This is Maxime Hoerth, from Toronto, co-owner of Pompette.
Maxime is 34 years old and is originally from Strasbourg, in the North-East of France. He moved to Canada a little over three years ago. Back in Strasbourg, Maxime studied Hotel management and specialized in bar at the end of his program. To this day, Maxime has pretty much always worked behind a bar.
Back in Europe, Maxime did his first stage in Hôtel le Royal, in Luxembourg. His bar chef had a lot of character and was very square. She inspired him a lot and influenced the way he worked all along the way after. Once he graduated, he moved to Switzerland and worked at a Cuban bar called La Havana. That was back in 2006, before the cocktail revival hit Switzerland. The bar had an impressive back bar, but the cocktails mostly served were closer to the likes of G&T’s than Martinis. Nonetheless, it didn’t keep him from taking part in cocktail competitions and winning many of them. After he won Bacardi Martini, he got a call from the chef barman of the Georges V, the Four Seasons hotel in Paris. Of course, he seized the opportunity and accepted to join his team.
He left his comfort zone in Switzerland and took up the new challenge in Paris. Little did he know that he would end up becoming the bar chef himself five years later. At the same time, he became the younger Palace bar chef in the whole of Paris. In parallel, Maxime continued to participate in cocktail competitions and brought many great titles home. He won the World Class French finals in 2010. The following year, he won the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France Barman. After five years at the Georges V, from bar back to bar chef, Maxime was hired to develop the new bar program at the Bristol, once again, one of the city’s most luxurious hotel bars. He was hired for the opening, so he got to develop everything from A to Z. He loved the experience and stayed there for four years, but eventually him and his wife gave life to a new human being and had been in Paris for a decade, so they decided that it was time for a change.
They wanted to explore a new country but didn’t know which one to choose. One day, one of his friends suggested that they opened a restaurant together and that this venue should be in Toronto. Maxime had never been to Canada, so he and his future partners took a trip to Toronto for a week and agreed to move there. The whole process of opening Pompette took a lot more time than planned. Finding the proper space took many trial and errors, involving teams of lawyers, litigation, changing venue 3 times and an 8 months negotiation period to finally lock a place. Of course, you saw it coming, by the time they could finally open their door, all restaurants and bars were shut down for service in Toronto due to the pandemic. That was last May. Maxime and his partners were very ready to get rolling, so they opened anyway, right in the midst of Covid. They offered take-out food, wines, beers and more. It allowed them to get to know the neighbourhood, to start building a clientele, and once patios could open they were all ready to roll.
Pompette sits on three strong pillars: great food, great wines and great cocktails. The three owners are extremely passionate and knowledgeable respectively in their own fields: Maxime is the barman, Jonathan the sommelier and Martine the chef. If they all have a fine dining back ground, they wanted to keep that professionalism level while creating a cool space where people could have fun and indulge. Above anything else, they want people to have a good time, drink well and eat well. And they work very hard to put together the perfect combination of these elements for people to enjoy. Needless to say, they do it with brio. Pompette was one of our favourite places in Toronto, for not only did we eat and drink extremely well, but we encountered some true hospitality passionate people that made us feel at home if only for a night.
A little bit more about Maxime...
The three words that describe him best: Stubborn – curious – friendly
His drink of preference after a hard day: A good single malt. Nothing quite like being alone, opening a book and drinking a nice single malt after a long and rough day.
The achievements that he is most proud of: There are two aspects.
1) To make people happy. He does this job because he wants to make people happy, to tell stories and create good memories.
2) To train people and see them grow. People that come to work for you do it to learn and grow, so it’s your responsibility to make sure that once they leave, you have given them as much as you could.
The biggest challenge he faced to open his own place: Not to give up. It took three years to come to life. One of the original partners unfortunately passed away during the process. They lost the first space. Had to talk with way more lawyers than they would have wanted to. When you open a restaurant it’s your dream and passion that you want to bring to life, and when it turns into a nightmare, it’s extremely difficult not to give up. That’s when having a great team and surrounding yourself well comes into play.
An advice he would offer future bar owners: It’s gonna be more difficult than you think. Even if you think you’re prepared, even if you have a good budget, even if you have great ideas. It’s gonna be more difficult than you think. But you should still do it. Because once you open your doors and you have guests and you see them happy, you’ll have accomplished something incredible.