This blog was originally published at on 12/27/2014

I am always on the lookout for good people, and I'm always looking for innovative ideas- to get involved with/to gawk at/and to be inspired by.  

Professionally I feel very strongly that I solely want to support people who operate with integrity, and intellectually I love seeing people think outside the box, look for uncommon answers to common problems, and embrace their place in life as an opportunity to fulfill their wildest dreams.

These elements seem to have converged, surprisingly, at The Bartenders Academy in Fairfield and Waterbury Connecticut (I say 'surprisingly' because CT is not the first place I think of when I think innovation- I tend to think of rolling hills, white picket fences, and no accents;))

Peter Clayton, the owner of the academy, is launching a 7 week 100 hour bartending course for industry professionals starting in mid January. The curriculum includes TIPS certification, hands on training with tools and techniques, introduction to spirits, liqueurs, bitters, vermouth, amari, beer, and wine, and more. The comprehensive list of 'textbooks' includes Danny Meyer's seminal book on hospitality 'Setting the Table,' as well as Dale Degroff's 'Craft of the Cocktail,' 'Imbibe' by David Wondrich, and more. The academy also provides job placement assistance- resume building, interview skills, mentorship and job leads. 

The total cost of the course is $1950 and they offer financing of $350 down and payments of $100 per month. What this means is that not only is the TOTAL cost of the experience lower than any other academic investment/career change I know of but they know their clientele well. In a cash-heavy business like hospitality, often cash flow is an issue, as it tends to 'flow' into your hands and quickly out again with little evidence that it existed at all;). $1950 up front is not a reality for most people, but $100 a month? That's doable.

The real kicker to why I am enamored by this program is Peter himself. We met last year at the US Bartenders Guild regional conference in Pittsburgh, and caught up just before the holidays earlier this week. Peter described the program as a 'business with a purpose,' the purpose being (I paraphrase) 'to help people in a big way- to empower people to build their own futures and skills in an amazing industry.'

This is the first time I've said it here in my blog, but the theme will continue to crop up should you read future posts: I have a vested interest in mentorship, accessible and affordable education, and democratizing our value system around what disciplines are embraced by society. If you haven't seen Sir Ken Robinson's phenomenal TED talk 'How schools kill creativity,' you must drop everything and watch it immediately. He explains that the entire educational experience is modeled in the image of Industrialism, and is designed to guide us- not towards our passions, but towards fields that are 'most valuable for work,' with math and languages sitting atop the academic hierarchy, and the arts limping along far below. Food and beverage is not even mentioned as an academic option, and last I checked, everyone eats, and nearly every important historic event is marked by customs around food and beverage consumption. Deserving of note, no?

In any case, there is an established culture of education and apprenticeship around food and cooking, and at a high level; wine, beer, and spirits. However, as far as opportunities go that set you up for immediate economic independence (finding a job) as well as equip you with the proper historical context and classic technique to further your education and professionalism, there's not much going on. 

I'm expecting that The Bartenders Academy's new course will fill a much needed void, and increase the level of professionalism in our community. I am hoping to sneak out to Connecticut to witness the course in action, but until then, I'll be rooting them on from good ol' NYC.