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Finding Your Formula: Be a Woodpecker

June 22, 2018



I had a conversation once with a gentleman who came to the bar. He asked me my exact role within the company I was working for at the time. My response was, “I’m just a bartender”. His response was something that resonates with me still.


There is no “just”.


How do you encourage a career in hospitality? Those of you who have chosen to take a few minutes out of your day to read this will already have some engagement with the industry. So how do we outline a pathway to elevate ourselves as people, in tandem with the industry we work in. What I have learnt in the last few years, is that these creative practices are all analogous with each other. Music, arts, design, bartending, cooking, we all follow a similar pathway to achieving our collective goals. Question is, how do we choose the right path for our own individual growth?


Understanding that not everyone can be the next Mr Lyan or Heston was the biggest realisation for myself when deciding on a career in hospitality. I had the ambition, like anyone but there is always going to be someone better, smarter, faster et all. The need to strive for that particular level of stardom soon diminishes when self-evaluating a career that is still in its infancy. It is easy to get sucked into a spiral of decline when struggling to achieve certain personal goals quickly: is this the right career for me, what am I actually doing in my life, am I actually any good at this, all those questions that make you doubt your own self-worth.


Whilst I am not a huge believer in natural talent, what I have had nurtured within my psyche is the need of persistence, passion and perseverance added to the most important factor: good old fashioned hard graft to maximize your own potential. I am very much a believer that every individual has a unique set of abilities that when put in the right environment, and with the correct attitude, can facilitate the momentum of learning. Work with smart people, you become smart, work with fast people, you in turn will become fast too. The environment you place yourself in, can have such a big part to play in determining the route you take.


I was very fortunate enough to join a team in 2014 at The Bon Vivant full of exceptional people with an infectious work ethic. Would I have achieved all the things I have done so far without them? Probably not. I knew I had the potential and enthusiasm but just having potential only gets you so far. These venues gain fame for a reason. Instilling a thirst for greatness, knowledge, competency of your trade, and understanding that service is of paramount importance. The amount of nights after service analyzing key moments, tasting, and perfecting just shows, with the right people around you, a little bit of all those personalities has an effect on your own, and with a little luck, achievement follows.


Some of the experiences I have had when explained, may seem like they have been written by C.S Lewis and to be honest, it’s not relevant to an actual career. They are just rewards. The journey that ended up with these rewards is far and away more beneficial. As the great Robert Louis Stevenson put it, it is far more important to travel than to arrive.


So let us a step back from the what I can only describe as surreal and rewarding moments. Winning international cocktail competitions, visiting far flung countries, meeting the most inspirational people and tasting some of the most magical creations around are all great but conveying that in a way that to an aspiring person, that make these rewards an achievable goal, is actually rather difficult on paper.


Quite frankly, there is no reward without a degree of risk. But these risks can only be undertaken with a hell of a lot of hard work in the background. It’s the background work behind the scenes that no one ever sees. Behind every success is hours and hours of research, failures and learning processes. So ask for advice, use the people you trust, be a woodpecker (ie: keep going). This industry is so small and full of subjective views but also full of the most amazing people, each with their own stories. Reach out, take notes, say yes, find your formula, create your own story. Find a way to be the best you can be with the abilities you’ve got, and you can never be disappointed no matter the scale of your achievements.  


I have learned to be grateful for all the ups and downs in equal measure this industry has thrown at me so far, learning along the way. The best piece of advice to any new bartender and creative person is not my own but of a friend: Live everyday twice. See yourself in the third person in any situation, and make decisions accordingly. Not everyone makes to right decision all the time, but having the ability to adapt and find another solution is what human kind is good at. Work aside, being a well-rounded being is respectable is any walk of life.


Hospitality careers may not be a choice for everyone, but the life skills and possible journeys within this industry make it unquestionably unique. Whilst we are not saving lives, we are making people happy. I think that is something worthwhile in persisting.


"Just” sayin'.


Follow Miran on Instagram: @mirankchauhan


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