In my years as a barista, I worked in 3 different locations. As I thought about my experiences in each place, and have been recalling stories about the day to day life of coffee, I cannot work through those experiences without referring to the different bosses I have had. No one person is the same, and thus, no boss runs a business the same way. Therefore, each experience I had with 4 different bosses warrants some attention. Because they have played a part in shaping me as much as (likely, more so than) the customers. And so I will recall the previous years of bosses....
My last coffee shop employer was actually a kitchen, not a solo coffee shop. This was a new experience for me, moving from Starbucks. Thus, my boss was a chef. He knew about coffee, but his specialty, by nature, was cooking. For me, that was intimidating to some degree in the beginning because, if you know me, I am not a cook. I used to joke that there was a reason I was in the coffee shop and not the kitchen. David would be just as likely to join in that banter. Although by the end of my days, I'd made good progress in learning some basic kitchen (and food, in general) knowledge. I could not go into a kitchen and get a job, mind you, but I'd say David helped me learn a lot in that realm of things.
David was an Australian with a vibrancy and strong view of life that you just don't find in many others. Upon my first interactions with David, I had to concentrate a little when he talked because of his thick Australian accent. I loved being dismissed at the end of the day with a "Cheers!" instead of a simple "have a good night." He knew all kinds of things of which I had no clue about, some of which included fashion, vocabulary, world events and of course, food. He sang silly songs that stuck in your head all day. And he knew what he wanted to see accomplished in a days work.
But David lent me a unique experience in the coffee world. As time passed, he gave me quite a bit of liberty within my realm of the coffee shop. The HearBeat Cafe was the name of our establishment. One day, between the two of us,(and to be quite honest, I have no idea who started the conversation of this need) we decided we needed new blenders, and from that idea grew a whole new idea of sorts. Somehow, from that grew the inspiration to remodel the HeartBeat Cafe. I was privileged enough to be a part of this new layout and idea. One neat aspect about this was that, not being in a management position at all, I really did not have to be included in the process. And yet David always made sure I was. He took time to make sure I was included in what was going on, and even consult my ideas on the matter. He made sure, as my boss, that I, as the sole barista, had a part in it all. He gave me much credit where it wasn't really deserved. I was a barista, but the freedom he allowed me to have in what I could do in my job- and even encouraged- pushed me in new ways I didn't discover immediately.
Sometimes people would joke about "how do you work for him?" not because he was mean, but more because he would say silly things and at times, people were not sure how to take him on those things. Truth of the matter is, I enjoyed my years under the chef. Sometimes my response to his silly statements would be "I'm not sure what to say" and I would just move on. But honestly, I learned much about myself in working with him. I've always enjoyed working hard- I don't just say that, I truly enjoy it. But in so doing under his management , I learned to express myself more creatively because I was given the freedom to do so, and that my creative side was not bad. I learned that what was within me, already engrained in who I was(am), were strong qualities that could be built upon to carry me far in who/what I wanted to be. I was pushed by him in some ways in my knowledge of coffee, but even more so in expanding my knowledge of what I already knew and what was within me that could be built upon to use in my job. I also learned much about dealing with conflicting situations from him. And upon telling David I would be leaving not just as his employee, but the coffee world overall, he was one of my biggest encouragers in the matter, recognizing I was going to enter a new passion, a new world and one which he saw the potential of what I could reach. While he never understood my love of running, he did not try to convince me to stay, but instead encouraged the dream he could see in my eyes as I shared what my next move would be.
The chef was my boss for 3 years, but he also became my friend. I think more than learning about coffee in that position, I learned about life (and food), and my experience within that kitchen is one that will not be forgotten. Unique to the coffee world; unique as part of my story in shaping me to continue moving forward.