Behind the Bar: Chaz Anderson at Olive & Ivy
Chaz Anderson hangs out at the bar area at Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale.
Then again, if you had his job of tending bar and pouring drinks for the booful babes, captain of industry, and other top-shelf clientele who frequent Scottsdale's snazzy Olive & Ivy on a regular basis, it probably wouldn't be much of a challenge clocking in for your shift. The 27-year-old says it's hardly a grind working at the gorgeous Canal District noshery, which features a stunning neo-bohemian design overflowing with funky opulence.
"Aesthetically it's an incredible place to work that's in a beautiful location," he says. "It's definitely the most fun job I've ever had the privilege of doing, it pays great, and I get the opportunity to have a blast and meet new people."
Doncha just hate him? If so, your bout with schadenfreude might just be lessened after sampling any of Olive & Ivy's eight signature cocktails that Anderson can prepare for you on a moment's notice, including such adult beverages as the Elderflower Drop (made with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Plymouth Gin) or the Vanilla Sidecar (consisting of Navan, Triple Sec, and lemon juice).
But regardless of which of these magnificent mixed drinks you select, Anderson promises it will be prepared in neat and precise fashion.
"I always try to work as clean as possible, which is one of the biggest things you can do." he says. "I see lots of bartenders getting lost and try to do too much at once. Everything becomes a mess, which makes it hard to work in any environment, whether you're in the bar or the kitchen. You don't want the customers to see things getting messy or dirty stuff everywhere."
Having a blast serving up preferred poisons to Old Town clientele is a far cry from some of the menial positions Anderson endured prior to his introduction in the bartending trade, including a stint in his late teens as a ranch hand in his home state of Colorado. After spending a couple years mucking out horse stables and bucking bales of hay, he ventured to Denver, where he landed a position at the glitzy North imbibery owned by Fox Restaurant Concepts (the same company that runs Olive & Ivy).
Like anyone in a service role, Anderson cut his teeth as a barback and busser before earning a slot as drink-slinger. His methodical nature, which he honed during a brief stint in the banking industry, has served him well during his on-the-job training.
"I had a really strong bar crew schooling me," he says. "A lot of them had been doing it or 10-plus years so they knew the ins-and-outs and the things I needed to focus on and learn right away, so that I could excel in other areas like experimenting with drinks and flavor profiles."
And he did plenty of that when Fox Restaurant drafted him to relocate to Scottsdale in 2006 to help open Olive & Ivy, where Anderson came under the auspices of renowned drinkmaster and sommelier Regan Jasper.
"When we first opened, he let us try a lot of experimentation," he says. "It was like a lot of like, 'Let's try this,' and, 'What do you think?' that kind of stuff. When doing that, you're always going to want other peoples opinions, naturally."
Anderson also learned some of the finer points of pairing up the perfect adult beverage or any of Olive & Ivy's more than 200 varieties of vino with its menu of haute Mediterranean-meets-California cuisine.
"Regan is a great sommelier, but we've also been trained on giving customers a lot of info on recommended pairings with the different dishes and visa versa," he says. "Like I'd probably recommend a dry white wine -- especially with the weather like it is right now - to sit outside with."
Besides honing his skills as a wine expert, Anderson has also been developing his burgeoning talents for mixology over the past few months, both at work and at home, as well as a few parties. He feels like he's getting better at the craft, even if not every drink he invents isn't a winner.
"I tried doing a key lime mojito that just fell on it's face," he says. "I thought the mint with the lime flavor and a little creaminess would go over well, but it didn't."
He's gonna keep at it, since futzing with liquor sure beats a regular workaday-style existence, or even his days dealing back on the farm. ("I try to stay away from horses them as much as possible these days," Andersen says.)
So is there any parallels between wrangling up the equines and wrangling up drinks behind the bar?
"Not much. I think with people in a bar setting, they're there to have a good time and having fun as long as you are having fun along with them. It's easy to do since it can be easy to make people have fun," he says. "Horses on the other hand, I didn't ever really understand."
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.