Hong Kong boasts one of the most dynamic dining scenes on the planet, filled with culinarians and tastemakers galore. In our Cheat Day column, we spotlight some of the top players in the kitchen and behind the bar, delving into their personal favourites during their days off. This week, we speak to Anne-Sophie Cros of Soho House Hong Kong.
Growing up in Cahors in Southern France, the land of foie gras and Malbec, Anne-Sophie Cros discovered her love of the food and beverage industry after working as a waitress the summer before university.
“I went to university to please my father. He pushed me to do scientific studies. I even tried medicine for a year but that fell through. I didn’t have a passion for it,” she admits. “The waitressing job really changed my perspective. I fell in love with the atmosphere and my colleagues. I had so much fun with the diners, and I just knew I wanted to do a job that could allow me to express my creativity, so I decided then that I wanted to become a bartender.”
After her studies, Cros worked in Paris for a hot minute before a friend told her about Soho House, the range of private members’ clubs, in London.
“My goal was always to go to London – the capital of cocktails,” she says with a laugh. “My English was non-existent in the beginning. I remember a lady once asked me for a nightcap, I had no idea what it meant, and replied, ‘Yes, I can call you a cab.’”
London was an eye-opening experience for Cros as she was able to explore all the iconic bars in the area on her days off. Initially intending to stay for only a year or two, she ended up falling in love with the vibrant city and staying for almost eight years.
“I took a break toward the end and went back to France to be with my family for a bit. That’s when I was approached by Shangri-La Hong Kong. I had no idea where Hong Kong was, but I didn’t think I would have an opportunity like this again, so I hopped on a plane immediately.”
What is your day-to-day role like?
Soho House Hong Kong is a very large complex with five main bars and four additional bars in private event rooms. When we opened, we had more than 20 people in my team, so that was quite challenging to handle. As a bar manager, I tend to work from midday to late nights. There’s a bit of emailing and admin in the beginning, then I’ll help with the physical preparation and coordination of planning beverages for special events and checking schedules for our team. No day is the same.
What is the most important part of building a good team?
Finding people with good personalities and passion is key. It’s easy enough to teach someone to be a bartender – technique can be developed. However, you cannot change a person’s character. Having a strong unit with trust is so important, and you really need to find people with the passion to do that.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
I was very stressed and anxious at one point in London over a minor issue, and I had a manager who told me, very frankly, “We’re not here to save lives. We’re just here to bring joy to people.” That really helped ground me and change my perspective. When I start to stress out in my role now, I always try to pause and remember that.
Describe yourself in three words.
Fierce, dedicated and passionate.
What is a key personality trait you would emphasize when it comes to succeeding as a bartender?
Strength. And not just physically – in your character and personality, as well. You will meet so many different people in this occupation, and you will eventually encounter people who are not so nice. It’s important to be able to stand up for yourself. You have to be strong.
Cheat Day time! Which are five indulgent drinks you delight in during your days off?
Soho House Hong Kong, 33 Des Voeux Rd West, Sheung Wan, +852 5803 8888.