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Suraj Gurung: "The problem with many bars is that they do everything their guests ask for"

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Suraj Gurung is the head bartender of Hong Kong’s Stockton, named in honor of Hunter S. Thompson (Stockton is his middle name). Under Suraj’s direction, the bar took 11th place on the 50 Best Bars in Asia list. At one point, having moved from Nepal to Hong Kong, he took up any work he could find: from salesman to waiter. Today, he’s in charge of four bars.

The best advice I ever got was given to me by my uncle. Then, I was just starting to work as a bartender and doubted whether I should continue. He said, “It’s obvious that you’re not going to become a doctor or a surgeon. But you can try to do what you’re doing now better than anyone else. Since then, I’ve taken this profession seriously.

I think that the problem with many bars is that they start with a good concept, and then give up and just do everything that their guests want. We always reserve the right to say “no.” For example, we don’t do Long Islands.

We know all of our permanent customers by sight; we know their favorite drinks; we know when their birthdays are. It’s important to us that they feel like a part of our family.

The best thing in my work is the ability to combine various tasks, from designing a menu and cocktail program to training my team. Now I’m working with four different bars, and I’m never bored. But the most interesting is still working behind the bar.

A sad person won’t make another person happy. That’s why my main task to try and make my employees happy.

When I hire people, the first question I ask is, “What is your goal? What do you want?” It’s important that our goals line up. Work is a trip that we take together, and if we don’t want the same things, nothing will work out.

When I travel, I prefer going to food markets and restaurants rather than bars. Food always inspires me to create new drinks.

I don’t go to bars for the cocktails – I go for the friends. I usually just drink beer.

The most important skill for a bartender is the ability to listen.

It’s really important to manage your social media. Nobody but you yourself will tell about how great you are. And what’s more – don’t come up with a clever name for your Instagram, and just manage it under your own name so that people can find you easily. 

 

Photo: Leonid Kazansky

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