Flashback to the summer of 2015. Hard to believe we're coming into 2016!!!! It's June and our beverage director Steve Izzo and our Chef Partner Parke Ulrich have made the trek to Barbados, Mt. Gay Rum distillery to be exact. It is here they will meet with the master distiller, Allen Smith and his team to blend Waterbar's very own Apprentice Edition Rum.
A note from Steve:
Every year Mt. Gay Distillery's Master Blender Allen Smith allows a few fortunate individuals to look behind the curtain at some of the proprietary methodology he uses to determine the final blend for each style rum Mt. Gay produces. In June of 2015 Parke and I traveled to Barbados to tour, learn from and work with Allen Smith and his staff at the distillery. Parke and I had a hand in producing the final blend for a small batch of the Black Barrel Rum. We are proud to offer you the fruit of our short-term Bajan Apprenticeship. This mature rum is mellow and is delicious by itself over ice or in a traditional Bajan Daiquiri. We'll leave it up to you to decide....
As we introduce this great new product, we thought a re-introduction to Steve Izzo would be appropriate. Steve is part of the foundation of Waterbar. He has been here since before the beginning and has helped Waterbar become the beast we know today. Without further adieu......
Q: Where are you from?
A: Connecticut. I moved to San Francisco in 1996.
Q: How'd you get into restaurants? What was the attraction?
A: I started bartending for a family friend's catering business and enjoyed it. It also turned out I had a knack for it and it was a lot of fun. Things evolved naturally I found that I had a passion for learning about wine and spirits. Opportunities opened up that allowed me to learn things I wouldn't have pursued otherwise. I started as bartender, then bar manager, then wine buyer and finally I moved from behind the bar to the dining room, managing general restaurant operations, and working the floor as a sommelier.
Q: How long have you been at Waterbar.
A: Since its birth.
Q: What's been the biggest challenge doing what you do?
A: A lot goes into being a purchasing manager - from menu design to choosing the appropriate selection of spirits for a certain location; knowing the demographic of your restaurant while understanding that your menu is the best marketing tool a restaurant can have. Not to mention maintaining and nurturing vendor relationships. These are all partnerships that are beneficial to our business. I didn't even mention the budgetary aspect of the position. Having to consider cost in ratio to budgetary goals...... it's a lot but has been something I've enjoyed and been good at.
Q: What's your best memory here?
A: Our first OysterFest. Having the back of the house and the front of the house working together, not really knowing what we were doing and having it work out was incredible. Also, seeing the progression through the years and the fact that we are raising money for a good cause. The whole thing has been exciting and satisfying.
Q: What are you up to lately?
A: Focusing on my personal goals. I'm studying to become a Master Sommelier and hoping to travel more.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: I would love to be a partner in my own restaurant. I also see myself maybe getting into corporate buying for a larger retailer like Bevmo or hotel/restaurant corporations. Consulting is also something I see myself getting into down the road.
Q: What's a something you're looking forward to working with this season?
A: The Mount Gay Black Barrel Apprentice Edition Rum, which Parke and I made together in Barbados is something that's pretty exciting. I'm looking forward to introducing some craft beers and whiskeys from local and small breweries and distilleries. We live in a place that is overflowing with great small businesses. We like supporting them and the great products they have to offer.