When Kaitlyn Stewart decided to try her hand at bartending, she never thought it would be her career. Eleven years later the 31-year-old has been named a World-Class Global Winner.
Her first bartending job was at a fast-paced chain restaurant.
“I believe it really helped shape my multitasking skills and high volume experience. It was a great place to start learning and working on the classics. When I first started there, I didn’t know the difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan. I thought the Cosmopolitan was invented by the TV show Sex and the City. But I quickly learned,” shares Stewart. She had started off as a server but wanted to try her hand at bartending.
“As the years past I grew to love the creative side of bartending, and realized that I could incorporate some of my other passions into the job. It has definitely become a passion of mine. The thing I love most about bartending is that not one day is exactly like the other. It’s constantly changing and evolving.”
The Royal Dinette, where Stewart has been since 2015, is a great example of the changing and evolving she refers to. They work with seasonal, local ingredients as much as possible. Taking a locavore approach to the menu allows for as much creativity as possible. They try to keep things as low waste as possible, and collaborate a great deal with the kitchen. Stewart sees the cocktail culture in Canada constantly growing.
“We have some extremely talented bartenders who challenge one another to go above and beyond. Customers seem to be really taking an interest in what’s happening behind the bar, which pushes us to keep things interesting,” she says.
The Diageo World-Class finals were definitely an interesting challenge for Stewart. “The Canadian World-Class Finals were incredible and nerve racking. Being surrounded by so many talented bartenders from across Canada was inspiring and intimidating. I think I was more nervous about the Canadian finals then I was about the Global finals. When I found out that I had won the Canadian finals I was in total shock. It was a daunting task being the sole representative, having a country watching your every move. But the outpour of support from my fellow bartenders across Canada was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
This support helped her at the Diageo World-Class Global Finals where she was named World’s Best Bartender.
“The Global finals will be an experience I’ll never forget. You prepare and think you have an idea of what you’re about to step into, but it’s so much more than you’ve ever expected. You have to take it one challenge at a time and try to enjoy the process. After the four days of challenges came to a close I was mentally and physically exhausted, but it was all worth it. Being named the ultimate winner was and still is unbelievable. It is very hard to put into words.” Stewart has also competed in a handful of other competitions, helping her prepare for the World-Class finals.
Looking to the future Stewart wants to stay in the hospitality industry in some way or another. For the next year she will be travelling with Diageo and World-Class meeting as many bar tenders as possible, and sharing her experience with them. Stewart has many years ahead of her in the industry, but it is easy to see that she chose the right path, and has come a long way from the bartender who didn’t know the difference between two cocktails.
By Nicole Sherwood. Reprinted with permission from Bar and Beverage.