Introducing The Gresham up-and-comers, Jack Stacey & Justin Croucher

Jack Stacey (left) & Justin Croucher at The Gresham, Brisbane. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Interview by Sam Bygrave
Photographs by Christopher Pearce

THE GRESHAM is coming up on five years of trade this year, and one thing has remained constant throughout all the accolades and awards and bourbons and ryes: they’ve always had a strong team behind the stick.

Many a talented barkeep has plied their trade there over the years, pulling the late close shift and clearing out the off-duty bartenders in the room at 3am. And though they’ve come and gone and come back again, The Gresham has had a knack for renewing their team with some quality young guns.

Bartenders like these two here, Jack Stacey and Justin Croucher, who have made The Gresham their home.

They are both passionate bartenders who give a damn, and don’t shy away from the long hours, and here they share with us a little insight into what makes an award-winning team stick together.

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How did you guys get started in the industry?

Jack: I’ve been doing this since I was about 17, but only really seriously in about the last five years. I spent a lot of time at Byblos, a good jump off point because there’s been a few boys who have come through there.

Got my foot in the door here because Peter Hollands and I have literally had the same jobs; he was here about a year, called me up and said we need a glassy. I did that for about two months, then got the job on the bar — about two years ago now.

Justin: I spent the last few years on the Gold Coast, and came up here and did a greenhorn comp, the rookie bartender comp we do. That was my foot in the door into the Brisbane scene. Soon after that I left the casino and went to work with Adam Bristow at Etsu, the Japanese restaurant, and bounced around a couple of bars. I saw that Pete Hollands was leaving The Gresham, and I was two months away from being able to move to Brisbane, but came and had a chat to Ryan. I was working here one day a week while still working on the coast. Jack was gracious enough to lend me his couch.

What’s it like working at The Gresham, for those who haven’t been here?

Justin: It’s a spectacular bar, it can be rowdy at 2am in the morning with bangers playing, or it can be that quiet business meeting where you’re starting at three or four in the afternoon. The team is absolutely a family, it’s a seven day a week job because we trade seven days.

Jack: The learning curve coming here was absolutely massive. You take one look at the back bar and it’s that expectation. Ryan obviously runs a pretty tight ship, and we want to provide the best service that we can do without making it look like a wanky bar. As Justin said, it’s a seven day a week job — I mean you may not be here for the seven days but you’re definitely doing something those seven days.

Justin: My last bar we had no more than 40 bottles. Coming here, where we’re at about 550 bottles on the back bar, so every day you’re learning four or five new products, tasting and nosing, which Ryan definitely encourages.

Jack: How can you sell something if you don’t know what it tastes like?

The team here at The Gresham has always been a pretty strong one — what is that goes into making the team stick together?

Jack: I think the big thing is the support. Everyone supports each other, it’s family. Especially because it’s the late nights, the hard hours and all that kind of stuff, but everyone supports and pushes each other.

Even the simple fact of sitting down and having a beer after the shift, debriefing together.

Justin: Knockoffs are so important. You have that five minute rule, where you talk about work for five minutes but after that it’s open slather.

Jack: And everyone’s bad renditions of Disney closing songs.