Alissa Gabriel’s message for women in the industry – hospitality

Alissa Gabriel has achieved incredible milestones throughout her career so far. The bar manager from Hinchcliff House in Sydney got her start in the Far North Queensland industry while still in high school and looking to apply for the military. But instead of committing, Gabriel “fell in love with hospitality, the art of creating a drink and curating an experience.”

There wasn’t much of a thriving cocktail environment when he first played, so Gabriel moved to Brisbane and continued to develop his skills in some of the city’s top bars over the next two years. It was around this time that Gabriel won his first cocktail competition and was named the 2015 Bacardi Legacy National Winner. It was also the year the international finals were held in Sydney, which saw Gabriel discover the bar scene of the city’s bar scene.

Gabriel then moved to Sydney and joined Speakeasy Group, where she spent five years working at venues such as Mjolner and Eau De Vie, where she was head bartender. Today, the bar genius works for House Made Hospitality, the group behind Hinchcliff House which comprises four levels of dining, drinking and events in the CBD. “I jumped into this amazing new business and had the privilege of opening four bars in the building,” says Gabriel.

As Hinchcliff House’s Bar Manager, Gabriel curates the drink and cocktail lists for each concept in the building, with more to follow in the coming months. “I love being able to create the customer experience as soon as they walk through the door and then see them [leave] and tell other people about your place,” she says. “Word of mouth really inspires me and keeps me going.”

Apollonia Hinchcliff House

Although there have been ups and downs during Gabriel’s career in the bar world, the joy of designing a concept offering has been a highlight. “With a new venue, you have so many opportunities to create something out of nothing,” she says. “I’ve helped open about seven sites now and that’s definitely been a highlight. [in my career] – those first few weeks of running around doing it all and finally stepping back and seeing what you’ve created is a truly happy time.

At just 27, Gabriel admits she excelled in the industry “pretty quickly” thanks to her strong work ethic, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been obstacles along the way. In her roles, she recognized the common challenges that women face in the industry, with the biggest ones being underestimated. “It’s a male-dominated industry, and you always have this guest who wants to talk to the bartender next to me because he wants to ask about whiskey, not knowing that I taught the bartender everything ‘he knows about it,’ says Gabriel. “Situations like this [occur] where we are constantly underestimated when we might actually be the most qualified person in the room.

The bar manager says it doesn’t come from inside the industry, but from the customer side of the equation. In such situations, Gabriel believes the best response is to wait for the opportunity to step in and prove yourself to the person without reacting to challenge someone to acknowledge their unconscious biases.

Another challenge Gabriel identified for women in the industry is impostor syndrome; the experience of doubting your own abilities and being afraid that people will find out that you are an impostor or that you do not belong in a certain role. According to Gabriel, this is an obstacle that is mostly encountered by women in the bar industry. “I think there’s a gap with impostor syndrome where we don’t know what we’re worth,” she says. “A man can ask for more money because he has the confidence to ask, when we constantly underestimate ourselves.

“There’s an instinctive feeling of, ‘Maybe I’m not worth this; maybe I’m not good enough”. Work hard to prove yourself and know your worth. Everyone is capable of doing the same job and getting paid the same… I think it just starts with having the confidence in yourself and knowing you can do it.

Overall, Gabriel is positive about the role of women in the industry and thinks the sector is moving in the right direction as a collective, for the most part. “Good conversations happen,” she says. “I think we are doing everything we can and it will be a fight until the end. It’s about putting women first and… being part of the larger, ever-evolving conversation. It will develop over time and people’s ignorance will improve.

This story was originally posted by The Screamwho launched a series of profiles on women working in the industry.

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