This is Stephen Flood, from Ottawa.
Stephen is 58 years old and is originally from Buckingham, Quebec. He moved to Ottawa in 1980 and has been living there since. He graduated in English Literature in 1984 but never ended up using it. Although he did write a few newspaper’s music columns while he was running a record store. He worked in retail for a while and also studied to be a hairdresser, but being left handed he struggled to find scissors for lefties so that path didn’t really work. Stephen loves shoes. He has over fifty pairs at home. If he was to change profession, he would learn how to design and make shoes. Stephen has been married for nineteen years. Every seven years, him and his wife take a sabbatical and go live somewhere else for three months. So far, they lived in Barcelona and Paris. The latter was a particularly inspiring experience in regards to his cocktail path, but we will get there shortly.
Stephen has been working in the hospitality industry for over 25 years. In the mid-nineties, he was running a record store that eventually turned into a restaurant. For the first year and a half, the business stayed both a record store and a restaurant, but eventually the record store completely closed. And that is when Stephen officially stepped full-time in the restaurant and bar industry. That place was called the Black Tomato and Stephen worked there for 21 years. When it was about to be sold, Stephen received a tempting offer that he decided to take. At that time, he was working a bar shift every Tuesday night at El Camino. One day, the owner of that group came to him with a new project he had in mind and offered him to be the one in charge of developing the bar program. Stephen came to the meeting with his iPad and showed him what he had in mind: a cocktail menu featuring 40 drinks. It sure was ambitious, and it sure worked. From the day they opened Riviera, the response to cocktails has been amazing. And Stephen has been running the bar program there since the opening.
Now you might start to wonder how exactly did he get into craft cocktails. Well I did anyway. It turns out that Stephen’s wife is a professor of inorganic chemistry that is pretty famous in her field. One day, she had a congress in Tokyo and Stephen decided to tag along. It led him to Bar High Five, ranked amongst the world’s top fifty. Least to say that he loved his experience and that it sparked a curiosity in him. However, it was really during his sabbatical in Paris that it kicked off. He would go to the city’s top cocktail bars and would be in awe. He loved not only the drinks, but the way people worked, the way they poured liquids, how they moved behind the bar, it was all so graceful and almost looked like a dance. That trip was just before he transferred to open Riviera. He has been working on elevating the cocktail scene ever since.
To conclude, Stephen appeared to be one of those very few service veterans that keep cool under all circumstances and that are still passionate about what they do. He works four service shifts every week and spends his time off testing Negronis at home with his wife, using the scientific method of course. They have over two hundred gins, thirty-five vermouths and about as many bittering agents to play with. They test variables and take notes of their observations. Overall, it was really inspiring for us to meet someone like him and we truly look forward to sitting at his bar.
A little bit more about Stephen...
The three words that describe him best: positive – curious – humble
His life motto: Be positive. Anger doesn’t solve anything.
The first drink he had that made him fall in love with cocktails: A Negroni. To him, it is the perfect drink. The gin brings the botanicals, the Campari adds bitterness and the vermouth rounds it up with herbaceous notes. What more could you want? It is the Mrs. Robinson of cocktails, when you fall in love, there’s no coming back.
The biggest professional challenge he had to overcome: Working with the LCBO. Trying to keep cocktails we have available. You fall in love with a drink you made and all of a sudden you got to buy the product and it’s been delisted.
His biggest strength as a bartender: Identifying what the person needs. What he likes most about his job is that when people sit down, you got a chance to find what kind of day this person is having and if the person is having a bad day, you can make it better, while if the person is having a great day, then you can find a way to enhance that.