Ted Kilgore of The Last Word & Niche Taste Bar – Spotlight on a Drink Careers 101 Project Advisory Board Member
I was first alerted to what bartender Ted Kilgore was doing out in St. Louis last year while researching bars for the Top Ten list in Mutineer Magazine. His cocktails were so interesting, that it didn’t surprise me to learn that he is a leader in the cocktail industry. Ted has appeared in magazines from Food & Wine to The Wall Street Journal. He has also served as an advocate for the industry, and education, and has called attention to the vibrant cocktail scene in the Midwest.
We are glad to have Ted and his experience as a part of our Drink Careers 101 Advisory Board.
What first interested you about the cocktail world?
In my twenties I was in a different career, and was a cocktail enthusiast mixing things at home and learning what I could about the craft of bartending. The job I was in had come to an end; so when I was 31, I decided to make my bartending “hobby” my career. After much obsession, passion, and evolution here I am.
Where did you get your start?
Springfield, Missouri. I got a big break at the Holiday Inn Express. I worked there for a year while trying to get a job at the best “Martini” bar and restaurant in Springfield, which eventually I did. Eight months after starting there, I was promoted to Bar Manager. I started getting into the craft movement, and then after a trip to New York in 2004, I was hooked.
I noticed that you were President of the USBG, what was that role like?
I was the founding President of the Saint Louis USBG, and it was a great 3 years. We have grown from just a group of 12 to over 60 members. I think the thing I am most pleased with is that last year when the new officers took over, the majority of the new officers were newer to the guild and so stoked to be a part of it. A big part of my job as president was getting bartenders to understand that we can stand together as professionals no matter what kind of bar you work at. My goal was always to make the city a better and tastier place to drink and to help out local charities and our community while doing so.
Where are you working now?
For the last 4 years, I have worked for the Niche Restaurant Group, mainly with their project Taste. It was the first craft cocktail bar in St. Louis and in 4 years it has become a city favorite for food and cocktails. I am currently working on my own project, which will open mid 2013 called Planter’s House. It will be a bar/restaurant focusing on the historical and present grandeur of Saint Louis.
What sort of special projects do you have on the horizon?
The Planter’s House is the big one, but along with opening we will be expanding some cocktail and spirits workshops that I have done the last 3 years. We will be utilizing one of our bars for ongoing spirits and cocktail classes. With the boom of cocktails and spirits, people are clamoring for knowledge. I also plan on offering culinary students discounts through their schools to help them understand where the trends are moving. I think it is still very hard for new food and beverage students to understand the opportunities and changes that are happening in our industry.
What advice do you have for students looking to get into the spirits industry?
Be as knowledgeable as you can. Get you BarSmart Wired certified. Get BarSmarts Advanced, and/or B.A.R. Ready Certified. Read everything that you can. Never stop learning. I took the B.A.R. 5 day in 2007, and even after passing B.A.R. Ready, it showed me how much more there is to learn. There are so many more resources out there today. Take advantage of them. Also, never forget we are in the hospitality industry, so treat everyone how you would like to be treated.
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