This is Fanny Gauthier, co-owner of Ateliers et Saveurs.
Fanny is 46 years old and has three girls of 15, 13 and 10 years old. She grew up in Brittany, moved to Paris when she was 18 years old, lived there for 12 years and moved to Montreal 16 years ago.
Fanny started in the hospitality industry when she moved to Paris in the early 90’s. She was working as a server at a restaurant when she started to notice something nice about bartending: as a waitress, if there was a problem with an order, you would go to the table and be yelled at by the customer, then you would go to the kitchen to be yelled at by the chef. Whereas at the bar, if a guest didn’t like the drink, you were the one to blame and you could be directly accountable only for your own actions. A certain evening, luck would have it that one of the bartenders cut himself and Fanny was asked to replace him on the spot. She knew absolutely nothing about bartending but jumped in, and she loved it. By the time the other bartender healed and came back to work, Fanny was already buying books and reading about cocktails and spirits.
Eventually, she managed to get a job at the famous Buddha Bar. When she walked in there and saw the 17 meters long snake shaped bar and its warm ambiance, she instantly fell in love with the place and thought to herself that one day, she would be the head bartender. And she did. She worked there for 7 years and eventually managed the place. To understand what it meant to become the chef barman of the Buddha Bar in the 90’s Paris, there are a few things that needs to be put into perspective. First, the French hierarchy system is quite more defined than ours. There is the barman, the first barman, the second barman, and the chef barman. And yes, they were all called barman, because these were man jobs. To be a cocktail bartender in Paris at that time was already being part of a very small group of people, but to be a woman on top, you were the tip of the needle. To be a woman in charge, you’re kidding right? Fanny went through all those steps and earned her title of chef barman. And one day, she went to New York, met a guy that turned out to become her husband and accepted to move to Montreal with him.
Frankly, Fanny had quite a shock when she went to a bar in Montreal, asked for a Tom Collins and had the bartender asking around to know if there was a Tom working there. Very simply put, there was no cocktail scene in Montreal in the early 2000. And if you were a girl and wanted to become a bartender, it didn’t matter how much knowledge or skills you had on your resume, it wasn’t what they were looking at. Nevertheless, she found a job at Château Ste-Ambroise shortly after she moved there. The woman who owned the building also just bought the bar downstairs and she saw Fanny searching for a job in the newspapers with a glass of rosé every night for a week. She offered her a job and she took it. She worked there until she opened her own business with her husband and a third partner.
Ateliers et Saveurs was born from the desire to democratize cocktails, food and wines for people. When they opened their first location, they were the first school in North America to teach about cooking, cocktails and wines under the same roof. They now have three locations, two in Montreal and one in Quebec. When they created the concept, it was a way for Fanny to share her knowledge and passion to a broad array of people. She deeply believes that everyone can make cocktails and that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Today, Fanny is still very involved in the cocktail community and has definitely more than one string to her bow. She talks about cocktails on the radio and on television weekly, she wrote a cocktail book, she still occasionally gives classes, she is working on a new project in Quebec City, she often judges cocktail competitions and still tries to be present to a lot of bar events. Her energy and passion are contagious and she remains a person of reference in our community.
A little bit more about...
The three words that describe her best:
stubborn – perfectionist – loving life
Fun fact about Fanny:
She cannot wear un-matching colored underwear.
What she loves most about bartending:
Training. She always loved training new staff and sharing her knowledge. She reminds us that in Paris in the 90’s, there was very little access to information and training.
The quality she loves most about an employee:
Punctuality. She hates being late and she hates when people are late.
One thing she is proud to have achieved:
She met her husband in New York City in 2000, decided to move to Montreal with him and went from being part of a very close Parisian bartender community to starting everything anew from ground zero.