I’ve lost count of the number of young, enthusiastic bartenders that I’ve trained since I arrived in Vietnam.
The early days were very difficult as I needed an interpreter to translate sentence by sentence.
I can now speak a few words of Vietnamese but I strongly believe that the best training is on-the-job training, using a lot of patience and some humour.
It’s great to have everyone’s attention for an hour or two. Any more than that and eyes start to close, especially if you’re talking quickly and not allowing anyone to interpret the point step by step.
I found over the years, that the method that works well here in Vietnam is to write a course…step by step, day by day, and give everyone the material at the beginning of the course.
Explain clearly the journey you’re going to take everyone on, and let them read the material at home.
Over the last seven years in Vietnam, and training all over the country from five star boutique resort to rooftop city cocktail lounges, I developed an eight-day comprehensive bartender bootcamp-style course, called back to basics. It covers everything from basic equipment, glassware care, techniques, principles of physics, taste, flavour, balance, classic cocktail history, bar etiquette, blind taste tests, speed tests, creative cocktail-making and menu planning. From top to bottom.
Sometimes I need to condense this course into three or four days but the follow-up is always where the real results come through. There really is no better feeling than to start with a rooky team of bartenders and, years later, see them as bar managers and country brand ambassadors.
My training material is all translated into Vietnamese, and illustrated with hand-drawn sketches.
This kind of material doesn’t just get published overnight. It requires the knowledge, the sort of knowledge you acquire in five years in a busy bar in London, New York, Sydney or Buenos Aires, Singapore or Hong Kong.
Then you have to bring it all together.
Now in Vietnam, in contrast to nearly a decade ago, professional bartending is among one of the most desirable careers in the country for young and passionate individuals to want to get into it.
Programmes like KOTO (Know One Teach One) are pioneers in giving the disadvantaged a chance to learn hospitality from the grass roots up, and that’s all down to training and sharing the know;ledge with this next generation.
Shri Restaurant and Lounge manager Richie Fawcett is an artist, bartender and restaurateur.