General Manager of The Cascade Room Justin Taylor grew up in farm country, in homes that were well versed in cooking. From an early age he took a liking to the culinary field, learning to bake and roast as he grew up. Naturally, this led him to pursue opportunities in the Food and Beverage industry, working his first job as a breakfast counter server in a small diner.
Following this, he took on more grassroots level roles, including being a dishwasher and then a prep cook at the small but well-known Norma Jean's Bistro in Owen Sound, Ontario. It was at this time that he got a taste of bartending, as the resident bartender would often call in sick, leading to the owner asking Justin to help pour wine and beer. “I guess he noticed I liked it because he gave me a copy of Mr. Boston’s Cocktail Guide,” said Justin, “I became enamored in the recipes and small stories of legendary bartenders.”
Justin then spent the next few years working at pubs and nightclubs in Ottawa, gaining more experience in the field. Following this, he took a leap of faith, moving to Vancouver in order to seek a position with IntraWest in the Food and Beverage industry. “I took all the money to my name, 200 bucks, and hitchhiked across the country,” said Justin, though to his dismay he had missed hiring season.
After working an array of different jobs to keep him off the streets, Justin eventually saved enough money to get a small apartment and then took on a job as a porter at the infamous Drake Hotel. “Surrounded by women, money, and alcohol I couldn't help but love where I was,” remembers Justin.
When he noticed an opportunity to get behind the bar, he convinced the owner to let him work for free during the day as a bartender so that he could learn the job, while taking on his role as a porter in the evenings to earn income. Within 5 months, Justin was promoted to head bartender at the mere age of 21 – a true testament to what hard work and tenacious wit can do for young, driven individuals.
Justin thrived in this role, though ultimately he decided he wanted a change in lifestyle, moving back to Toronto and taking on a job at York University’s nightclub where he trained younger bartenders on basic mixology. Eventually he moved on to work for many fine establishments, including Centro, a famous restaurant known for its high-end cuisine, where he was able to experiment with rare spirits and liquors to perfect his craft.
In 2005, Justin’s son was born and along with his wife, the whole family decided to move back to Vancouver in 2007. This time the timing was perfect and within a month he was hired by the Four Seasons Hotel's YEW Seafood + Bar, where he held the position of Head Bartender prior to joining Tealeaves ICON Chef Alex Chen at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar in 2014.
“It took a tonne of studying, and learning from my peers. I felt like I made it when I was runner up in the Vancouver Giffard Iron Bar competition and then placed 3rd in the World Competition in France that same year,” reminisces Justin, “A few more high placings in some other events -- most recently becoming The Bittered Sling Bistro Champion, and getting to craft my own signature bitters with their label and expertise as a reward -- has me feeling like I am really on top of the game.”
For Spring Justin created two cocktails inspired by Tealeaves Cherry Blossom Green tea - see the recipe for the Nitobe and Sakura here.