The future is yours to create: Christina Chae
Meet the fourth interviewee in our new series: Christina Chae, co-owner of plant cocktail bar, Moonflower, in Portage Park, Chicago. She talks about creating safe spaces, not looking at each other as competition, and leading by example
A little bit about me
I’ve had many odd jobs as a young adult, but when I started hosting at a neighbourhood restaurant, there was an energy that was different and exciting. A few jobs later, I was bartending in college and found myself with managerial responsibilities. Now, I co-own a bar with great business partners and have created the kind of space I want to go to.
I enjoy seeing human connections. When people gather to celebrate or to just hang out, I want to be a part of a time that’s important to them.
I like to focus on how to become more efficient. I continue to seek out education and practice developing creativity and leadership skills.
“When people gather to celebrate or to just hang out, I want to be a part of a time that’s important to them.”
I want to create safe spaces for people to relax and mingle. I love the energy when guests are having a great time and enjoying their company. I want to open more bars and restaurants for anyone to feel comfortable in.
How I approach my work
The most helpful advice I’ve been given is, ‘Be adaptable’ and ‘It’s okay to change direction’. This industry is so fast paced that it’s necessary to stay on your toes. Things don’t go according to plan often.
I like knowing how things work so education is a big part of my professional goals. I completely believe that knowledge leads to confidence, so I seek out any education that sparks my interests.
Bartenders meet so many people. This leads to awesome stories and unique relationships. Some of our regulars have surprising experiences and we are there to listen or advise. I like that we can be supportive of people that want to share their lives with us.
Employers can be present. Employees mirror their supervisors in energy and actions. If leaders are more present and engaging, employees follow and participate.
Brands are great leaders and educators for the service industry. After a training or event, I’ve often felt more confident in my general knowledge. People are eager to teach about their passions and brands harbour people who are passionate.
“Employees mirror their supervisors in energy and actions. If leaders are more present and engaging, employees follow and participate.”
Speedrack has been the biggest influence of my career, in part because of their continued brand support. That makes it my favourite event of the year.
My thoughts on mentorship
To me, a role model is someone who has talents I’d like to learn. I think anyone can learn something from any position in the service industry.
Good morals and experience are what I look for in a mentor or leader. Key mentors in my career made me feel like my interests were important. They gave me the structure and confidence to be creative and learn.
Leaders can be more honest. Everyone can be more honest. Smaller issues would be transparent, and leaders could focus on larger solutions.
My hopes for the future
If I could change one this about our industry, I think I’d like the industry to have a bigger focus on work balance and mental health.
Bartenders hold the power to define the future of the industry. They make up such a huge part of our industry. During the pandemic, communities of bartenders were getting creative and supporting each other. This is a large and amazing support system we have access to.
“If we support each other, we are a stronger community for larger society to listen to.”
In order to grow and make sure our voices are heard, our community should continue to share information, stay connected, and be honest with each other instead of looking at others as competition. If we support each other, we are a stronger community for larger society to listen to.
I want to be remembered as someone with intention and integrity. I like to give attention, problem-solve if needed, and be a great supporter.