At MixersAnonymous TT, we love showcasing Trinidad and Tobago talent and so we decided to sit down and have a chat with our good friend Martin James, also known by the moniker ‘Trini Bar Chef’ in the local mixologist fraternity. Share with us as Martin gives us a little insight into the current state of the industry and what he plans to do to shake things up.
MA: Well first off, you often refer to yourself as the Trini Barchef. Tell us about that?
Trini Bar Chef: The Trinibarchef moniker came about due to my unusual beverage presentations and cocktail riffs. My penchant for the usage of everyday ingredients in uncommon ways provoke, teases, and excites the senses. It was remarked that my flavor selection was on par with a chef!!
MA: Hmm, clearly you have a wealth of knowledge, can you briefly touch on some of the places you've worked and how it brought you to where you are now?
Trini Bar Chef: My service background is indeed very vast as I literally started from being a kitchen steward at the Chaconia Hotel in Maraval, then trained in coffee and tea service. After displaying a knack for service, a position in the bar was offered to me where I really shined as my bar manager took me under his wing and taught me all about the different types and flavors of alcohol. He really taught me a lot about classic cocktails.
When he left to pursue another opportunity I was given a chance to act in his position as bar supervisor where I made history as the only person to gross $4000 on a very slow day at the Hotel. Management saw the potential in me and allowed me to cross-train in front of room service, guest services, and even night auditing. After leaving Chaconia I already had a pretty comprehensive service background which continues to be my strength to this day.
I worked at The iconic Zen Nightclub where I made my name in the ‘brown bar’, Skyy Bar, and the rooftop bar. I was then offered a position at Mangoes in Port of Spain where I pioneered a beverage experience for couples on Sundays and did a short stint in the U.S. One on Frederick Street.
"We were given full reign to give the kind of experiences that would give their brands life after an execution."
While working events for different top-flight caterers I started my own bar-service crew and worked as a Special Events Supervisor with Carib Brewery’s Special Events Team. From there, thanks to a chance opportunity I was offered a position at Hyatt when they just opened. I Started in the banquet department where I made my name and then got transferred to the lobby bar as a server. I was given a chance to manage the pool bar, which was pretty amazing! *chuckles. I Left there to do more events and did some work with A.M.C.O, developing their events team.
We were given full reign to give the kind of experiences that would give their brands life after an execution. I then worked at Hilton hotel where I met my bar brother Tyrone Benjamin, where we put Hilton on the map. After I believe something like 20 plus years, we represented in a bar training/competition ran by Diageo and managed by Bryden’s from there, I was offered the position of Senior Diageo Bar Academy Trainer for the English-speaking Caribbean and this led me to be considered for a range of opportunities.
This is why I am always willing to help anyone who is looking for a break because many people have contributed and continue to contribute to my growth and development.
MA: Wow, that was definitely a lot, and well said, what have you been up to now and how has covid impacted how you employ your services?
Trini Bar Chef: Wow I’ve been bringing all my hospitality training to bear on certain industries namely agri-business, and a few other projects.
MA: And one such project is 'Artistic Bar Concepts' no? let's chat about that and what exactly is that brand all about?
Trini Bar Chef: For me, Artistic Bar Concepts is a ‘think-tank’ for the beverage industry that has been consistently pushing the envelope in terms of raising the profile of mixology and Mixologists in our neck of the woods. It’s also a support group of sorts to get one’s ideas out to the public. Within recent times we’ve been given the responsibility of guiding fellow members of the community so they know that they can look to the future with hope.
MA: Interesting, we don't mean to put you on the spot but who would you say has been your most difficult client and what have you learned? *wink.
Trini Bar Chef: Difficult hmmm, I think most of our clients were challenging, not so much difficult. The difficulties would be when they themselves didn’t understand what is their concept or they’re not willing to invest in setting up the right systems to ensure operational efficiency or by them not being willing to follow sound advice. I have since learned to not take it personally when clients don’t take heed, I just make them aware of the potential pitfalls they may encounter.
MA: Martin, we've been hearing a lot of great things about your signature coffee at Mode Alive, tell us a bit about that?
Trini Bar Chef: Honestly, it’s really me finding another medium to showcase my unique gift of creating memorable flavor journeys. I call it the Arabica Lounge, it’s really at its core a rustic looking new-age way to enjoy coffee, tea, and cocoa. The opportunity presented itself, and I took it now. It’s led me to so much more than what I initially anticipated. I now have a main location with the prospect of many more in the future. Persons are now reaching out to me to book my services and order my range of signature cordials that I created to enhance the guest experience.
MA: What are some of your plans for the future, if you don't mind sharing?
Trini Bar Chef: Future plans, I have launched the Trinibarchef brand that is focused on improving beverage concepts across the board as well as intimate beverage service executions. Can’t speak about the other projects quite yet but doh worry. You guys will be the first to know. The team of Artistic Bar Concepts is actively involved in quite a few projects namely the Co-production of a series. 3 members are launching their own independent food and beverage concepts and as well as the many beverage executions that we’re called to do.
MA: What is Your favorite cocktail to make and why?
Trini Bar Chef: Favourite cocktail?? That would depend on my mood I guess. I’m playing around with Gin plenty now, so Gin Fizzes enhanced with my tinctures, if not that, I’m big on smoked Rum Sours’. It’s off the chain for flavor intensity!