This is Hugo Togni, from Toronto, bartender at Pompette.
Hugo is 24 years old and is originally from Alsace, in the North-East of France. Hugo comes from a gourmet family. His grand-father was a chef, his grand-mother was a great cook as well, both his parents love cooking, his uncle wanted to become a chef but his grand-father convinced him otherwise, his mother works in the wine business, overall, you get the picture, Hugo grew up loving food and always wanted to be a chef. He was the type of kid that would pick up fruits on the side of the road while walking back from school and use them to cook for his friends once he got home.
It’s not much of a surprise that Hugo went to hotel school to study cooking. He worked in Michelin Stars kitchens for five years, but eventually he sought a little bit of change. He went back to school and studied Hotel Management and Marketing. While he studied this program, Hugo got a job at a hotel and worked both back of house and front of house. His FOH job was at the reception, which he did not like at all. Luckily for him, the receptionist was also the one taking care of the little bar next to the desk. Little by little, Hugo would find himself spending as much time as he could behind that tiny bar. He loved the vibe, was already a spirits aficionado and began to be very curious about cocktails. Two years later, when he graduated, he decided to pursue his studies for an extra year and joined the bartending program. It was then that he really got into cocktails. He got a job at Code Bar, which was the best cocktail bar in Strasbourg. This job allowed him to learn a lot and to grow exponentially. He also started to take part in cocktail competitions, so learned a lot from these as well. After two years of working at Code Bar, competing and winning some great comps, Hugo decided that it was time to move on and explore the world a little bit.
His first choice was Canada. He heard that Maxime Hoerth was about to open a bar in Toronto and thought that it would be great if he could go work and learn from him. He contacted Maxime, who politely turned down his offer. Hugo couldn’t get a visa for Canada, so he flew to Western Australia. For a couple of years, Hugo explored the world and worked different gigs that sure paid the bills, but didn’t spark much passion in him. Eventually, his curiosity for Canada got the best of him, he managed to get a visa and got himself a job in Lake Louise. Little did he know that shortly after he landed in the Canadian Rockies, he would to get a phone call from Maxime Hoerth that was finally about to open his restaurant and needed a right arm. Obviously, Hugo seized the opportunity and joined the team at Pompette exactly two years after he first contacted Maxime. He helped opening the place and is now part of the team and family. Funny how life does things well isn’t?
Overall, Hugo considers bartending as another way to express his passion and knowledge for cooking. He loves to work with great products and find creative ways to make them shine through cooking techniques. Even more so, he loves the interaction with people. If we don’t know what the future holds for him, one thing for sure is that we will find him making people happy somewhere, whether it’s from a kitchen or behind a bar.
A little bit more about Hugo...
The three words that describe him best: Passionate – impatient – curious
The biggest lesson that his job taught him: Humility. At the end of the day, we are not saving lives, so it’s important to put things in perspective a little bit. It’s nice to hear that our cocktails are good and that we make people happy, it sure flatters the ego. But it’s important to stay humble, it allows us to stay curious, to keep searching further and helps us to keep a certain consistency.
An advice he would offer younger bartenders: Be passionate and explore. Be ready to put in the work. And be careful, because it is a dangerous industry where alcohol and drugs are omnipresent. Have fun, but stay healthy.
How does he drink his Martini: A lot of French dry vermouth, a good gin that is very juniper heavy, a good dilution and very cold, with a lemon zest and an olive.
Life motto: Au jour le jour.