For the Love of the Craft
For the Love of the Craft “Tom Tom” Kozlowski When Tom Tom Comes to Town…
Finding a way to connect with people is the secret of bartending and life for that matter; that is what Tom Kozlowksi does best. Whether it’s with a joke or a drink, Tom Tom finds a way to make people love him. Taking a cue from the silliness of a flair bar and combining it with the drink skills of a mixology bar, Tom Tom performs his craft with a multitude of jokes, inside and out, and a passion for making people happy. A former bar-mate of Tom Tom once said, “The man is really good at reading people and serving them what they didn’t know that they wanted, all the while making them laugh their pants off!” To whatever bar team that is lucky enough to have him, he is like a wrecking ball of good times with legit bar skills. He is a student of the art of cocktails but his storytelling expertise, self deprecating sense of humor and pure hospitality is what truly delights his guests. As part of my research, I posed a question to a few of his former coworkers about his legacy and how to best describe the man. Many words came to affectionate fruition: “a true tippler,” “passionate,” “fearless,” “bald,” “magnanimous,” along with some that I can’t mention. Tom Tom and I sat down on a sunny Sunday morning talking shop, discussing hash browns, hash tags and the art of the craft.
You have worked for two different celebrity chefs and did a long stint at Caesars Palace. What are some of the formative moments in your career?
I think of when I was bar-backing at Caesars, at Nero’s Steakhouse, with two bartenders, Jose Galvez and David Barragan. Just repeat guests all the time coming to see all three of us. I really learned how just that side of people coming back to see you, when they come to Vegas they want to feel home again. Really cool. Before I knew that Manhattans are always stirred and what a dry martini was, I was shown how to treat a guest. Make them feel at home, and make them want to come back. And that’s always stuck with me.
How did you enjoy being a part of the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill’s bar team?
I’ll just say that Gordon Ramsey Pub at one time, and I’m not even including myself in this group, had the best team, had the absolute best bar team in the city bar none. Everyone’s pretty much gone in different paths from Raul Faria, Adam O’Donnel, Jose Salinas to Adam Rains, and have gone on to do awesome things. No doubt the best bar team I’ve ever worked with and I’ve ever learned from. While it’s not the same anymore, there are a few of the staples still there: Keith Garcia, Mr. Gene Samuel, Ramon Ordoñez and Rocco Garcia. Man, looking back at those glory days. Oh the glory days…
Behind the bar, what is your main focus?
I think the reason I focus on hospitality so much is because positive feedback is an addiction. When someone comes back to see you or tells you you made their night or recommends a friend, you get hooked. And the idea that you’re a conducting factor to their good time is infectious. You want to do that again and again and again.
What do you love most about the bar game?
What I love about bartending is the range of positive emotions you get to experience. The rush of adrenaline on a busy night. The laughs you share as you tell and listen to stories. All the jokes and shenanigans that go on behind the bar with your teammates. Work becomes fun, and then it really isn’t work anymore.
Who are some people in the industry that you look up to?
Without listing all of the obvious Vegas bartending legends, one guy who is called “Flippy” Tim Morris. He works day shift at Carnival Court and there are just so many repeat guests that come see this guy. He’s a phenomenal flair bartender but he makes you laugh so much and you just have such a good time at his bar. It’s not crazy party really, it’s during the day. You just sit there and you just have a good time with Flippy. He doesn’t have to flip anything. It’s not about that, you’re just laughing, you crack up. Totally different arena, but Dave Cooper is also the guy that everyone knows. You sit at his bar and you just think, “man, the guy’s just got it.” He just makes you feel great; he’s a warm personality.
You are currently the lead bartender at Hexx at the Paris. What can you tell me about it?
Hexx is open 24/7. They do a happy hour every day from 2 to 6, but the idea is to eventually do a reverse happy hour to bring some people in. Then down the road within the next couple of months to bring back the speakeasy competitions there and put the winners’ cocktails on the menu. I will be putting on more crafty cocktails and a small bites menu.