresh pressed lime and agave nectar and my all time favourite cocktail. We have that cocktail on our list at Potato Head Folk.
Tell us a story about one of the dishes/cocktails you prepare…
I was involved in a bar called Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour in Chinatown, London. And each cocktail is served in a unique fashion – the Opium cocktail created for the launch is served in a wooden Argentinian maté cup with a filtered silver straw. The potent mix carries overproof rum, guava, absinthe and a capsule of ginseng. The whole concoction is smoked using dry ice, giving guests the impression that they are smoking from a pipe.
What’s one of the most memorable things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
In the 90’s I worked in Dick’s Bar in London, and during my time there, I witnessed a few interesting events. I served Robert de Niro martinis, had The Spice Girls dancing in the bar and watched Bill Murray making cocktails for his guests.
The perfect day off would be…
At the moment it’s quite hectic with the new opening. I balance that out with yoga for the peace and body needs the stretching to get back to normal. I love cycling around the city as well to clear my mind. However, more than anything, I love spending time with wife and two yearold daughter, who is the funniest person I know.
A life in the day of a mixologist is…
As with any startup, my time is dedicated to this project, Potato Head Folk, until the dust settles. I’m committed to being here early till closing as there is still a lot to be done. I cycle in from Little India, where I live, and the day starts off with preparing the building for service, spending the majority of the day preparing juices and syrups and cordials etc. for the busy night to come. The night shift is making sure the team and the guests are happy. And it all starts again the next day.
How do you select your ingredients and why?
In Studio 1939, we have selected a super premium range of spirits and aperitifs. We’ve carefully chosen brands that have character and authenticity. All cocktails are made with fresh and seasonal ingredients and are prepared with love.
At Three Buns, we’ve created a concise cocktail list consisting of pre-bottled cocktails made on the premises every morning – bespoke sodas (colas, ginger beer and lemonade).
The Rooftop at Potato Head Folk houses our tiki and rum bar. The idea is great as our historical home on Keong Saik Road was built in 1939, coinciding with the birth of the tiki culture in the late 1930s and early 1940s.