In 2017, Julia Jaksic, the executive chef at Employees Only Singapore, who spent years helming the kitchen at the bar’s original New York location, opened Cafe Roze in East Nashville. Jaksic, who presides over both the food and drink menus, is keeping her all-day café open for take-out and delivery of meals, bodega goods, and cocktails during the COVID-19 crisis.
SevenFifty Daily: What did you originally envision for Cafe Roze?
Julia Jaksic: There was a part of me that wanted a late-night vibe, but I shifted focus because there wasn’t a place in the neighborhood like Cafe Gitane in New York, where you can get a great cocktail day or night. Pre-COVID, the bar program was in a good place—a daytime Garibaldi, draught Miller High Life with grapefruit-Campari ice cubes, and a Martini happy hour with Ford’s Gin and oysters.
What impact has staying open had on your staff?
Some servers, bartenders, and managers decided to stay on and package bodega items or drive deliveries. I wanted to get our customers to shift away from Postmates and DoorDash—platforms that take a percentage of sales—and use the system on our website instead. Luckily, people are supportive and ordering through us and I’ve been able to maintain this skeleton crew.
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What has been one of your biggest concerns during this time?
How to limit exposure and keep ourselves safe. Off the bat we set up a rule: If you want to work here you have to be self-isolating and you can’t live with someone who has a certain job, like an Uber driver, nurse, or grocery store worker. I have these amazing people who are coming to work and going home and, besides a roommate or significant other, are not being seen outside our circle.
How are you developing cocktails now?
We keep a few drinks including our Negroni and Manhattan on the menu; otherwise they are always changing. We use whatever we can, wherever we can. Our Root of All Evil has vodka, lemon, carrot, and beet, and one of our bartenders put out an awesome coconut-mango-rum smoothie type of situation that used a bunch of mangoes on their last leg.
More from Jaksic:
- Current To-Go Cocktail Offerings: Recyclable plastic containers of batched creations such as the Jameson-lemon-ginger Dublin Donkey, available in eight or 16 ounces.
- A Recent Operational Challenge: “Supply chains are so backed up and getting packaging material has been an issue. Everyone’s flying by the seat of their pants.”
- Her Employees Only Education: “Even though food wasn’t the draw it was an interesting setting, and I learned how to cook for a place with such a strong drinks program.”
- How She’s Getting Through the Crisis: “I lived in NYC for so long and it gives you chops. I have to figure out how to do this. I have employees who depend on me.”
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Alia Akkam is a writer who covers food, drink, travel, and design. She is the author of Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktails from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels (Hardie Grant) and her work has appeared in Architecturaldigest.com, Dwell.com, Penta, Vogue.com, BBC, Playboy, and Taste, among others, and she is a former editor at Edible Queens, Hospitality Design, and Beverage Media. A native New Yorker, Alia now calls Budapest home. Follow Alia @behdria.