Episode 6: Interview with Ann Tuennerman from Tales of the Cocktail
Cocktail Recipes and Links:
CAP Program (Tales of the Cocktail "Cocktails Apprentice Program")
Philip Duff - TotC Education Director
Professional Bartending Resources:
Danny Meyers - Setting the Table
Noah Kagan podcast
Full Episode Transcript: Interview with Ann Tuennerman from Tales of the Cocktail
April Wachtel: Hello movers and shakers! This is your host April Wachtel and I'm so excited to have Ann Tuennerman - Founder and Executive Director of Tales of the Cocktail in studio with me today. If you don't know Ann or if you don't know Tales of the Cocktail you absolutely absolutely should.
Tales is the world's must attend cocktail festival. It's held every single year in New Orleans. Since its inception 15 years ago, it's attracted more than a hundred thousand drink experts as well as cocktail enthusiasts and injected about a hundred million dollars into the local New Orleans economy. So pretty amazing stuff, and under Ann's leadership tails has actually emerged as a global cultural phenomenon. It's helped to nurture this whole Renaissance that's traveling across the US, across the globe. In my personal experience the first year I went to Tales it really opened my eyes to this beverage community as a helpful, loving, expansive community that...everybody's really there. They got your back. So, if you don't know it, you really should look into it. Lots of educational opportunities and just a really wonderful experience.
And before we get started I just wanted to say that I made you a special cocktail. I heard that you love the Sazerac cocktail - it's a classic New Orleans cocktail. It can be made with rye, it can be made with cognac. In this case I've used Bulleit Rye, a few dashes of Peychaud's bitters another local New Orleans ingredient, a couple sugar cubes. I know you don't like it too sweet and then I also know you prefer Herbsaint, so we've used that in today's cocktail. And just for anybody listening who wants to make this on their own, I just prepped all of that in a mixing glass, added some Ice, stirred 20 to 30 seconds and then strained into a single rocks glass, no ice and then I've used a little lemon zest and zested that into the glass for aroma and a bit of flavor. So Cheers and I hope you like it and it's great to have you here. How are you doing today?
Ann Tuennerman: Hey! I am doing wonderful.
April Wachtel: So Ann, as we've mentioned is the founder of Tales of the Cocktail and I'm wondering if can you just orient us, let any first-time listeners know, anyone who's maybe not working in the cocktail world what is Tales of the Cocktail.
Ann Tuennerman: Tales of the cocktail is the premier global cocktail event. So once a year you know mixologist, professional bartenders from around the world descend on New Orleans and it really is for them to learn. I kind of tell people the elevator pitch is like this is really a conference for our professional bartenders. So just like a lawyer or doctor might go to their annual conference for professional education, that's basically what Tales the Cocktail is with a lot of fun woven in and New Orleans is the backdrop.
April Wachtel: So I know that this event has grown tremendously over time. So it started off, so 2002 was your first year?
Ann Tuennerman: Yes it was.
April Wachtel: And do mind just saying kind of where you were in 2002 and you know what point you're at right now.
Ann Tuennerman: Yes two very different points. Tales of the Cocktail, it started the precursor to Tales of the Cocktail, was I started a walking tour of New Orleans bars and restaurants, to really highlight the history of the cocktails invented in New Orleans. The history of these bars and restaurants and put all that together and to celebrate the first anniversary of that tour, came up with this idea for Tales of the Cocktail which was two events and literally about a hundred people in attendance. I mean again this was pre social media, so you had to really hustle to get people there. Somehow I talked Dale DeGroff and Anastasia Miller and Jared Brown to come in to New Orleans for this event and it was really the first time that these people ever got to connect with each other. So even though it was very small, the response was good and people were like, “Hey you really need to do this again.” 15 years later, we've had a hundred million dollar impact on our local community. We've given away probably close to a million dollars back to the bartending community. We had people from 35 countries join us last year and about fifteen thousand attendees, so in a relatively short period of time we've made a big impact on the community and one of those things I think is that it's okay to be a bartender again now. You know this is understood as a profession.
April Wachtel: Speaking of that, there's a program called the CAP Program (Cocktails Apprentice Program) that you offer through Tales to the Cocktail. Do you mind just explaining a little bit more about what that is?
Ann Tuennerman: Oh no definitely. The CAP Program Paul likes to say is why we get up in the morning but it's one of the things that's kind of like the soul of Tales of the Cocktail. And literally over the years, I mean my sisters go on a grocery shopping, my mother still puts all the lanyards together okay. I'm not lying. My sister was the first CAP.
As the event grew, we needed a way to really execute the back of the house of the event. So, I thought of this idea, it's like well what if we reach out to a few people and you know ask them if they can help us with the event, you know in exchange for these perks. So the program was founded in 2008. We're actually celebrating our 10th anniversary of that program this year and we have about 380 alumni now in the CAP program, but it's really like the ultimate fraternity and kind of like after you do this week you have the some unbelievable swagger.
People apply for the program. We bring them into New Orleans and they basically work with us for that entire week, and it's like I said, a peer to mentor program. So we have grey coats, we actually have red coats and the bottom level gray coats, black coats and white coats. So the red coats are the new people, grey coats apply again too and then they each have platoons of grey coats under them, so they're learning to manage and then you know black coats have more people they're managing. The white coat really we work with the event on all year long, but again they're part of educational programming during the event. They're part of helping us put the event together through the back of the house. Then they're also eligible for a lot of things throughout the year. So we have a tuition reimbursement program, we have scholarship programs, we have medical aid so things like that but the global community that it brings together too is fascinating. We had our first apprentice last year from Ghana.
April Wachtel: Oh wow!
Ann Tuennerman: We've had two apprentices from Tel Aviv, so it's really phenomenal to see those people.
April Wachtel: So what qualifications do you have to have to apply to the CAP program?
Ann Tuennerman: The application is rather simple and there's a small essay part of it and it's really kind of about just telling us a little bit about who you are and why you want to be a part of the program. I mean there's not criteria like you have to have been bartending for a year, you have to do this, you have to do that. I mean anybody can apply and then Don and his team review those applications and I believe the first two reviews are totally blind, so they have no idea like your name or where you're from or anything like that. The third round is when they start taking a look at that, kind of looking at geography as well too, trying to have a good mix of people. For example, we might have more applications from New York than anyplace else but we also wanna have a balanced program. So again it's really just kind of like telling us about who you are and you know what you want to get out of program and those things.
So like I said application isn't that long, it's just a few questions in addition to the basic stuff but again kind of just letting us know who you are? So again we have people that have been in the business a long time. I mean last year we had somebody who was like twenty-two from LA relatively new but did a great job so, again that's the thing it's all walks of life.
April Wachtel: So this question might be like a legal task but so if somebody says I really want this, like how can I perform better than anybody else in the application process? Is there anything or is it just show who you are as best as you can.
Ann Tuennerman: It's really just show who you are and honestly there's no like... we've never like put somebody in or nobody knows anybody or anything, we don't get involved in any of that. We actually just did a Facebook live event with Don Lee and that was a lot of the questions is what you can put on your application? How you can look better? And we did a recap of that on our website too which I can also send you. Again, not really.
I think it's more like looking for the person versus oh I've won three competitions. Again that's not what it's about right, it's just again getting a feel for the person and how we can benefit them? How they can benefit us? Is it the right time for them. Honestly, I'm glad that I don't have to do any of that because last year we had over 600 applications for 40 red coat spots, so I'm just happy that I don't have to do that.
April Wachtel: Yeah and I mean I've spoken to a whole ton of people who've been CAPs before and they really speak about the program as this was one of the most instrumental pieces of their education and these are people who have been... you know some who've had no experience in bartending, maybe they've been in a bar back. Some people who run their own bars, so that's a testament to the experience both in terms of education as well as building camaraderie amongst people globally.
Ann Tuennerman: Oh yeah, no, I agree. I mean it really is an amazing program and like I said once you're in it, you're part of an unbelievable fraternity of people that... I always say, you always have a couch to sleep on and a bar to bartend in anywhere literally around the globe. But you know we take a lot of pride in the program and again I'm glad to hear that because I think it does have a really amazing positive impact on people.
April Wachtel: So that being said, you're expanding Tales of a Cocktail which has been this New Orleans institution for 15 years, and I know that you've got Tales on Tour, Tales 365, Daiquiri Season, you're expanding into some other areas. I'm wondering is the CAP program or something like that also traveling with you to these new destinations?
Ann Tuennerman: It does, we always have apprentices at our Tales on Tour event and we bring in some past apprentices that kind of have the leadership experience to help us run the program but then we also bring in new cocktail apprentices from those areas. So like for example, Tales on Tour Edinburgh we'll have a total of 15 apprentices, some senior people that we're bringing in, but then the other aides are all coming from the UK. So again and we really try to impact those areas.
So we have people coming from Glasgow, from Aberdeen, from London that evolved trying to be cocktail apprentices but then benefit in that area and then we always pick one of those people and bring them to New Orleans too. So we've had apprentices in Vancouver, we've had them in Mexico City, we had them from Buenos Aries so that does come along with us.
April Wachtel: That's amazing, this actually brings me to another question and you had alluded to this earlier about legitimacy around bartending. So at one point in time there was legitimacy for bartending as a career but it seemed in a small way and then for many many years it wasn't really regarded as a profession and now Tales in particular has contributed very greatly to building the global community but also, having a sense of celebrity around it— almost like an idolization around beverage—not just celebrity chefs and idolization around food.
So I guess what I'm wondering is when you step back and you look at the really big picture. What do you think is coming next? Do you think universities are going to be springing up around the world to kind of address this growing industry or do you think it's going to be really dominated by events like yours that are themselves traveling and kind of going to the people, have you give that a lot of thought?
Ann Tuennerman: Well, like I said I do think you're right. It's like before prohibition bartending was considered a legitimate career, then really when that happened it kind of went away for a lot of years and again if you were a bartender people ask you what else you did, like that wasn't enough to run a bar or be a part of something like that. Now they don't. I do agree that different professions go through kind of like a celebrity frame of mind, I mean just like farmers are celebrities now, chefs are celebrity now, so the bartenders are celebrities now. And I guess maybe because I don't know these are like authentic professions. I do think honestly you're going to start seeing more professional education because one thing about bartending too, it was really prior to Tales the Cocktail and prior to like Bar 5-Day and BarSmarts too, there was no like formal education. When you hired somebody you knew they had these skills, and that's another thing that kind of goes back to the CAP program is, there are people now that I know that pretty much only hire CAPs just because they know what they've been through, but you know now it's like if you pass Bar 5-Day or you know I see people put Tales of Cocktail seminars and things they've done on their resume or their CV; it gives you a little bit more idea about what skills they're coming to, the table with.
You’re seeing like James Beard like seven years after we started just added a bartending award. Schools like the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) that have always really been focused on wine are now starting to dip their toe into beverage. I think that's going to continue really because the customers expect it. I mean now when you go into any bar or a restaurant it doesn't even have to be a dedicated cocktail bar. If you go into a new restaurant that's opening in your neighborhood today, people expect a decent cocktail. You can't just have a great wine list, you need to have nice selection of a few beers, some good wine, some nice cocktails. Again it doesn't have to be really deep but you have to have those things because the consumer expects it.
April Wachtel: Where do you think cocktail lies in relation to hospitality, because they are sometimes considered the same thing and then they're sometimes considered disparate elements?
Ann Tuennerman: I mean I think hospitality should overrule everything. I think whatever you're serving, first and foremost you need to be hospitable and that's honestly what keeps people coming back.
I kind of look at it as coffee shops. To me it's like we all have that coffee shop we go to every day. Like in my case, I think a lot of people's case is, it's not that the coffee is that good or that different, it's just they acknowledge you. They know you, they ask how you're doing, they know your order, if you're not there for a week they say hey you've been gone, you've been traveling and that's the hospitality piece that I feel like, is really crucial. People want to feel welcomed, whatever it is and so I think that good hospitality means more than a great cocktail served without that.
April Wachtel: Right right, that's an excellent point. And it actually reminds me, so the first year that I went to Tales, that was the first time that I had been exposed to that community so I think we're kind of like circling around the same the concept of community here. That was the first time that I'd been exposed to really like minded people, who may have very different interests outside of the bar or a restaurant, but coming together, celebrating hospitality, celebrating just being able to get in touch with people and connect over food and drink and it was a really wonderful feelings so thanks for that.
Ann Tuennerman: Oh well thank you, well I just was having like an hour-long conversation with Danny Meyer about a week ago and we were having this same conversation. He's like people want to be a part of tribes and it's true and prior to tales of the cocktail, I mean it's amazing. You had something for distributors, you had something for beer people that wanted to get together, yet all these things but nothing for bartenders. So when these people came together and realized there were other people that were like you that took this seriously, considered it a profession, it was just like overwhelming and I think that bartenders honestly are like more hospitable and better about sharing than chefs. So it's like there's such a connection at Tales of the Cocktail. I mean I really do.
I feel like bartenders like if somebody from Birmingham, Alabama came up to you at Tales and said look I want to know how you got FDA approval and Swig + Swallow, you're going to share it with them. There's not that barrier of not wanting to share information, I think bartenders are just really great about that, but yeah I think that's a like overwhelming feeling to realize that there are people like you, that have these same interest and to bring those people together, I think nothing bad can come of that because then once they have these personal connections, they meet, they talk, they visit; then I also think New Orleans has something to do with that because you mentioned eating and drinking, that's how we communicate here is over food. And like after Katrina, it's like you couldn't wait to like any new restaurant that opened you went, because you wanted to see people you hadn't seen and again that's just how we communicate is over eating drinking constantly.
April Wachtel: So that actually brings up an interesting topic too, so Tales nearly got derailed by Katrina specifically am I right?
Ann Tuennerman: Yes.
April Wachtel: Do you want to highlight that piece about the evolution of Tales for our listeners who perhaps don't know that piece?
Ann Tuennerman: Yeah, because we did get derailed. We actually just had our event in 2005. It was event that year was August 20th - 22nd and it was after Katrina that I moved it to July to anchor it there because I honestly didn't want to deal with the one-year anniversary like the doom and gloom of Katrina. So Katrina was August 29th, so we just had our event, we just kind of wrapped it up and I left work on a Friday and we were going to watch the storm and see how things worked out, evacuated on Sunday, the storm hit Monday and I mean didn't see the people I worked with again for six months. You didn't go to your house for six months.
So I mean it's a really weird feeling. I ended up spending three months in New York actually from about mid-September to January first. Anastasia and Jared kind of helped me get like a temporary job up there, but yeah I mean because again the city was decimated, you didn't know where you were going to live, you didn't know if you had any money. I mean I had one sponsor at the time who dropped me. Again, I ended up living with my mom for a year, so there was just a lot going on but I guess I'm pretty hard-headed so I got back in reverse and I was like we're doing this full steam ahead. I mean that's when I like cashed everything out, sold everything, did everything I could to make the event happen and again that's when we pushed it up to July and I said I'm just going to anchor it in July, and that did put some events out of business. They just weren't able to come back, but luckily the people responded and people did show up because again I was like I don't even know people will show up because again this was all... you have to think about it. I mean we all sort of get on Facebook at like 2008 but pre social media... I mean, you're working in a vacuum. You're doing your best to promote something but honestly I'm like making phone calls, sending faxes like stuff that sounds old-school, sending media kits. But you had no like immediate feedback.
April Wachtel: Right, so that's another thing I'm really curious about, so how much longer do you think this would have taken to grow and to have this global community grow had it not been for social media?
Ann Tuennerman: It was happening already but obviously it would have happened a lot slower, again because from 2002 till again about 2008 there wasn't any of those things. So I think it benefited us in the end better, because it's quicker now to like establish yourself online as a brand but also think we spent some time building some credibility and hopefully that follows us online that we're just not smoke and mirrors. I try to have the same values throughout everything that we do, so the same voice be it our online articles or what we do at the event. And I think now too, people's expectations have changed, because I know like I'll see an event advertised and it sounds like it's going to be next Super Bowl then you go and I hate to say it's like rinky-dink. But you have to be careful what you put out there too that it's in accordance with them what you're going to deliver and now it's easier to seem bigger than life and then that not happen when you show up.
April Wachtel: So how do you make sure that you are delivering what you're promising to your guests and your sponsors and still be well-liked? I'm very curious about this.
Ann Tuennerman: Well, I mean there are a lot of people that don't like me. I think that the people that take the time to get to know me like me. If you don't, then you don't like me. But I have very high expectations and so the thing is, if somebody doesn't deliver for example, if you've been selected to be a moderator of a seminar or present over seminar and you're missing your deadlines and you're not holding up your end of the bargain, then yes that's when I will call you and say look this isn't how we operate. These are our standards that you agreed to because it's like some nice young, his or her bartenders flying in from New Zealand, they're paying $3,000 to fly here. They're going to stay in a hotel. They're taking off work and they're going to pay like 50-60 dollars to see your seminar and I'm not going to let you deliver crap.
So it's like my ultimate accountability is to a lot of different audiences but I mean I take our attendees very seriously because they're investing a lot of their own time and money and every one of those people's output reflects back on me. So if that person goes to that seminar and that moderator is not prepared, they say hey! Tales of the Cocktail sucks. They don't say, “Sue, who delivered that really wasn't prepared.” So I mean there are times we've asked people to... we've said look we're going to remove you, and honestly there are times where I should let other people do that more than me, but that's when I end up being the bad guy but again I just have high expectations, I mean all of our vendors signed the same code of conduct as our attendees and presenter, so if I'm doing business with you, it's like a sign vendor I expect you to have the same values that I do. So I think those things are really important and if you don't want to participate that's okay too.
April Wachtel: So I'm curious of the times where you've had to hold people accountable. Do they come back?
Ann Tuennerman: They actually do. Some people that I've had like the worst knock-down drag-out fights with, I have the best relationships with now, but no they usually do and they usually do understand after that. That it's like hey this is why I had to do that. Again, I'm very protective of the event. I'm very protective of our sponsors that's why I have certain policies on sponsorship. But again, usually they come around and like I said when they get to know me they usually do. I mean there are people that don't like me, who don't even know me or know anything about me. They usually do come around.
April Wachtel: So what is a successful versus an unsuccessful event look like for you?
Ann Tuennerman: Oh gosh! I mean on so many levels because again I have all these different audiences that I want to be happy so whether it's our volunteers, whether it's our sponsors, whether it's our, vendors whether it's our attendees. A successful event to me is on a lot of different levels. I mean be it logistically, be it people getting something out of it, be it people learning, be it people meeting new people, connecting, making new partnerships, getting new jobs, finding new girlfriends and boyfriends — it's on a whole lot of different levels. I think that's one thing about Tales of the Cocktail, is that of the say thousands of people that are coming to the event, every single person can have a different experience, but I honestly want that to be successful.
I could have a hostess from New Orleans who is going to come to one seminar because she maybe is just interested in bourbon and we'd like to get that person to come and she's going to learn something that I could have somebody from Israel who's going to come here for the entire week, then I'm gonna have somebody send an apprentice. So every one of those people is going to have different experiences and their version of success is going to look different, but honestly I want them all to leave and want to come back.
April Wachtel: And I would assume that people who are in hospitality generally would agree with that, bottom line people want to come back.
Ann Tuennerman: Yeah, well again and that's what I want. I usually say if I can get you here once then chances are I can get you back, but and even if honestly, even if there's a problem give us the opportunity to handle it. I find that same in bars and restaurants if something isn't right, it's like I want to know so we can make it right. That's one reason we spend a lot of time having these round table meetings across the country, but if you send me a message, you're at Tales of the Cocktail and say hey look I was aggravated, I had to wait in line or this that and the other, then I can fix it and it gives me the opportunity to for like service recovery, so I'd much rather know than not. That's one reason we go and seek the feedback so much too, because I always say if I hear something from one person somebody else probably thinks it and just isn't saying it, then let me look at how to address it. But yes, again I want you to be able to want to come back, because again most of these people are investing their own money. It's not like Microsoft is saying hey we're sending ten people to this conference in New Orleans and they don't have anything invested in it.
April Wachtel: But you do have a lot of consumers who are catching on to the trend and are really interested in booking the whole week.
Ann Tuennerman: I do have a lot of people that come for the whole week. People are coming earlier and earlier. We've been at about 20 percent what I call “cocktail enthusiasts” for the last several years, and that's really a number that we want to stay at because we're really first and foremost a trade event, but where are those people started coming from, that's interesting it's like people would be like my customers want to come to Tales! My regulars want to come. These are people that are like they're into it. They're hardcore. So just like wine people are foodies, they read David Wander books, they follow the blogs and podcast and things like that. So there are people that are really interested in it. We're honestly not interested in a consumer that just thinks they want to come like suck down booze for a week because that's not what we're about.
April Wachtel: So alright, I want to switch gears just a tad bit. So we've been talking very much about Tales, I want to just step back and ask you from an entrepreneurial perspective. So there's people who want to start their own businesses obviously in every industry, I guess from a risk perspective when you... after Katrina cashed everything in, said I'm really doubling down on this. How did you know that, that was the right opportunity and that was the right thing to do?
Ann Tuennerman: I don't know if I did, but I honestly operate on gut a lot of time and if my gut tells me it's right, I'm going to do it. But I will say, it's a high-risk business and especially because at the time, I mean I was selling an idea that again I would have to get on the phone and say okay look I'm going to have this event, it's like all these bartenders are going to be there and people I mean they can't visualize. I wasn't like I was opening like a dry cleaners and I can go to a bank and say okay I'm gonna open a dry cleaners, there are so many customers I'm going to have and these are my traffic counts and also be able to communicate that, I mean I don't think my own mother knew what I did like five years ago.
April Wachtel: Until she had to hang the garlands.
Ann Tuennerman: Right if you do the badges. So again, it's selling people on a concept but it's like, I can see visually in my head, so I think that is difficult and honestly it's still difficult today. I mean I still wake up every day and still hustle and go get sponsors and provide value to them and sell tickets and it doesn't, I think one of the fallacies about entrepreneurship is it gets easy, it doesn't get easier.
April Wachtel: Your challenges just change.
Ann Tuennerman: Right exactly, exactly they just change. I mean they're different but again I have to get out there and hustle it every day but I think most entrepreneurs, you're the kind of people jump off the bridge without a safety net and you're willing to take a risk.
April Wachtel: So I'm curious, maybe you have an answer to this or maybe not. With my business with Swig and Swallow I had a mediocre version of this before where I was a business-to-business service for spirits companies and catering companies, and so it was obvious to me when I saw the difference between the mediocre business and then turning it to consumer facing and saying no this is the right way to go, because that can also translate back, trade can still use this product if they want, but it has to be consumer facing. So I could tell the difference and I said that was mediocre, this is good. If somebody's just batting an idea around, how do if you've got a ton of blind faith and a crappy idea or you're really onto something? I mean is there any way to do it except for testing and really just following this instinct that you've cultivated.
Ann Tuennerman: I think that's a hard question, you're right. Because you can also test yourself to death and still be wrong. So again I think it's kind of a combination of like listening to what's going on and then also your gut and then understanding that you're still going to have to pivot along the way. I mean I look at like what we do now or like I look at Julie Reiner and Flatiron Lounge. She opened that bar the same year we started the first Tales of the Cocktails, so sometimes I'll look at those two in comparison. Like the bar she's running today is different from the bar she opened with. It has different customers and a different menu so it's like, you're constantly pivoting but you have to start at some point.
April Wachtel: Yeah I mean I guess this could be one... there's a lot of positive things again about social media and how it's helped this community grow. I think that may be one of the challenging things that people face is the need to always look good and for it to seem as if the first thought you had was the perfect thought.
Ann Tuennerman: Right and that isn't going to happen and you're right, I think that's a really good point. I mean somebody asked me a question the other day and it really was a good question because I was talking to a group in Edinburgh, and I was saying how we've messed up a lot of things and there are events that we've added to the schedule and they don't work and we've taken them off and the guy asked, well give me an example of one of those and I did. But you're always trying new things. Sometimes they're not working, sometimes they are, sometimes you try it then you tweak it, but yeah it's like... you don't have to come out there perfect and honestly, if you're open with people that's okay.
If you come out and say like this is a maybe... I tell people all the time, like at Tales of the Cocktail, Saint-germain in 2006 brought their product, Rob did. It wasn't even in the final bottle, that's okay because people want to be a part of your success, and when you say hey this is Swig and Swallow version one. I want you all to try it. Tell me what you think? This isn't the final packaging. Then they're emotionally connected to you and will work with you through your growth process versus coming out and saying this is the end all and then taking criticism not in a good way.
April Wachtel: I mean I've experienced that again with Swig and Swallow where people have been really excited to be involved in the process and have their opinion count for something. I mean have you faced any of that with the new pieces of Tales on Tour or anything where it was just like we had this idea about this particular neighborhood or we thought this type of seminar would really attract a lot of people?
Ann Tuennerman: Yeah I mean one of the things, with those events kind of like we do in New Orleans, we go in like a year in advance and we start meeting with bartenders and talking to them and saying hey, what do you think would be good? What content would you like us to bring? Those kind of things. So you know, you try to do your best but then exactly there are always challenges, I mean this Tales on Tour, we had our hotel contracts done. We were going to have seminars and everything and in December they told us they were closing down for a year for renovation.
April Wachtel: Oh that's convenient.
Ann Tuennerman: Oh we totally... right, exactly we're like okay well I think it's going to take like a week but thank you. So, we had to pivot and do all that but, it’s just like our seminar committee picks 84 seminars every year and they’re not all a sellout. But again, you just do the best that you can do. Again, with the information your best judgment and then see how it goes, and then move from there. I mean that's one of the reasons honestly that I like having the seminar committee too is because to me that keeps everything we do relevant, and you can really see it over the years. We're now... people fifteen years in sometimes we get more submissions now for seminars on management or building your own brand or looking for investors and legal contracts, where year five it was more like, tell me about rye.
April Wachtel: Right, and who is it that... if you don't mind actually describing who the panel is that actually vets the seminars and kind of decides what's on the agenda.
Ann Tuennerman: Yes, well Philip Duff is our director of education and he puts together a panel every year. This year I want to say it was around 67 people. I can look it up from over 20 different countries and again they volunteer their time and they review all the seminar submissions. So three four hundred submissions they review, they grade them, that goes back to Philip and then he reviews that information further and they're scored. So, again in this way we know what the community wants to learn, because again what I might think is interesting the rest of the world doesn't.
The seminar committee is on our website as well. Yes, this year he had 68 people, 17 new members representing 23 different countries. So again, they review all those and they're a good cross-section of people and then that's how we determine the seminars and it has nothing to do with sponsors either, so just so you know, like last year we had 11 seminars that had zero sponsors and then we had some that maybe had like partial sponsors, because again when we commit to the content, we commit to the content. Right, then after that we go along to try to find a sponsor that works with that, that has nothing to do if there's a sponsor or not, so again that also keeps our content credible.
April Wachtel: Gotcha, no absolutely, absolutely. So if people are interested in submitting a seminar idea, they don't have to come with any financial backing, they just submit the idea and then that piece gets worked in later.
Ann Tuennerman: And again it's just really about the idea. So again anybody can submit an idea. I mean every year we have a bunch of first-time presenters, just coming up with a good idea and having it well thought out on paper.
April Wachtel: Awesome and before we close, I wanted to ask for your recommendations in a few different categories. I'll just top line go through them if you've got suggestions great, if not no worries. So educational resources?
Ann Tuennerman: Well number one I have to say is our website — Tales of the Cocktail — which honestly I think is really awesome since we re-launched it about a year ago. But we produce 2 - 3 pieces of original content every day and the thing that I'm most proud of is, it covers what I call “the whole bartender.” So we do stories on insomnia to burnout to working pregnant behind the bar in addition to recipes or techniques or things like that.
April Wachtel: Any resources that you kind of tap into for your own professional development?
Ann Tuennerman: I mean I really like to read a lot and inspirational things, so I have to say I like to read Fast Company a lot, there are some podcasts that I like to listen to as well, but really I enjoy like biographies and memoirs and I kind of get a lot out of hearing people's stories and things like that.
So I read a lot of biographies. I read a lot of memoirs, I mean right now I'm reading stuff on Buddhism, so I kind of get inspiration from a lot of different sources, but I would say Fast Company is one when it comes to print. I'm getting ready to start listening to a podcast that was recommended to me by a gentleman named Noah Kagan. He was a 30th employee at Facebook and it sounds really interesting as well so, he's got interviews with other entrepreneurs and that's the thing I think about entrepreneurs and maybe that's why I like reading these kind of things, is that they don't have to be in the same business, you just relate to the challenges that they go through.
April Wachtel: Right, yes so much of it is transferable for sure.
Ann Tuennerman: Right. I mean you look at like Danny Meyer's Setting the Table or something like that again. You don't have to be in a restaurant business to enjoy that and to get something out of it.
April Wachtel: So I guess final question, any organizational tools? You strike to me as being super organized, so I can always use more for me.
Ann Tuennerman: Really, I'm actually not. right crazy at the office. Because I'm very creative, so I'm like one of these a file by pile, bags of stuff, I have post the notes but I have to say we just started using Podio at the office like a month ago.
April Wachtel: Can you spell that?
Ann Tuennerman: P-o-d-i-o and it's like a management kind of like platform that gets your internal communications off email and that has been helpful. So I'm jumping in and learning that like everybody else at the same time. But my husband and employees would probably laugh. I'm organized in my own unorganized way.
So Podio has been very useful. During the event last year, we used Slack which was good because again you kind of need to take some of these internal communications off email during the event and we used Slack for groups, so if we need to just communicate with volunteers, just with our team just with apprentices’ kind of thing.
April Wachtel: So in your experience was Slack, is it just quicker than email or it's easier to file it in your brain afterward like, what's what do you see the benefit?
Ann Tuennerman: It quicker than email and you can have things by groups. So again if we just needed to send a message to like the Tales leadership team and it's like we need more garbage cans, you can just send that out to everybody, like a text but just a different format. That's kind of like a group text but yes, it’s definitely quicker.
April Wachtel: Right we've started experimenting with Slack as well and I know that there’s business leaders around the globe swear by Slack. So I'm just sort of starting to test the functionality. So I was just curious with that with such a big team.
Ann Tuennerman: Like I said we used it during the event, we don't use it like the rest of year but like I said we just started using Podio in December. We did a lot of research on everything from Write to all these different companies and decider on Podio and again I think it's really working well so far because, I need to be able to kind of look at what I'm doing and whatever somebody else is doing and that was getting really hard via email.
April Wachtel: Amazing. Well I'm going to check it out.
Ann Tuennerman: Yeah check it out.
April Wachtel: So Ann thank you so much for being on. Where can people find you? If they want to can touch with you, find you on social media, how do they do that?
Ann Tuennerman: They can find me on Facebook just as Ann Tuennerman on social media on Instagram Tales of the Cocktail. Honestly people can call me at the office any time if they want, they can email me at ann@talesofthecocktail, I’m always open to talking to people, meeting with people.
April Wachtel: Tales is wonderful, so thank you so much for your time Ann and I can't wait to see you in July in New Orleans if not sooner.
Ann Tuennerman: I know me too if not sooner.