Veterans of the food industry will attest that while it's one thing to begin working in an established restaurant, it's another thing entirely to be part of the crew that opens a new one. The experience can be stressful, especially at an eatery as hyped-up as Beckett's Table (3717 E. Indian School Rd., 602-341-3004). With little artwork, cement walls, visible wooden crossbeams and an open kitchen, the spare, open space is like a stripped-down version of a restaurant, creating a refreshing lack of pretense that allows the food, drinks, and the people who work there to shine. Helping to form Beckett's in its infancy is an opportunity Alicia Jorgensen relishes. Having worked in the Valley for 15 years at such renowned spots as Christopher's and Metro, Jorgensen's not only bright and beautiful; she's an experienced foodie who's making sure the drinks at Beckett's Table impress as much as the food.
How did you get your start?
I started in restaurants when I was 12 years old, and I haven't ever worked in any other industry. I just sort of worked my way up. I started out as a busser at a little breakfast restaurant in South Haven, Michigan. Back then, they let people that young work in restaurants; I think it's changed to 15 now. But back when I was that age, 12 was okay with a worker's permit from your school. I was a busser, then a server, and I've been bartending now for almost 20 years.
Have you ever wanted to do anything else?
I studied biology. Never had much of a change to use the degree, though. During college I considered either going into marine biology or forensics, and those both required a biology degree, along with post-graduate work, obviously. I moved out here to decide which one I wanted to go with, and just never went that direction. I got jobs in restaurants, and here I am. I've considered things, but I just like the action of a bar. I like the fact that every day you go to work, it's different. I like the interaction with people and the energy. I've never given anything else very serious thought.
Was there a specific moment when you realized this is what you wanted to do?
I don't think so. I got into it so young, I never thought of anything else. I've always enjoyed it; I've always thought my life was fun and exciting and adventurous because of what I do. I've just never really given a lot of thought to anything else. At 12, you're not really thinking about whether you want to be doing this job for the rest of your life, but it just hasn't gone any other way. I love what I do and I always have.
How did you end up at Beckett's?
I knew Justin through having worked for a while at Metro in Scottsdale. He was the executive chef at Canal, so we were owned by the same company. He opened this place up, and I was just excited for him. I called him up and said, "Hey, I want a reservation! I'm so happy for you. I think it's so great that you finally got your own place." He told me to come on down and talk to him. So I did, and now here I am.
Did you have any part in crafting the cocktail menu?
Not this current opening menu. These are all [owner Scott Stevens']. He's asked that all the bartenders think up a couple things, and we definitely plan on building the list. There will be more to come, and all the bartenders will be influencing the list from here on out, and it will get a little bigger.
Any idea what you'll make?
I've been thinking of a couple things, but I haven't really put too much work into it yet. I really want to do something seasonal. Myself, I drink a lot of different stuff, but I love seasonal drinks. In the fall and winter, you'll see me with Old Fashioneds and Manhattans and stuff like that that you'll never see me with any other time of year. I'm thinking about doing a twist on a Manhattan with some secret ingredients that I'm kind of playing around with. That's probably the direction I'll go, but I'm still tweaking the recipe a bit.
Do you spend a lot of time at home making up drinks?
I do. I'm not just an employee at a restaurant; I definitely live this life. My boyfriend is in the same business, so we love to go out to dinner, we love to try different wines, different drinks; we like to see what other people are doing. It's more of a lifestyle than just a job for me.
Beckett's Table has been open about a week now. What's different about working here so far?
It's so much fun. This is the first time I've ever opened a restaurant. That can be a little nerve-wracking, because you don't know how a restaurant's going to be. When it's been open a while and you're going in after the fact, you kind of have an idea of what it'll be like. When you open a restaurant there's more pressure. But it's been really smooth, and first and foremost it's been fun. Everyone here is just kind of having a ball; we're taking it a day at a time and loving it.
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What's something you dislike about bartending?
The one thing that's definitely not enjoyable to me is when I have to cut somebody off. It's a very rare occurrence, but it's never fun. People just don't take it well, generally. You want to be subtle about it. You don't want to cause a scene. You don't want them to be angry, but inevitably, if you've had enough to drink that you have to be cut off, you're probably not going to take it very well. It's just an awkward situation.
Having worked in both, do you prefer making drinks in restaurants or bars?
When I was younger, I liked the bars. I liked the people who were having a lot of fun, drinking more, and there was great energy. The older I've gotten, I've become more of a foodie myself, and I love to know that I'm serving a product that people are going to love. I love to make a drink, but I also like to put food in front of a person that they're going to love, and they're going to have a great time because it's a whole experience, not just a cocktail.
What do you drink when you're out?
I'm a big wine drinker. My favorite thing on planet earth is champagne. I love champagne and red wine. However, I tend to go to local neighborhood joints if I'm just out for a couple drinks, and wine selection there isn't generally the best. I'll usually just have any variety of vodka drink. I've been having a lot of sweet tea lately. If I can't make up my mind, it's just a Captain and Coke.