Can you tell us a bit about yourself, when did you join the industry, and why?
With pleasure. My name is Jason-Candid, last name Knüsel. People call me Jay, JC or Mr Pineapple due to my pineapply resembling hairstyle. I grew up in Switzerland and started working in hospitality when I was 16 years old, back in 2009. I started my career due to my love of food. So it was kind of a dream to work in a kitchen sourcing and transforming delicious local ingredients into fantastic dishes and make people happy.
Very quickly, I have realised the most significant impact on guests was made in the dining room. This understanding led me to become a smiley young server, looking after people while enjoying food & drinks, instead of being in the kitchen with no interaction with the guests.
Why did you move to London from Switzerland?
Years before coming to London, I was missing the creative element that servers often don't have compared to chefs in a kitchen. So I discovered the mix of being able to create both at the same time - behind the bar counter. Working my way up in some of Switzerland's best bars, next to incredible personalities, was just such an extraordinary life and work experience. After spending eight years in the hospitality Industry (five of those in the swiss bar industry), in 2017, I was awarded "Switzerland's Best Bartender ". An incredible achievement I have never dreamed of. But still, a great title in a market that is unfortunately not enough on the radar of our international industry. People who know me know that I am very humble and do appreciate many small things. Big things even more, but there is always a more significant step to go for self-improvement. So, instead of enjoying the #GoodSwissLife, I wanted to discover more. I wanted to test myself in the cocktail capital, London. This ambition led me to a job offer at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel beginning in 2018
What happened to your dream job at the Savoy when the Covid-19 pandemic hit?
Let's be all honest…the pandemic has killed many plans & dreams for so many people. But keeping the head up is key!
The opportunity at the Savoy was one of my biggest dreams. Back in 2009, I had the Savoy already on my radar, but from a kitchen perspective. I have dreamed early to cook in an internationally acclaimed restaurant where people like Auguste Escoffier have written its story.
But instead, way more suitable for my career path, I found myself loving the history of the American Bar & their renewed head bartenders. A legacy that has never ended. When I first started in May 2018, I joined the Team as a bar back. Working my way up to become a Senior Bartender was engraved in my four-year plan. Unfortunately, a position that only holds four spots is rarely available. Getting such a privileged spot demands a lot of energy, ambition, hard work & definitely the right mindset (which can be really hard sometimes). 2022 was meant to be my year, but before the long-awaited promotion from Junior to Senior Bartender was offered, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
What happened next?
It gave me time to rethink and redraw my plans and concluded that things happen for a reason. I saw the pandemic as an opportunity for myself to rediscover myself. I had two choices. The easy way was going back home or the hard one; stay in London with zero certainties and search for the most suitable new project on the market, which gratefully is the recent opening of the NoMad Hotel London.
When did you decide to get in touch with The Drinks Trust?
I got in touch with The Drinks Trust because things were incredibly hard at times during the pandemic. Financially I was struggling with making ends meet.
How did The Drinks Trust help you?
The Drinks Trust supported me when I really had no options left. I personally don't take support for granted and always believe that we should find a solution for ourselves first, before asking. Their £250 emergency grant put me back on my feet for a few weeks, but the key was to get a more considerable cash flow regularly.
We want to thank you for sharing your story with us today. What advice would you give to those who might find themselves facing the same difficulties?
Every human struggles several times in their lives. The key is really to speak openly about it. If you don't talk about issues, you might miss a solution or an opportunity that someone has in their back pocket. Or maybe someone knows a friends friend that might be able to help somehow. So don't be shy, and don't be ashamed to struggle - ego won't help you.
Another thing is, be creative & confident!
We all have specific skills. Learn how you can use them & sell them. Having a Side Hustle is essential. Never rely on only one income pillar or industry - it doesn't matter how good you are.