I started working in the restaurant industry at the ripe young age of 15. I began as a hostess, and then eventually moved into serving once I turned 17.
I knew from the beginning, though, that I wanted to ultimately bartend. I used to watch the bartenders interact with their customers from behind the bar, and the relationships they had with their customers fascinated me. Plus, I felt like I had the personality type perfect for bartending. I'm pretty outgoing, can move quickly and multitask skillfully, and I can be really loud when I need to be.
When I turned 20, I finally got my chance. In South Florida, where I lived at the time, you can bartend beginning at age 18, so I convinced the restaurant I was working at to let me start training behind the bar.
The first drink I was asked to make was a Rob Roy. I didn't have the faintest idea what that was, but I learned. (And though I didn't know this at the time, it was the last Rob Roy I would ever be asked to make. Go figure.) The panic I felt when I was asked to make something I had no idea how to make pushed me to learn as much as I could about the art of mixology.
When I returned home to Richmond to go back to college, I kept bartending and continued to do so all throughout the time that I spent getting my degrees. I didn't have anyone to help me financially, and student loans only covered so much. Not to mention, I could go to school during the day and bartend at night- this way, I could pay my way through school.
It was not easy to work while going to school, especially when I hit grad school. I was in school and working on projects almost 100 hours a week, so I had to spend the small amount of free time I had hustling behind the bar. There were definitely times when I hated every minute of it, but I'm thankful I had it to fall back on, as it gave me the means to live while I worked on my masters degree.