USBG Las Vegas
Photo credit: Juyoung Kang
Juyoung Kang has been one of Las Vegas' most prominent bartenders since the craft cocktail boom began and is a role model to many. Her reputation speaks volumes and she has helped establish some of the best bar programs in the city.
Welcome, Juyoung. How did you begin your career behind the bar and what drew you to the profession?
I began as a server at a private business club in Philly in 1999. One event night, a bartender didn't show up for work and I got the chance to work behind the bar. I'm one of those [people who] hate doing something without knowing everything [about] the job. So, like a good student, I studied my butt off till I realized after graduating college that this is what I wanted to do. What drew me to the profession was how, in this job, if you’re not genuine, it doesn’t work. Hospitality is an equality game.
Where do you currently work?
The Dorsey at The Venetian Resorts.
What is the hardest part of running a bar program in such an extremely busy casino?
There are so many chiefs and so many Indians. It’s a balancing act of so many personalities and all the rules and regulations (i.e. requisitions, approvals, processes, methods, etc.). There is a lot more administrative work than creativity. Creativity is probably the hardest for most people and takes up most of your time, but it’s only about less than 10% of the whole program. If systems aren’t in place, all the creative production will cease to exist. You have to be organized on top of organized. There’s no room for error. Stress can be an all-time high sometimes, but you have to know how to handle it, move on and hit the floor running.
I'm sure everybody must be operating at 100% working for an industry behemoth like Sam Ross. How do you manage avoiding burnout? What about when you sense an employee reaching it?
I avoid burnouts by taking an extra day off. Usually your team knows when you’re working hard. And my team especially is there for me. Whenever I need an extra day, someone is always there to pick up my shift and help me out. Knowing that puts my mind at ease. Also, I figured out a long time ago that you just have to let it go. I compartmentalize my brain to know that when I’m at work, I’m working… and when I’m at home, I’m home. I don’t bring the stress of the work home. I wouldn’t let my haven be compromised. And someone once told me: “We’re not saving lives, just redeeming souls. So, stop stressing over what you can’t do and just keep up with as much as your body can do. Doctors save lives. We put a smile on their faces and administer legal potions.”
When I sense an employee reaching it, I sit down with them and ask if they’re ok. I tell them to take time off or go take a breather. I ask what would help them work better and try to provide that support. Checking in on them periodically throughout the night to see if one, they’re holding onto their sanity, and two, if they’re all in one piece. Sometimes a five minute woosah makes all the difference in the world.
3 descriptors. Make me something. Fruity, Spicy, Blended.
1.5 oz Tequila, 0.25 oz pineapple liqueur, 0.5 oz lime, 1oz green apple, 0.75 oz coconut syrup. Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend and serve in rocks glass. Apple fan with spicy salt.
What do you feel is the best reason for a new bartender to join the USBG?
It’s a great way to meet the bar community and there is a wealth of information and resources available. When things need attention, the USBG and the bar community can come together and make changes happen. Also, it’s just nice to know that someone has your back.
Thank you, Juyoung. What's on your mind that you want people to know?
Stop being nice. Be kind. Be genuine. Be present. Stop worrying, the universe will take care of you. Know your talents and use it. If not, DO THE HOMEWORK to be where you want to be. The only one person that can help you be where you want to be is you. If you don’t invest in yourself, no one will invest in you. People around us are resources, but they will not do your work. Learn to be you. Love you. And then you’ll learn to know who you are. Growth begins when you learn to start.