This is Jason Browne, from Vancouver, owner of Kodama Ice Co.
Jay has been living in Vancouver for about 10 years and is originally from a town called Reading, located about one hour West of London in the UK. He’s 40 years old and is the father of a three and a half years old.
Jay has been working in bars for over 20 years. He got most of his cocktail background in the UK, where he started bartending in the late ’90s, early 2000s. If he always bartended in Reading, he also did a lot of events, guest shifts, and cocktail competitions in London as well. His last job before moving across the pond was running an independent chain joint called Mix Bar that was nominated for best new bar in the UK in 2008.
In 2009, Jay decided to apply for a Canadian working holiday visa. His sister had moved to Canada in the late ’90s and he used to come for visits often. He only had one year left to apply for the visa, so he decided to do it. Obviously, he fell in love with the place and has been living here for over a decade now.
The first job he got in Vancouver was at the Revel Room, which was the only bar open until 2 am at the time. That’s where all the industry people would go for a drink after their shifts, and that’s how Jay got to meet everyone from the bar community. Eventually, he left the Revel Room to open Calabash, a rum bar that he would end up running for five years and pretty much where he made a name for himself in Vancouver. It was during that time that he competed a lot in rum competitions and got to travel to Venezuela, Barbados, Nicaragua, Jamaica, etc. When he left Calabash, he took a year off to go travel. When he came back, he worked in a few bars in the city before taking the position as the bar manager at Bao Bei. He managed that bar for four years, while also being a brand ambassador for Santa Teresa rum for a couple of years before he decided to start his own company.
Jay always had in mind to open his own bar and wanted to have his own ice program. He’s half Japanese and has been to Japan a lot. Bars over there have a lot of finesse and are very methodical, and because they are much smaller, they get their ice delivered every day. They carve it down into everything they need and it’s a real skill and a form of art. He always thought that if he was to open a bar, he would want to do that as well. However, opening his own place while his wife was opening a third venue in the city seemed like a lot at the time, so he decided to start with the ice program and go from there. And so Kodama Ice co. was born in February 2020.
Overall, Jay is one of these hospitality veterans that have pretty much explored all the facets of our industry. He has managed to carve himself a nice niche and his craft ice is used by most of Vancouver’s iconic cocktail bars. We still don’t know if he will open his own bar one day, but one thing we know for sure is that the quality of his work is served all over the city.
A little bit more about Jason...
The three words that describe him best: quiet – introvert – methodical
One bottle to bring on a desert island: Santa Teresa rum
One thing he still hasn’t done on his life to do list: Swimming the English Channel.
What he loves most about hospitality: “It’s the community. Sometimes it really is being in the trenches when it’s the last Friday before Christmas and it’s just a shit show for everyone and everyone comes out of it. You know you’re busy and you know you can rely on the people that you’re working with and just get through it and ultimately you can put your head down and you’ll have a good time doing what you’re enjoying doing.”
His advice for people that are trying to navigate the bar world: “Obviously try and get as much experience as you can. Do competitions or if you don’t want to compete, at least see them and go to the events that people are putting on because this industry is all about community and making connections. You got to put in the work, you got to do the experience, you got to do this hard craft and those shitty nights as well that will make you a far more rounded bartender.”