Swede Teaching the Cocktail Classics at Ku Dé Ta, Bangkok

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A company named Nordic Bar Syndicate in connection to the recently opened mega dining and entertainment complex Ku Dé Ta in Bangkok caught our attention. Not surprisingly it turns out to be Scandinavian: a Danish bar consultancy and catering firm having been awarded their biggest task to date in training all the bar staff and setting up the seven concept bars, with drink menus.

The Swede Knut Randhem, who has worked for the Danish bar consultancy firm since 2009, and been on site in Bangkok from the start for the task along with the founder Gromit Eduardsen, explains how this assignment came about and their specialty making them needed as far away as in Asia.

The cocktail trend has in recent years made good inroads also in the traditional whisky-soda territory that is Thailand and with the high ambitions that Ku Dé Ta has to present world class, the right kind of expertise is needed to get it right.

Nordic Bar Syndicate, with excellent reputation gained from its defining involvement within the Danish/Scandinavian bar scene, was picked to carefully craft the entire drink experience and ensure its impeccable delivery to the savvy guests.

There is also a connection in that the corporate F&B manager of Ku Dé Ta, Michael Farquhar, is Danish and has experience from back in Copenhagen where he knows Gromit Eduardsen who has been very successful with bars and projects at Hotel Skt. Petri, Hotel Fox and the internationally recognised cocktail bar 1105.

“They started discussing back and forth and how they could help each other out. And Michael was familiar with what Nordic Bar Syndicate had done in the past,” Knut Randhem explains.

“It’s basically a consulting and catering company for the bar industry. So within consultancy we go in and train the staff within bars and make the menu. We create the bar concept for our clients and if it’s required we have one guy staying, working for a longer period of time than just a training period.”

Ku Dé Ta Bangkok is such a case, and their first outside Europe, aside being a huge undertaking (65 bar staff to start out with.)

“From the beginning Gromi and I were here. The biggest part with our involvement in Ku Dé Ta was actually prior to the opening when we did two months of really intensive staff training.“

“With all the floor staff we have for the operations I was standing in front of 110 people, which was very challenging, especially to keep the energy up at the same time for that many people.”

“The response we got from the training was very good. The staff are knowledgeable; they know a lot about drinks. The message somehow got through.”

“We actually teach the staff how do we set up the bar and how it works; getting them a little bit involved in what it takes to make a successful bar, and not only on paper, but in reality. It’s not just about the physical part making the drinks behind the bar – it’s the full package.”

Crème de la crème
In addition they ran a test lab in the evenings and made drinks for testing, to eventually come up with 48 unique signature drinks designed to fit both Bangkok’s climate and Ku Dé Ta’s uncompromising quality standards. The cocktail menus also include the crème de la crème of international classics, ending up with a total of 150 drinks.

“Most of them are classic drinks because I personally believe in classic cocktails as the way forward – they’re classic for a reason and are here to stay. An Old Fashioned is an Old Fashioned, and a Margarita is a Margarita – if you make them well they’re fantastic drinks both of them.”

“Of course a venue should have something special to the venue, but I’m pushing very hard for my staff to know the classic drinks. If you see movement in Europe, America, and some parts of Asia this is the trend cocktails are turning – we’re going back to the drinks that were consumed in the start of the 1900’s. So we have the classic Daiquiri, not the strawberry stuff, and nicely shaken with fresh lime. We do nice martinis, many Bourbon drinks etc. – this is the way the world the trend of cocktails is going right now and Thailand will get there eventually as well even if progress may be a little slower.”

Great appetizer
Knut, an educated chef, sees himself as a bartender – and a consultant.

“I never found working in the kitchen as particularly fun. So I ended up behind the bar instead, where I get the interaction with people and I can still produce something for them, thus I get the combination that I like.”

Coming to Asia for the first time posed a challenge for Knut and he had to do a fair bit of research.

“They way you need to teach here is very different from back home where I am used to being quite direct. Here you have to be very repetitive all the time. I wasn’t really prepared for that from the start, but I feel the result came out very well. I can see how we make progress every day so I know I’m doing something right at least.”

“It’s a little bit different culture here but it’s a very healthy experience for me as well to do something new.”

His months in Bangkok have been a great appetizer that gets a continuation. Knut will move on to develop the bar concept in similar fashion at the sister venue in Singapore, but will keep an eye on things in Bangkok as well and continue with regular training there.

As for Bangkok, it’s a city he has fallen in love with already.

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