Not everyone in hospitality has the time or resources available to get back in the classroom, but a partnership between Campari Academy and Another Round Another Rally seeks to show how the wisdom gained through books can prove just as invaluable.
Campari Academy Book Club, the brainchild of Campari Academy’s Jessamine McLellan, first took shape in 2019, when the longtime spirits industry professional became increasingly aware of just how many of her peers were publishing their own titles.
“I’m an academic – a perpetual learner, and books can be such incredible resources,” she said. “So many people in the bartending community have written books and shared their knowledge. There’s so much info out there – you just have to be willing to go get it.”
What the book club does is help facilitate that – both in a financial sense and a geographic one. Quarterly throughout the year, Campari Academy Book Club partners with Another Round Another Rally to give professionals across the nation who hold all types of hospitality roles a chance to sign up for one of 50 free copies of a different industry-related title by mail.
“It’s about helping people in hospitality learn from those who came before them, but it’s also about building a stronger sense of community industrywide,” said Jessamine. She noted that while the idea for the book club originated within the spirits industry, the book topics cover all aspects of the hospitality sector.
Participating readers typically have two months or longer to finish each title, taking pressure off those facing tough schedules and other life demands. During that timeframe, readers have a chance to meet online for in-depth discussions and exclusive learning opportunities relating to topics covered.
For example, the first book featured by the club, Julia Momosé’s “The Way of the Cocktail,” delves into the traditions, craftsmanship and culture behind Japanese cocktails. While reading the book, club members from coast to coast gained access to a virtual crash course in Japanese ice carving courtesy of Shintaro Okamoto of NYC’s Okamoto Studio, who treated them to a studio tour and an inside look at the pivotal roles ice and ice carving play in Japanese bartending.
Club members with close proximity to New York got to attend an author discussion in-person and have their books signed by the author at Campari Academy, a trend that will continue with future book club sessions throughout the year. Readers will have a chance to mingle with, and bounce questions off of, featured authors, and Campari Academy will also livestream the events for club members who can’t attend.
“One of the things we want to do is reach an audience that maybe can’t be traditionally reached,” Jessamine said, noting that networking, professional development and similar opportunities can be harder to come by for hospitality workers living in more rural areas. “The book club is open to anyone in the industry – front-of-house, back-of-house, sales reps and so on and is a great way for workers to hone their skills, build their careers and learn from those who’ve already been there.”
Jessamine also noted that the titles featured by Campari Academy Book Club tend to go beyond traditional cocktail or recipe books and often cover topics or include messages with cultural, intersectional or social significance.
Anticipating that there might be some level of “fatigue” with regard to online events and opportunities given the nature of the last few years, book club organizers weren’t sure what to expect in terms of interest. But all signs point to a serious thirst for knowledge within the industry, with more than 500 professionals trying to get their hands on the club’s first featured title.