interviews

Interview with Daniele Panzanaro

‘If you cannot find inspiration then you are not looking properly.’

Daniele Panzanaro mentions this quote in this week’s interview. He is a mixologist by trade, however this is only one of his many talents.  Daniele discusses his passions for food and drink and his creation of a new website based around sustainability.

What is your background within hospitality?

My background in hospitality started when I took a summer job as a builder. I was helping to build a bar in Italy where I am from. The owner of the bar was recruiting for staff and he asked if I had any experience working in a bar or selling coffee. I was around 13 so I didn’t have any experience, however I said I could at least help and make a cappuccino. I spent the next few weeks before the opening of the bar learning everything I could about how to make a proper cappuccino. I also had a friend who was going to hospitality school and I borrowed his books to read.  When the bar opened my cappuccino was not the greatest, however it was an opportunity for me to get into hospitality.

I also had a role in a very famous bakery back in Italy and they hired me as a barback. I learnt a lot there and worked hard to eventually become a Bartender. My career has grown from there and I have always wanted to learn, grow, improve and meet different people.

I eventually moved to London around 3 years ago and have worked at several different venues here. At the moment I am not working, however I was working on an opening project in Bahrain as a Bar Director. It was a great venue, which was completely designed from scratch. I was involved in the design of the cocktail menus and the training of staff. The style and level of service we wanted to achieve was at a fine dining standard. We were just about to open and then the Covid -19 Pandemic started. I do not think the opening will go ahead now, but I am glad for the experience. I had fun, I learnt a lot in a short space of time, and I met a lot of great people.

What inspired you to become a Bartender?

It’s a mixture of things. I like being busy in the bar and enjoy the vision and creativity that you can have. What I also love is the diversity of people that you meet. Especially if you work in a hotel, then you have the possibility to meet people from all over the world and its awesome.  You have the chance to speak and create something for other people which pleases me. I love it when I make people smile and they are happy because of me.  It is not hard for me to work 16 hours a day because it makes me happy.

As a Bartender, where do you find creative inspiration?

I always refer to a phase my grandma has said to me in the past. ‘If you cannot find inspiration then you are not looking properly.’ It’s everywhere. You just need to understand and be aware that inspiration is all around you.  Mostly I get inspiration from pictures and art in general.  For example, Japanese pastry is something I use a lot. In Japanese pastry the way they combine flavour is similar to how cocktails are constructed. They use salt and sugar and need to know how to balance the acidity and sweetness. This is just one example of how inspiration is all around you.

What is the most memorable moment for you working within the hospitality industry?

This would be when I was working in a hotel in Holborn. I was walking through the lobby and I saw a family walking towards me, I recognised them straight away. They were an American family I had met and served back home in Italy. This was five years before and they also remembered me too.  We couldn’t believe that we had all met again. This was one of the best moments for me working in hospitality, to be remembered five years later.

Why do you believe that the hospitality industry is a great place to work?

I enjoy the diversity of what can happen in a day. It is a busy environment and never boring. The Monday of this week, will not be the same as the Monday of next week. No too days are the same and this is what I love. It’s amazing.

What have you been doing during lockdown to keep busy?

This lockdown has been a journey for me. I really panicked at the beginning when the Covid- 19 Pandemic first started. I am used to working and have always worked most of my life, I have never stopped. I love this industry and I missed working and meeting people and I felt stuck.  I took the time to analyse what was around me and what I could do.  I started to make bread and bake cakes and biscuits. I made sourdough which I have given to my neighbours and they loved it.  I have also started to ferment and make kombucha.

I have been reading a lot and I have also refurbished my living room.  I have created a space to focus which I didn’t have time to do before.

I have a lot of respect for the environment. In most of the bars that I have worked in, we try to reduce and have zero wastage. For example, if the kitchen are not using a product, we would try to use this and add to our cocktail menu instead of it being thrown away. Learning more about the environment I am creating a website. It will be based around recycling with information for people on how they can become more sustainable in their everyday life. There is a lot of misleading information on this topic and I feel it is important that people are fully informed.

What is your favourite drink to make?

This would have to be a Margarita cocktail.  The quantity of liquids that you put inside the shaker makes the shaker sound so good. It has a nice melody which makes me happy every time I make it.

What is the best drink that you have ever had?

This is tricky because a drink is also about the experience you have.  A bartender can make you a great drink, but if it is delivered in the wrong way then you will not enjoy the drink as much. Service delivery is very important. The best drink experience I have had would be once when I was served a Caipirissima. Its normally a simple drink served with rum, however the best one I had was from a bartender who added a lot of flavour to it. He infused lemongrass and passion fruit and also herbs. It was sweet, sour and herbal. It was awesome and I was speechless.  His drink was amazing, and he was a very kind and polite person too. He was very busy that night but still had the time to speak with everyone. He made the night for most of the customers in bar and then on top of that his cocktails were great too.

If you were a food or drink what would you be?

Maybe a pizza because I have a funny side.  However, I am also serious.  So, I think I would be an elaboration of a sophisticated complex pizza.  I imagine I would be a specific sourdough pizza with a thin edge and fresh tomato sauce, mixed with celery and olives and with truffle oil on top.

Complete the sentence.  I am happiest when?

I am happy when I am experimenting with food and drink. I always do a lot of preparation and I am always seeking to improve and experiment.  I am happiest when after a lot of trials and experimentation, I finally get the result I want, and I feel satisfied.

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