Bartender interview: Charles Joly

World Class 2014 winner talks about how the competition changed his life
Charles Joly was in the UAE for the World Class event.
Charles Joly was in the UAE for the World Class event.

How did it all start for you in this industry?

I have been in the business for 18 years. I actually fell backwards into it. Like it is for a lot of people in the hospitality industry, you do your first job thinking you are doing it in passing. I started in a very high volume, underground night club in the late 90s in Chicago. It was at the end of the rave era — for people who are old enough to remember that.

How has your life changed after winning last year?

It has changed a lot, but it is different for a young bartender to win it compared to myself. I was fairly well–established when going into the competition, and the experience certainly helped me win. I have since travelled, and seen some amazing places that I might not have been to otherwise, worked with bartenders from all over the world, and shared what I am passionate about with them. Also, I had the opportunity to stick out from behind the bar and focus more on my company, which makes premium, all natural cocktails. For the first time in almost 18 years, I freelanced and worked for myself, and was not behind the bar every night.

What’s your pet peeve?

You never let the guest see behind the curtains. That is, you don’t let your being bothered come across to your guests.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Balancing your personal life with your work. You do it while sacrificing almost everything else in life.

Any trends you’re noticing at the moment?

I don’t follow trends too much. The whole idea of trends to me is annoying. People should do things they are passionate about, and by definition, trends are fleeting, which to me is shallow and hollow, and abhorrent. I would rather have things with more substance in them.

How important is showmanship for a bartender?

We are not hidden away in the kitchen, we are front–of–house, so we need to have a demeanour and some sort of bar–side manners. It doesn’t mean having flair for flipping bottles. I always say that at a bar, you are the host; if you can begin to approach the guests like they are coming to a party that you have hosted at your home, you are going to have an amazing bar.

What do you love most about the bar industry?

I love the creativity. We are in a very special time right now in the world of cocktails and spirits. We call it renaissance — it has taken 100 years to get back to this point.

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