This is Julien Vézina, co-owner of Hono Izakaya.
Julien is 35 years old. He grew up in Lac Beauport and Stoneham, both located in the mountains in the suburbs of Quebec City. He studied administration and business marketing in Cegep. If he always liked the vibe of the city and has been studying and working there for a while, it wasn’t until 2 years ago that he actually moved to the city centre.
Julien started to work in the hospitality industry when he was 28 years old. Before that, he was working at a marketing firm and had a pretty good, stable and reliable job. One day, he heard that a bar called Le Bureau de Poste was about open. There was a lot of people from the snowboarding community that were involved (remember that Julien grew up surrounded by mountains) and he decided to go knock on the door and manifest his interest to get involved with the team and give them a hand if they needed. Funnily, the big boss saw him that day and said straight up that he could see him at the bar. Julien laughed, as he had no experience at all and started at the door, giving menus to people passing by and trying to get people to walk in. He kept his full-time job at the marketing firm but spent more and more time with the team there. He started to pick up a couple manager’s shifts here and there. Eventually, he also did a couple shifts behind the bar from time to time.
It was then that he made the choice to step away from the marketing firm and to move forward in his hospitality career. One day, the owner of the place gave him an ultimatum. He offered him a manager position and said that if he wanted it, he would have to commit full-time to the task. Julien took about a month to think about it. He knew that it was what he truly wanted, but was worried of what people around him might think, especially his family. He was about to leave a very good job that he could’ve kept for a life time to move away in a very uncertain direction. After much consideration, he followed his guts and accepted the offer.
He started to take more bar shifts and eventually took part in the Best Caesar in Town competition in Montreal. He finished second and for some reasons, the 1st place winner couldn’t make it to the national final so Julien ended up going. After that, he started to be invited to smaller competitions. He also began to read a lot about cocktails and spirits. He met people like Patrice Plante, Patrick Beaulieu and Vincent Thuaud, who knew a lot about the trade and shared their knowledge with him.
Eventually, he started to get involved with M. Cocktail, where he earned how to work at a high-volume cocktail bar and took part in the cocktail creation process. After some time, he went to work at the iconic L’Atelier, Quebec City’s first cocktail bar. It was there that he decided to open his own venue with Patrick Beaulieu and Ariane Boudreau.
Today, we can easily say that Julien Vezina has accomplished a lot since he joined the bar community. His bar program has won many prestigious awards. It won the 29th place in Canada’s 100 best bars 2020. It was also nominated as one of Canada’s top 10 restaurant bars by Tales of the Cocktails Spirited Awards. We could go on, but this being said, you understand that Julien has achieved extraordinary work for someone that started in the industry in his late 20’s. His road to cocktails is an impressive one and we hope that it will inspire others to follow their guts and do what they are truly passionate about.
A little bit more about…
The three words that describe him best: smiling – calm – good listener
His biggest strength at work: His calm. Even if when he is getting slammed and he is not in control, he never lets it show on his face and he remains very calm on the outside.
The quality he likes most about an employee: Humility. He is always tempted to go towards humble people because he knows that there is something interesting behind to discover.
An advice he offers future bar owners: Surround yourself well. A good team really is the key. He could have never opened his place if even just one of his associates wasn’t there. They all have different strengths and complement each other.
His definition of hospitality: To stay true to ourselves and be profoundly kind to each other. To have empathy and to picture ourselves in our guest’s shoes. By example, when you walk to a place you have heard about and have been wanting to try for a long time, imagine you walk in there and no one greets you, it’s pretty ordinary and no one wants to feel that.