Ones to Watch 2016: Tim Wiggins
Title: Beverage director, Retreat Gastropub
Why Watch Him: Three years after his 21st birthday, he's shaking up some of the best cocktails in town.
Four years ago, Tim Wiggins was learning to like beer in New Zealand. Now he is beverage director of Retreat Gastropub, which he helped open in the Central West End. Here, Wiggins’ trajectory to greatness:
Wiggins took a job as food runner at Baileys’ Range because he was broke after traveling in New Zealand for three months. Running food and scooping ice cream at Baileys’ Range gave him a serious appreciation for starting at the bottom. “Everyone (in a restaurant) should know how to do every job,” he said. His hard work paid off, and Wiggins transitioned to serving, then bartending.
Wiggins accepted an offer to serve as front of house manager at Dave Bailey’s new concept, Small Batch. “I’ve always loved leadership roles and coaching,” Wiggins said. “But this was kind of intimidating. I was the youngest person in the building, and I was in charge of all these people who had been serving and bartending forever.”
Wiggins rose to the occasion, eventually moving to bar manager. There, he mastered Small Batch’s 100-plus bottle whiskey menu, armed with a library of recommended cocktail books. “When someone asks a question, I want to be the one who has the answer – and the surplus information,” Wiggins said. With book smarts, research trips to pick the brains of pros in places like San Francisco’s Trick Dog and a culinary perspective on cocktails, Wiggins helped develop a menu wiser than his years.
Retreat owner Travis Howard brought Wiggins on board to help open the restaurant. There, Wiggins developed a bar program filled with house-made tinctures, shrubs and innovative cocktail recipes. Along with incredible product knowledge and creativity, Howard said Wiggins brings a sense of hospitality that goes beyond customer service. He is committed to developing a positive culture for the entire restaurant; that means hiring the right people and taking care of his staff, as only a manager who’s worked every job can.
2016 and beyond
“I have this job and I want to do it really well and not get caught up in what exactly is next,” Wiggins said. But he aims to open his own place one day – and he’s got a lot of ideas. “I’m still years away from that, but I feel like I’m on the right track."
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