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Okanagan Extreme

Author: Staff Reporter
Source: Bar & Beverage Business Magazine

Kelowna bartender Dave Simpson likes basketball, but he loves bartending.  At 19, Simpson, passed on his athletic scholarship to a junior college in Washington state to come back to his home town and get into the hospitality industry.


“It was a tough decision, “ he says looking back four years to his days at university.  “I realized I wasn’t having fun and doing the things I wanted to do.  I really like music and people and travel.  I called my uncle Vance (Campbell) and he told me to go with my feelings.”


With his parents backing him, Simpson did jus that.  First he took the mixology course at Fine Art Bartending and then got involved with Extreme Bartending by Barsmart.


“After I finished the mixology course I got a letter from Scott Young inviting me to take a course on flair and service.  I’ve never looked back,” he says, remarking that he has since become one of the instructors at Extreme traveling several times a month to deliver presentations and seminars around British Columbia.


While he may travel for Extreme in BC, he has taken his bartending skills somewhat farther afield with travel to Australia, a country he now regards as his second home.  On an initial trip to Sydney, he headed out to Hamilton Island in the Sunday group and dazzled a resort bar manager with a bit of flair and his easy style.  “I was able to walk in, show my stuff, and get a job right away.  I worked poolside for two months.  This had to be one of my best bartending experiences.”


In Canada, Simpson began his career at Lake Okanagan Resort.  There, he reports, the bar manager was sceptical regarding flairtending and extreme service.  “I had to really work to show the value of the style.  I showed him a few training videos and described the idea behind working flair before he came around.”


Indeed, the concept of working flair is at the heart of what Simpson does today from his post as evening bar manager at McCulloch’s Station in Kelowna.  “The idea is to offer great interactive service without slowing the well.  Flair is one of the best ice breakers a bartender can use,” he says, noting that first he makes guests feel special taking a moment to interact with them and discuss their drink preferences and let them know he is there to look after their needs at the bar.  “Always start with the little things and work outward.  Don’t just try to wow guests with flair tricks right away.  I typically don’t go overboard with tricks either.  I just try to keep it interesting at the wood without slowing service by juggling and showing off with multi-bottle tosses.  However, I have been known to do a backdraft or multi-glass domino move.  It all depends on the night.”


What’s coming for Dave Simpson?  He comments that he would like to follow in the family footsteps and operate his own establishment.  “My grandfather was in the business,” he says.


Simpson is also working to take his skills to the next level and is hard at work practising with luminaries such as Ryan Boyd and Marc Mital to get his show edge on for some upcoming competitions.


“No matter what happens I don’t want to loose site of why I got into the bartending scene in the first place.  First and foremost its about the people.”

Date: April 8th, 2005

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Scott Young, President and Head Instructor Bar Smart Inc.