Featured this month is Chris Strong, assistant general manager of Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai.
HOW DID YOU START OUT IN THE BAR TRADE?
I was a glass collector in The Potthouse, and moved my way up to head bartender. I was then bar manager at The House in Stranmillis before going to the Apartment, which was fantastic exposure on the road to cocktails and what I’m doing today. I then worked in New York for three months in a few dive bars, picking up the service side of the bartending industry and, when I came back, I worked in The Merchant for a few years as bar supervisor in Berts and then as bar manager of the Cocktail Bar. It was The Merchant that propelled me to London, where I worked in the Luggage Room and Hix Soho, and then I was offered a job in Dubai after a year moved to Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar in Atlantis, The Palm as general manager.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The reward you get for it; it’s very hard work with long hours and can be unsociable at times but all the people you meet are like a second family. I don’t think there’s a job as good as mine. I’ve been working in the trade for 15 years, and it’s something I’m really passionate about. It allows you to be creative and travel, and every day is different.
WHO DO YOU ADMIRE IN THE NI BAR TRADE?
It makes me proud to see everybody coming through, and the service and product is fantastic in Belfast. It’s good to see The Merchant is still going strong and I admire Bill and Petra Wolsey; what they’ve done for hospitality in Northern Ireland is amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Anthony Farrell and his team at Love & Death Inc, Aether & Echo and APOC are pushing boundaries with their drinks, and the service in APOC is second to none. I also like Home, James Street Bar & Grill and Kelly’s Cellars; that for me is like being back home.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER?
It’s always hard to leave Belfast and I was back and forward for a couple of years. It’s hard to leave friends but the global scene is friendly, and everyone respects each other.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A BAR PERSON WITH ASPIRATIONS?
Compete as much as you can. It’s become very competitive and, the more knowledge you have, the better you are. If you surround yourself with the right people, you can learn from them every day.
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO GO FROM HERE?
I’ll probably stay here another year, and then move on to Hong Kong or Singapore. I’d like to stay with the Gordon Ramsay Group; they’re amazing to work for.
Siempre Una Mas
50ml Bacardi Carta Blanca
10ml mantequilla sherry
25ml lime juice
1 x egg
15ml sugar syrup
Check out Chris getting ‘interviewed’ by Gordon Ramsey (1min, 7 secs into video) at the launch of Bread Street Kitchen and Bar, Dubai:
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