Bar Academy | Ashley Douglas

How long have you been in the industry?

23 years

How did you begin your journey in the hospitality industry?

I started working as a dishwasher in The Edgewater Hotel in Portstewart when I was 14 years old. I worked with some real characters there and in hindsight I think it was a lot of these guys and girls who sparked a passion for hospitality within me. I worked my way through the kitchen as a KP and ended up as a commis chef and whilst I enjoyed working with food, it was when I got behind the bar at the age of 17 where I really got excited. I loved the interaction with the regulars in the public bar as well as working at weddings and birthday parties in the function room. The variety of people, the energy and the excitement was something that really attracted me to working behind a bar.

Could you tell us a little more about your professional background – what fuelled your interest in this sector?

During my time at Queen’s University Belfast, I worked in various hotels, nightclubs and restaurants in Belfast, but it was after I had been away for a year travelling that I met the guys at Bacardi Brown Forman Brands. I became a sales representative for BBFB and represented an amazing portfolio of products ranging from Grey Goose, Woodford Reserve, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Bacardi Rum and Jack Daniels. During my time with BBFB I was introduced to industry experts, amazing bartenders, I did a lot of travelling and visited some outstanding hotels, restaurants and bars. I always knew my heart lay in hospitality, but it was my time with this company that allowed me to believe I could pursue a professional career in the industry.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Ultimately, I love interacting with people. In particular I enjoy meeting new people, finding out what makes them tick and sharing a love of food, drink, culture and travel with them. I enjoy inspiring fellow bartenders to be the best they can be.

Proudest moment of your career to date?

Helping to bring the bartending course to life through the NRC and the NI Hospitality school is definitely a massive highlight for me. It has been a long road to get to this stage but really feels like we are at the start of something very special not only for the outlets involved but also for the potential students, not to mention the Northern Irish hospitality industry on the whole. We hope to raise the bar of not only bartending expertise and drinks-making techniques but also raise the standard of hospitality and customer service within the industry.

What skills will a student gain from this course?

We obviously will develop all the necessary technical skills to allow them to work efficiently behind any bar. The course will include general bartending, cocktail-making as well as customer service and teamwork. However, it is the development of their transferable soft skills that will also be a focus for the course. When both of these elements are combined with a great attitude we can continue to build on our world-renowned Northern Irish hospitality.

Why should you apply for this course?

If you have a passion for people and customer service and feel like you would enjoy a career in hospitality you should definitely apply. We can help prepare you for the next step on your career journey and all successful applicants will be guaranteed a job with some excellent outlets and reputable employers.

Describe a typical day for a student.

We will have a nice balance of online learning mixed with face-to-face advice and colleague and peer interaction. We will also get together for some category training which will involve tasting, cocktail making and garnish masterclasses. Definitely not your average day as a student!! Get in touch today to find out more details….