- Lea Thompson
Job/Title: Bar Manager for Rosella at the Rand
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, “but San Antonio is my home”
Years in Bar Industry: 20
Impact: Has worked at, managed and influenced many of San Antonio’s great bars
Money quote: “We all just want to make our moms proud.”
Tell us about your background, and how you got where you are today.
I was trying to find a way to afford a way to go back to college, so I started bartending, and I fell in love and never stopped. It’s a cool thing to be a part of people’s moments. It’s kind of voyeuristic, but you’re in on that. A regular day could be a monumental moment in their life, for good or for bad. You’re part of that. I’ve been part of people’s most tragic moments and their happiest moments. People form a special trust with their bartender that feeds me.
You’ve worked at Bluebox, Esquire, The Davenport. Where haven’t you worked?
[Laughs] I’ve worked everywhere. I did all the bars for Empty Stomach — everything from Hot Joy and Barbaro to The Monterey — and I helped open Chisme. I worked at Francis Bogside for a while. Every place has been its own unique challenge. I went back to bartending for a while after leaving Empty Stomach, and this is my first serious jump back into creative development and leadership, and I’m really excited. I’ve had enough rest. Now I’m restless.
What are best and worst things about your job?
My favorite thing is that moment when you get someone’s eyes to light up and you know you got ’em. You’ve made that person’s day. You’ve made this golden experience, whether it’s through the way drink tastes, or just being kind or giving a great restaurant recommendation. I love that moment.
What I love least is when people don’t trust you enough to care for them and foster their journey in hospitality. If you let me direct the service, you could have a great experience. A dismissive attitude can be very difficult to work around. I just want to take you on a journey.
What made you want to dedicate your life to bartending and craft cocktails?
I fell in love with it right away, but I think when my mom started acknowledging that she was proud of me that I realized “OK, it’s OK to do this.” [Laughs.] When she stopped saying things like, “My friend is a speech therapist. I think you’d be really good at that.” We all just want to make our moms proud.
What do you wish more people understood about what you do?
When you spend so many hours caring for other people it feeds on your energy, and that can be really exhausting. With everyone you’re serving, you’re striving for perfection. I’m an introvert by nature, but people who know me from behind the bar would never know it. But I love it, and I think it’s the best job in the world. My mission statement is to bring delight to people.
What’s next for you?
It’s well into fall, but the cooler weather means we can actually release our fall menu and start serving inspired drinks and flavors. I’m looking forward to working with this awesome bar team and embracing their creativity. Rosella at the Rand is really growing, and I think we’re going to have a strong footprint downtown. We’ve always been known for coffee, but I’m excited to be part of the downtown landscape and to just roll my sleeves up and get creative.
Rosella at the Rand will release its new fall food and cocktail menus in the coming weeks. Happy Hour runs every day from 4-6 p.m.