Welcome to our series of interviews with women in the bar industry. The condensed versions of these interviews can be found in the April issue of Australian Bartender. Meet The Rook’s Katherine Wasiel.
Bartender, The Rook, Sydney.
How have you seen the ‘boys’ club’ of the bartending industry change?
More females are becoming integral members of the bartending community because of trainings, events, competitions and a wider variety of bars opening where they feel comfortable to learn, create and share knowledge and skills. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll never feel that there is an exclusive club, just a supportive and exciting community where you are encouraged to immerse yourself within.
Are women well represented in Sydney bars, and at the top end of Sydney bars?
Regardless of gender, you are well represented if you have respect for yourself and your trade, the bar you work at, and others in the industry. People are then more inclined to get behind you and help you with whatever you need.
Could you tell us how you got to be where you are today?
Three and a half years ago, I walked into a warm cozy bar to get out of a freakin’ blizzard. I had no money, no job and just asked if they were hiring, having no bartending experience. They said if you’re keen, we will give you a trial and see if you’re willing to learn. From there, they became my friends and my family. I’ll never forget the kindness of New York bartenders. Now I’m in Sydney in my final year of Acting School and working at The Rook, juggling my two passions and continuing to learn and create, however my career turns out.
Are there any women in the industry that served as a role model for you?
Quite a few, and I’m glad I have trouble choosing, because I just keep meeting more and more. In Sydney, Corrine from Gourmantic is gracious, hard working, encouraging and a little cheeky. Whenever I go to an event, she and I chat and I know have someone that I feel comfortable raising questions and ideas with.
Do you think “best female bartenders” lists are helpful, say, in raising the profile of women in the industry, or is it a bit patronising?
I’m not bothered either way. I also come across best bartender lists or competitions which involve bartenders from just Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Don’t look into it more than it really is, just focus on your work, and be thankful for any opportunity that comes across your way that helps the industry in general.
Do you think there are barriers that women face in the industry that men don’t have to contend with?
From my personal experience, no major barriers. I do realise that other women have faced certain barriers in our industry but I can only speak on my behalf. We are lucky in Australia where we can voice our opinions and have a steady wage and have genuine career opportunities. Just don’t over-compensate the gender difference. Progress in hospitality as an employee and as a person, not as a female or male.