A Quick Q&A with CPBA President & Donnelly Group Beverage Director Trevor Kallies
Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:
Bar and Beverage Director for Donnelly Group. I develop and manage cocktail, beer, and wine programs; training & development; operations & culture.
How did you start in this business? What was the inspiration for your career route?
My first position was day bar at a chain while I finished university. From there, I spent the next five years trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was good at organization and inventory management, but the job quickly became a Monday to Monday grind. I started to realize I was spending as much time thinking about what I would do when I grew up as being hospitable. I gave notice and took a huge step back and started working day bar shifts at Granville Room just to get back to basics. It was there I started to learn about real cocktail. I found inspiration in the stories and histories in all the bottles on the back bar. I credit a lot of my growth to some of the early cocktail competitions I took part in – going up against the pioneers of the Vancouver cocktail community.
Is it barrels, carbonation or cocktails on tap? What’s the latest trend you see in bartending?
Mentorship. You cannot force it – it needs to be sought out and given. Today’s senior bartenders are catching on that you cannot hire employees – you must build a team. The new generation of bartenders is getting stronger, faster. The information is so readily available to them via books and the Internet. They’re pushing everyone to keep developing.
What’s the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? And what’s the most challenging part?
Working and teaching staff is hands down the best part of my job. I hope I never start to take that for granted. Working and training staff might also be the most challenging. A different approach is necessary in order to inspire almost every person that comes into this lifestyle.
What is your favourite spirit to work with behind the bar?
We just finished launching a new list in a few of the locations, when I first went through my notebook to see if there were some cocktails I could pull, refine and list I surprised myself to see that most of them were gin based. The first bottle of booze I ever bought was gin – crazy to think 15 years later it is still something I look to that often.
Do you have a definitive cocktail style?
It changes by day and where I am mixing/drinking. As of late I find myself playing with more vegetal, savory ingredients. Fresh juice by no means “new” in cocktails, but I’ve recently been hitting the juicer a bit more than before, reaching for Kale, bell peppers and celery instead of relying solely on citrus.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever had working behind a bar?
Probably my very first chit that came off the printer. It was a Gin & Tonic and I briefly froze. I don’t think I had ever seen it in writing and the bar I worked at didn’t go over point of sale shorthand during training.
What’s the next step for you when it comes to tending bar?
I’m off to Tales of the Cocktail this July, which will make my fifth consecutive summer taking part in the CAP program. It is such an amazing program to learn and develop as a member of the bartending community. I can’t imagine not being involved.