Cheers’ annual roundtable at the New York Bar Show this past June brought together a handful of top bartenders and chefs. Attendees included John Fischer, an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.; Waldy Malouf, a chef/restaurateur who owns Beacon and High Heat in New York and is the author of Hospitality Concepts; Sother Teague, a bartender at New York hot spots such as Amor y Amargo, Prime Meats and Booker and Dax; and Hal Wolin, an author and events guru for the Cocktail Guru Jonathan Pogash.
The roundtable was moderated by Cheers editor-at-large Liza B. Zimmerman. The discussion covered topics ranging from how the kitchen and bar staffs can work together better to how teamwork can affect a restaurant’s bottom line. The roundtable participants also talked about current industry trends, synergies and what the future may hold for restaurants and bars with creative front- and back-of-the-house staff.
Malouf noted that he has seen major progress in recent years in terms of how the bar and kitchen staff have started to work together. Teague agreed that there used to be much more friction between the food and drinks personnel.
What does this increased cooperation/collaboration mean to the bar? Bartenders are gaining a more focused understanding of the needs of the kitchen, how to use diverse ingredients and access them through more traditional “back-of-the-house” restaurant protocol. This has been an emerging theme in several of Cheers’ past roundtables, and has likely been inspired in part by the greater number of front-of-the-house employees who have had some basic or formal culinary training.
This is a trend most of the roundtable attendees said they are seeing more frequently in bars and restaurants. And it’s key to mixology, because cocktails, like food, need to have “layers of flavors and seasonings,” Teague said.
“Education is going to bring the bar and the kitchen closer together,” Malouf said. And that collaboration, along with the focus on the bottom line and managing guest experiences, will be a plus for restaurant owners and managers, as well as for customers.