Meet Arthur. I met him about fifteen years ago when he was working at the now closed down Marcello’s Cafe in Sydney. I spent a fair bit of time at that place. My sister was chasing one of the waiters and drinking copious amount of coffee, that she didn’t even like (it made her anxious and jittery) in order to have an excuse to hang around. Apparently having a hot chocolate instead just “wasn’t sophisticated enough”.
That funny English waiter dude is now her husband. I remember always being totally entranced by Arthur, he was such a cool dude, he had these awesome tats, and back then he also had a spider stud happily nestled in his goatie under his bottom lip. I though that was the coolest thing ever. I had a spider clip I always put in my hair but it never quite packed the same punch. Arthur also made a fantastic coffee while at the same time being an all round great guy. These days he lives in Vancouver and works as a barman at the Mackenzie Room. I had a chat with him about his work, and here’s what he had to say;
Hours worked in an average day? 8-9
What does a typical day in your job look like?
First thing is an espresso as I get in, make a round of coffees for the kitchen as well. Check over any notes from the previous night if i wasn’t on shift, put away any deliveries, start setting up the bar Mise en place, Juice citrus for the shift, prep egg whites, ice the well. Sit down for the staff meal and have a pre shift meeting.
Can you learn to be a mixologist or do you need some sort of innate creativity and knowledge of flavours?
Yes, anyone can learn creativity will happen as you develop your skill and palate. Understanding flavours and how to balance drinks will come with practice, understanding how ingredients and their ratios all play a part in a balanced drink. I see a lot of barmen over complicating drinks by having too many ingredients and it looks great on paper but it’s a train wreck in the glass.
What do you think are some of the misconceptions people have about bar staff?
That we are heavy drinking, party hard, drugs, sex and rock and roll. All of that is partly true whe you get into your first bar job, but it’s a pretty demanding job and it takes it’s toll on your body and health. People burn out fast in the first few years. The job can be very draining mentally as well as you have to deal with a lot of patrons asking a lot of questions while you are in the weeds pumping drinks out, getting servers to pick up drinks for their tables, servicing a whole bar, taking photos for people, and answering the phone, all while looking calm and unruffled for the entire shift.
Are there certain customer traits or requests that drive you crazy?
Customers asking for free drinks.
What do you love most about what you do?
Working with awesome people and meeting interesting people as well.
What is your most amazing (potent) food memory? Has this shaped your attitude to what you do?
The smell of cooking garlic from growing up meant meant it was close to having something to eat with my family and we get to spend time having a laugh and eating to nourish the body. That time also nourishes the soul, bonds everyone and gives you a memory worth re creating by passing it on to a new generation.
If it was your last meal on earth, what would it be and why?
Lechon, Filipino roast pork. I remember when I was growing up in the Philippines that was a special occasion and family would travel from everywhere and gather for the feast.
Chicken or steak?
Wine or spirits?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because it’s free range.
The Mackenzie Room
415 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G7, Canada,
Photo by – Katie Cross Photography