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Marta Ess, bartender

Portrait of Marta Ess, bartender
Marta Ess, bartender in Toronto

This is Marta Ess, from Toronto.

Marta is 34 years old and is originally from Saskatchewan. Her parents were both Polish political refugees that were sent to Saskatoon when they immigrated, hence why she was born there, but Marta has lived in many different cities across the country. She was born in Saskatoon, moved to Kingston when she was a kid, went to Ottawa for high school, and moved to Montreal for university. She was part of a semi-professional dance company the entire time she was at university. Marta majored in cultural studies and minored in educational psychology. Right after graduating, she moved to Poland to teach English for a year. Upon her return, she moved to Toronto, continued teaching for a little bit, and then decided to become a professional dancer, which is what she did for most of her 20’s.

Marta found her way into the hospitality industry to support herself first as a student, then as a professional dancer. Eventually, she reached a point in her dance career where she had to make some important decisions. She was 29 years old and couldn’t be performing forever. She realized that she had way more fun and was making much more money bartending, so she decided to transition to bartending full-time.

She reached out to a friend that was the general manager of Luma, the restaurant located in the Toronto International Film Festival building. She joined the team there to learn some solid foundations. It was more of a corporate setting, so it sure taught her good habits. She wouldn’t be the same bartender today if she didn’t start in that corporate frame. After a year and a half, she was fully in charge of the bar program. About at the same time, she started an industry blog about independent bar and restaurant owners. She would tell their stories about what they had to go through in order to open their venues. The more she wrote about them, the less it made sense for her to work in a big corporate restaurant. And that’s when she transitioned to independently owned restaurants and bars.

However, two years later, Marta was hired as the Jack Daniel Brand Ambassador. She was the first female brand ambassador for the brand in Canada and she had never worked so hard for something in her life. After completing her first year, there was a change of distributor for the brand and the whole team got laid off. She was devastated and was sitting at home living off her severance package when she got a text message from Jacob Wharton-Shukster, the owner of Chantecler, asking her to come work for him. Little did she know that what started as a part-time bartending position would turn out to become an important part of her career. About a year later, she had become the bar manager and would soon be referred to as the bar mom of the place. However, as we know all good things come to an end and Marta has now recently left Chantecler. She moved away from Toronto and will be moving to Halifax this summer.

Overall, there is much more that could have been said not only about her impressive path in our industry but also about her amazing personality and how she contributes to our community. She is frankly a gem of a human being, and an outspoken one will we add to that! Marta will be greatly missed in the Toronto cocktail scene and Halifax will be very lucky to have her. We wish her all the best for what is to come and cannot wait until our paths cross again.


A little bit more about Marta...

The three words that describe her best: fair – opinionated – loyal

The biggest lesson that her job taught her: Patience.

Something random that she loves outside of work: She loves to play the ukulele and sing.

-The most magical place she’s ever been to: She was sitting at the bar at Dante in New York City at the very moment when they learned that they were awarded best bar in the world in the World’s 50 Best Bars. Champagne was flowing everywhere, the staff was ecstatic, it was definitely magical.

- An advice she offers younger bartenders: Start in a corporate setting and learn the good habits. You won’t do it forever but it will teach you great foundations. She also likes to mentor bartenders that are starting in cocktail competitions in order to help them understand how to navigate this world.

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