This is Franz Swinton, from Calgary, general manager of Añejo restaurants and Beverage Director for the Añejo group.
Franz is 38 years old and has lived in Calgary pretty much his whole life. He was born in the Philippines, moved to Canada when he was just a baby, grew up in Regina for a little bit, and moved to Calgary for elementary school. He is the proud father of four girls between the age of 7 months and 11 years old.
Franz started in hospitality coming out of high school. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do and thought that he might want to be a chef. After working as a dishwasher and then line cook for a little while, he realized that it wasn’t as much fun as he thought it would. He could also see how much fun people seemed to have in the front of the house and he thought that he ought to give it a try. He got his first serving job at an Applebee’s when he was 18 years old. He started from there, realized that he enjoyed it, and eventually started to explore bartending. He got a job at a local hotel and started to learn about basic classic cocktails. And then decided to move to Dubaï and managed to get a job at a very high-end club.
The first day that he walked into that bar, there was a guy with a bottle on his head while he was juggling with 5 bottles, and that was the guy that Franz was about to be training with. Not only was Franz really impressed, but he realized now and then that he knew next to nothing about bartending and that really changed his whole career. He spent a year in Dubaï, working at some of the world’s finest establishments. During that year, he grew his skills exponentially, and even most importantly, he found out that bartending could be a profession.
When he came back to Calgary, Franz was hired by Graham Warner at the Raw Bar of Hotel Arts. That was back in 2007 when the cocktail culture was just starting in Calgary. That bar was a catalyst when the whole cocktail movement took place in the city and Franz was definitely at the heart of it. Eventually, he started to enter cocktail competitions and competed at a local, national and global level. As a kid from Calgary competing with some of the world’s best bartenders, he realized that Canadian bartenders could compete at the same level even though they don’t get the same recognition. Franz was proud to affirm all the work that he put in, as well as all the work his city put in as a community, and represent it all at a global level.
Today, Franz is still very involved in the community. After being the first president of the Calgary Bartenders Association and starting the first Alberta chapter of the CPBA, he is now running the social media for the CPBA and acts as a mentor in the group. He also believes that mentorship is a huge part of the hospitality industry and acts as a resource and a mentor for other bartenders.
A little bit more about Franz...
The three words that describe him best: chill – “detailed but lazy” – “family first”
Fun fact about him: He tends to spell random facts on things and is very good at Trivial Pursuit.
The biggest challenge he had to overcome in his career: It’s pretty easy to be pigeonholed in a lot of positions. First, he was pigeonholed as a flair bartender, then as a mixologist guy, and even as he moved up as a manager people still thought that he just wanted to make cocktails, when he actually has always considered himself a hospitality professional that wanted to grow his skills all around. So his advice is the following: “know what you want, voice what you want and be aware of what you want. And if you don’t see how you’re gonna get there and you don’t have the right people around you, maybe you need to surround yourself with those people who are gonna help you get to that next step.”
The next thing he wants to learn: Wine studies. He focused so much on spirits and cocktails in his career that learning about wines was kind of the natural progression.
His advice for bartenders that want to move up to management positions: There’s a lot of basic things that you can do to showcase your interest. Obviously knowing your bar program inside-out is one of those things, but also how you carry yourself in your bar. Be on time, be sharp, look fresh, and ready to work. If you go to cocktail competitions to learn, be proud to showcase your skills to the public and the customers. If you take the time and the effort to get into a competition and showcase what you got to offer, that’s also valuable.