The tale of my humble beginnings is a little different from the norm these days. I hated coffee, but I loved money. Getting a job in a business club bar when you’re 16 doesn’t exactly mean you’re in the ‘traditional’ hospitality circle of parties, booze and loose morals. It means that you’re spending your shifts clearing glasses, washing glasses, polishing glasses and (in the early-mid 90’s) making coffee so that drunks could ‘sober up’ before driving home.
Make no mistake, when I was first taught how to make coffee, I hated the stuff! Smelly, dirty, burnt tasting… This was long before true, distinct and wonderful specialty coffee emerged onto the market place. This was a time of carbonised, black roasted beans, that were oily and semi-rancid before you even opened the bag.
Looking back, Patsy (my first ever coffee trainer), did an amazing job with what she had to deal with. It was like she was a magician when she raised that cappuccino foam inches above the cup… and how did she know when to stop the pour? Her passion for quality workmanship transferred to me, and that is when I began my journey.
Discovering real, quality coffee
I have since worked in just about every position in hospitality imaginable. From barman to waiter, concierge to functions, manager to dish pig. However, through all this, loving to make coffee is the one thing that has stayed constant. That passion that I gained from Patsy stayed with me, although for a long time I STILL hated coffee… Well, the flavour anyway, as by now I was old enough to party with the staff, and the caffeine definitely helped my energy levels after 13 or 14 hour shifts!
That was until I tried my first true ‘quality’ coffee. I didn’t realise that the beans were meant to be brown instead of black, and I certainly didn’t understand why all the coffee I had drunk up until this point had been watery, acrid and bitter, when this cup was sweet, rich and thick. Thinking back now, it had to have been a naturally processed single… so funky and delicious!
Soon enough, I got out of restaurants and bars, and instead followed coffee into the café scene, where I was promptly blown away. All the while that I had been talking to customers about pairing duck rillettes with aged semillon, the cafes had been transforming coffee from ‘energy for the masses’ into something as vibrant, complex and exciting as fine cuisine! I finally felt like I was coming home.
(Insert years of retraining, hiring, firing, being hired, being fired, walking out… typical hospitality really!)
Life in the coffee world now
Once I ‘grew up’, I was fortunate enough to be managing the coffee side of a restaurant group, when the opportunity arose to start working for The Belaroma Coffee Roasting Company. Starting as a technical representative with my Cert 4 in Training, I am now the trainer for the greater Brisbane region, and have competed in two AASCA Northern Region Barista Competitions, and will certainly compete at Nationals in 2017.
Now, my travels in hospitality have brought me here, writing a blog for Seven Miles Coffee Roasters, introducing myself to you, the readers.
Well, my name is Dominic Chicoteau, however you can call me Dom. I love coffee now as much as I love the big, bad, yet wonderful, hospitality industry.
And I always will, no matter how irritating and fickle it can be.