Chapter 27: My favorite bartender on fiddling with frankincense and fighting for freedom

I stayed in Toronto to interview my favorite bartender.

I stayed in Toronto to interview my favorite bartender.

A few years ago my friend Rita was raving to me about Bar Raval, a new bar in downtown Toronto, and took me there one night.

She said the interior was this unreal Antoni Gaudí-inspired pattern of curved mahogany which I had to see to believe.

The interior of Bar Raval… feels Ewok Village-y!

The interior of Bar Raval… feels Ewok Village-y!

So we get there and I go up to the bar and come face to face with this bartender completely covered in tattoos and say, “Can I grab a drink?” And he shoots back, “What do you want?” And I say, “Well, what do you have?” and he says “No, what do you want?” And I say “Well, I don’t want anything sweet.” And he does this sort of slow swivel to look back at the huge display of glass jars full of colorful tinctures behind him and then stares back and me and says, “Does it look like a fucking sweet place to you?”

Our podcast studio on the Bar Raval patio. Robin sipping his coffee as we get set to record.

Our podcast studio on the Bar Raval patio. Robin sipping his coffee as we get set to record.

I was taken aback. But he kept challenging me to say what I wanted, what I felt like, what I was going for … and so finally … I did. I exploded in this giant passionate diatribe about how I wanted to feel optimistic and refreshed and nostalgic … and then he gets to work. He begins smashing ice cubes, picking glasses from fridges, shaving limes, adding drops of who knows what to my glass and then finally puts down in front of me a bubbling neon green concoction like I’d never seen.

Me and my favorite bartender, Robin.

Me and my favorite bartender, Robin.

And you know what?

The drink was optimistic… and refreshing … and nostalgic. It was like a magic trick! I couldn’t believe it.

Over the years I got to know and fall in love with this fiery, passionate bartender named Robin Goodfellow. Turns out he owned the place together with some partners. As well as other bars including PrettyUgly and Harry’s.

Some of the pinxtos we enjoyed at  Bar Raval.

Some of the pinxtos we enjoyed at Bar Raval.

In 2018, Bar Raval was ranked #1 of Canada’s top bars and PrettyUgly was ranked #8. Also, Bar Raval is currently ranked #70 best bar in the world.

Robin has been bartending for sixteen years and spent eight years studying social theory.

Robin and I go deep into the purpose of a bar, what everyone is looking for in life and how we can find it, what underpins all great service, how to become more mindful eaters, the paradox between authenticity and quality, and why the farm-to-table movement is over.

I hope you enjoy Chapter 27 of 3 Books with my favorite bartender Robin Goodfellow.

Listen to Chapter 27:

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What You'll Learn:

  • How do we find what we are looking for in an era of loneliness, separation, and anxiety?

  • What should bosses never say to employees?

  • What’s the paradox between authenticity and quality?

  • Why should you try to sell a feeling rather than a product?

  • How can eating animals and certain plants be seen as exerting power over nature?

  • How has the ‘ideal body image’ changed over centuries?

  • Does cultural appropriation exist within the food industry?

  • What’s the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traditions, and when should we argue against tradition?

Ideas Worth TWEETING:

“Just because I’m the owner I’m not going to force people to do things they don’t want to do … I’m here to empower them, not to exert power over them.” @RobandCheese #3bookspodcast

“Tradition is a four letter word to me. Tradition has my ancestors murdered in millions and millions by Germans. Tradition has homosexuals fearing for their lives and staying in the closet.” @RobandCheese #3bookspodcast

“Things should absolutely not be the way they are if it harms people and is immoral. If it’s immoral, inequitable, and unsustainable, we need to oppose it.” @RobandCheese #3bookspodcast

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