Womxn, Spirit Forward: Camille Cavan

Womxn, Spirit Forward: Camille Cavan

Tell us a little bit about your background in making drinks (or bartending)? 

I consider myself self-taught. I had a few wonderful mentors but also had to pave the way on my own; creating and building my palate, experimenting with flavors, diving into riffs on classics and menu development came early on.

Camille, I know you‘ve shared your passion for health and mental safety in the service workplace. How do you advocate for your staff? 

This is a pretty simple answer for me. Ever since I was given the responsibility to handle my own bar program, I have integrated how I was raised, the work I have personally done, and what I have learned into my leading. My ethos has always been deeply rooted to create a safe space where people feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin and most importantly, an environment that’s the foundation is based upon effective and open communication. My question is always, “how can I help” or “I’m here if you need anything.” It’s important for me that the people I work close to know I genuinely care about them as a human and genuinely want them to succeed. I am also acutely aware of most issues within the industry, so it is even more important for me that those around me feel like they are getting what they need, deserve, and are respected. And if not, I want to openly talk about it and figure out a way for everyone to get what they need. We should all feel empowered. Less ego, more holding each other up.

Where can other staff and managers go to find support to learn, implement or suggest programs in their organizations?

Therapy. I know mental health can be vastly overlooked in our industry (and expensive) but there should be owners that are more likely to fund that kind of support for their managerial team. It’s important to advocate for yourself and find a healthy work/life balance, even if that means saying what you need and what your limitations are. The thought that some (or most) managers or chefs can’t advocate for themselves without seeming weak or someone that isn’t worth their pay, is what is wrong with this industry. So, reaching out to therapists and creating an open forum with your employers is a must. I’ve seen all too many times, managers or chefs getting to the point where they simply cannot do it anymore, and leave, quit or develop depression/anger issues/frustrations.

Why do you think an industry with a non-traditional and family-based work environment has taken this long to address?

This is a great question and there’s a lot to unpack here. The root of the industry is based on long and late hours, stress, fatigue, ego, and money, (along with the beauty of it that is artistry, creation, success, and empowerment for some) which is incongruent with family life. When you’re a creator for the industry, the industry is your family, your creations/restaurant is your baby, and being able to give yourself completely, like that, in more than one avenue, is very hard. I also think the industry has grown up a bit. Where the people who, 15 years ago, were making names for themselves, are now older and want more out of life and therefore are creating a healthier work/life balance for themselves and speaking their truth. I also think women are in more pivotal roles and able to say, “I want a family or what goes on outside of this restaurant is also important” Women who are able to make families and their careers in the industry work, hats off to you. I deeply hope the industry can become something where I, as a woman, don’t feel like I have to choose between the two.

Of course, we have to ask about bitters. Tell us about your relationship with bitters?

I love them! We are definitely in a healthy, supportive relationship. I love how they enhance, balance, and create a layer of depth to the drink.

What’s your favorite cocktail to make with bitters?

Pisco sours! Hands down. Also, floating bitters on top of each punch for my ‘Prohibition Punch’ program has become a staple there. I love the aromatics it gives with tiki-style punches.

What advice can you give people when using bitters? 

Bitters won’t ‘fix’ the cocktail. It’s meant to enhance it unless you want it to be all bitters, then I’m all for it. Just don’t use bitters to try and mask any flavors, they need to shine on their own.

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