Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Denver Mixologist Mixes Up Resume

It's come to this: bartenders are now so status conscious they pad their resumes.

Kevin Burke, head barman at Colt & Gray in Denver, and a finalist for Denver Magazine's 2010 Mixologist of the Year award, told that magazine, in an October interview, that he had some pretty heady past credits, including having worked at New York's Pegu Club, Milk & Honey, PDT and Death & Co.

That line-up would have set off warning bells for any journalist who works here in Gotham. (Have any bartenders every worked at all four of those top joints?) But Denver Magazine printed it. And guess what? Burke was lying—about all of it. And not just casual lies. This was one of his quotes, "When working at Pegu Club in New York City…'head barman' was the term because the structure at Pegu was you had your manager who ran the numbers and then you had the head barman who coordinated with the bartenders in Audrey [Saunders’] absence."

Of course, word got out. Bartenders travel frequently, and some from other cities got ahold of the Denver publication. They tipped off Denver Magazine, which in turned called Saunders. "I don’t know who he is," Saunders said of Burke. "I handpick all my employees and don’t remember him, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. So I looked through the employee records, and he doesn’t exist." Saunders, in turn, checked with the proprietors of Death & Co., Milk & Honey and PDT. Burke didn't work at any of those places either.

Then it gets better. As Denver Magazine reports:

I called Burke this afternoon to get his reaction. “I just got off the phone with Audrey Saunders,” I said.
“Oh, excellent! How is she?” Burke replied.
“She’s doing okay except that she is telling me that you never worked there.”
Burke’s response? “Really…Okay…I’m amazed that she would say that.”
Burke eventually fessed up, and issued an apology. It said in part, "It was not my intent to mislead about my employment history. My hope is that we can all put this behind us and get back to what it is we all love doing whether that is making drinks or consuming them." Which is sort of a non-denial denial.

When I get to Denver, I plan to look up Mr. Burke and try his cocktails. One things for sure—I won't be seeing him in New York anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

"It was not my intent to mislead about my employment history."

It was an accident. I really thought I worked at those places. mY dream life is vivid.

What an ass!

Anonymous said...

Also points to how lazy we've gotten in journalism that we don't fact check. One thing for a blog to make that mistake, another for a staffed publication.

Robert H-P

Robert Simonson said...

True, Robert. But, in Denver Mag's defense, who would expect a bartender to lie about his past? It's weird.

Anonymous said...

I've got to go with Robert here, though. I once worked as an intern at a regional magazine in the Midwest, and the majority of my job was fact checking. We checked every story. It wasn't easy calling restaurants that had just been reviewed, trying to get owners on the phone to confirm that there were in fact booths and not tables in the place, and even tougher to get busy chefs on the line to confirm entree ingredients. But it's what every good magazine should do. That's how you avoid screw-ups like this. It's not about catching liars so much as double-checking the work of frenzied writers.

eas said...

I've been to Colt & Gray a few times - Kevin's drinks are solid, as well for the whole team there. Great food too.

If his story had been he'd watched drinks being made at all four places it'd be more than plausible - there are some wonderful bartenders that started that way.

Robert Simonson said...

Not saying I'm against fact-checking. Far from it. Love checked facts.

Anonymous said...

You're right though - I'd probably take him at face value during an interview (though if it were a feature solely about him, I'd probably reach out to Saunders, Meehan or Petraske for a supporting quote). And C&C's right also - it does take a small army of interns and new employees to do fact checking right, a luxury many pubs and sites don't have these days.
Still I recall going through almost every noun and most verbs in one author's stories with at least a cursory Google search because she got nearly every fact wrong.
Good to hear Kevin's at least pours good drinks!

Robert H-P

Stacey Brugeman said...

I agree with the comments about the importance fact-checking every.last.word, but if you read the original post you'll see the story WAS fact-checked, at which time Burke made matters worse (http://www.denvermagazine.com/Blogs/The-Mouthful/November-2010/Mixologist-Kevin-Burke-rsquos-Career-in-Question/). Now, in retrospect do we wish we'd asked Audrey to pull employee files then? Absolutely. But it's far from common practice to do put that kind of burden on former employers when it's a non-investigative piece and the subject knows the career history he's providing, and later confirming, will be printed. How would I know? Because I ran the Research Department at Food & Wine before joining Denver Magazine. Needless to say, we take fact-checking as seriously as the very best in the business. --Stacey Brugeman, Senior Food Editor, Denver Magazine

Robert Simonson said...

Stacey, thanks for writing in. I agree completely with your comment, and I, for one, am not blaming Denver Magazine at all. I doubt anyone is. As you say, a profile on a bartender hardly amounts to investigative journalism. And it's clear, at least to me, that you gave Burke every chance to make himself clear on his employment history.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler said...

Shameful and yet inspiring that our community is close-knit enough to catch people like this, trying to get a free ride by effectively stealing the hard work of others.

I've had the drinks at Colt and Gray and they are indeed delicious, but it does make me wonder how many of those recipes are simply borrowed and renamed.

David said...

I wouldn't admit I worked there if it were true, much less lie about it.