Michael Przdzial is a true example of the Las Vegas dream, working his way up from whatever entrance to the industry one can muster, working independently towards certifications and skill sets, and finding opportunity where he could. Now a competing mixologist, working Strip bartender, and professional consultant, Michael gives us insight to his past and advice for starting bartenders.
What do you think is the most important part of the industry for people to focus on?
Being someone who's done competitions, who's worked at both union and nonunion bars, and with experience in the consulting or managerial level, my biggest message is definitely guest service. Any bartender that's working in the industry, it's very easy to get side-barred with everything that goes into your projects. You can't lose sight of your bar team, their morale, camaraderie, and their providing excellent customer service. Doesn't matter who your customer is, what they're ordering, or what you're playing around with on the back bar, it's still about service. That can be lost in all the little nuances in running a bar, but it's really the key ingredient.
You have a unique position in that you do consultant work as well. What is the main benefit of hiring a consultant?
Finding a consultant or having a really experienced bar staff is really important. Whether you're opening a cocktail bar or just having a restaurant bar, you need that experience to make it efficient. It can also be helpful for people new to the industry to work with their distributor, and really get all you can from them. The "Big Two" can help figure out some of these technical issues and sourcing problems. It's all about getting that experience as a helping hand.
Any advice for those new in the industry?
If you're driven and passionate, you'll always be a successful bartender. When you become successful, you have a responsibility to share the knowledge. You may not be getting paid for it, but you can only gain more knowledge when you share yours. Dushan Zaric from "Employees Only NYC" was out here recently. He said it was like filling up a cup; you fill yours with info to the brim, you have to be able to give some away to make room for more.
How did you get your start in bartending?
For me, bartending came as a necessity. I was young, and I went to plenty of house parties for friends. I had seen the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise flipping bottles around, and I thought it would be cool to make cocktails that also limited people from just drinking straight alcohol and getting too drunk too quickly. I can regulate it a little bit and stretch the night, rather than having fifteen people pouring their own. I was working as a bellman at the Luxor, but it was a gig where I got laid off frequently, even when constantly making full time or part time union bids. I felt it was time for a change. I enjoyed bartending at parties, so I enrolled at the Culinary Institute. I took a one month bar-back course, applied to an opening at Treasure Island, and without any F&B experience I got a bar porter job. It was a low level job, mainly hauling trash and cleaning, and I moved on to working all the jobs around it, like runners and bussers.
I worked every outlet Treasure Island had, and was on call for any open position. I eventually got a job at Comme Ca in The Cosmopolitan as a daytime bartender/nighttime barback. I was introduced to Sam Ross, so I began to grasp the concepts of being a good bartender. I was lucky, didn't have to un-learn any bad habits, and was a blank slate. I met Juyong (June) Kang, and we became good friends at that position. I benefited from her extensive experience, and learned a ton. From there, I moved to the Todd English P.U.B., which was a 180-switch but gained me a new style of being a bartender. I got certified by the union, and I saw Central was opening at Caesars. They had a practical exam, a written test, and being fresh off the union certification exam, I got in.
What is your "Mixology Mantra"?
My mantra, my credo has been the same since day one. "You enjoy the people at your bar, you'll enjoy coming to work." It's always been about the guests, no matter which way the trends go.