I was born and grew up in Bremen. After finishing secondary school, I started a three-year apprenticeship as a hotel specialist at the Hotel zur Post. The training was a mixture of attending school and getting to know and work in all areas of the hotel. The hotel, which was a four-star-plus hotel at the time, also included the Bremer Ratskeller with a Michelin-starred restaurant called L'Orchidée and a huge wine cellar.
I was very young when I started my training, and when I think back to that time, I was a very chaotic person and probably too young to stand on my own two feet. I had two guys who acted as mentors for me, and without them I probably wouldn't have completed my training. Today, I'm very grateful that I did, and with the help of those mentors, I learned to be a more responsible person.
After my apprenticeship, I moved to the conventions and events department at the five-star Hotel Swissôtel Bremen, where I worked for two years. After that, I wanted to do a trainee program for F & B management at the bar, but my superiors told me that would be like squaring the circle - it just wouldn't fit.
So I quit and moved to Hamburg to work at the Side Design Hotel, where I was for the first time Barkeeper . That was in 2010. That was in 2010. Since my training, I had always been interested in the F & B industry. However, I only worked there for a year before moving back to Bremen to the Hotel zur Post because they had called me to ask if I would be interested in becoming the new man behind the bar. That's how I became bar manager.
Just eight months later, Mario Ippen from the Lemon Lounge approached me and asked me to work for him as a Barkeeper . I said yes. I agreed, because I wanted to get to know something other than a hotel bar and was also very curious about the entrepreneurial side of an independent cocktail bar. I was there for a little over a year.
The plan was to move to Cologne to work at Al Salam, but a car accident changed everything. I desperately needed money and decided to work on a cruise ship, first as Barkeeper and later as Chef de Rang in the restaurant. This turned into an internship of almost two years, and then I was finally able to go to Cologne to work at Al Salam for almost two years.
Then I got a scholarship from Jägermeister and they sent me to London for six months to mix with Marian Beke. That was a very intense time, but it was also a lot of fun and very educational.
After that I moved back to Berlin, but it didn't really work out... Berlin is not my city. I worked there for FIFTY Cocktail Heroes, but soon moved to Hamburg, where I started a family business with my wife and brother-in-law in 2017 by opening a restaurant called Nakama. As my wife's family is from Vietnam, Nakama has a Vietnamese-Japanese bar-restaurant concept. Three years later, in early 2020, we opened Bento, a small Japanese izakaya-style lunch restaurant. The idea for Bā Nomu, our third restaurant, was born before Covid, and so I opened Bā Nomu in June 2022, which I now run most of the time.
The bar has a playful, Asian-inspired concept. Bars like Oriole, Cahoots, Nightjar, Salmon Guru served as inspiration for the concept. When you enter the place, the cocktail menu takes you on a journey. The glasses take an important role. The bar can seat thirty people and is equipped with seating only. We want drinks to be added to and removed from the menu on a regular basis, as a kind of living concept and without fixed times for menu changes. So far, I'm very happy with the start of the bar.
I would like to see the Barkeeper take themselves less seriously, focus on the guest and put hospitality first. The good thing about Covid was that guests now look forward to coming back to a bar and having a good time. The focus should be on the bar and not who is the coolest of all Barkeeper . That would be my only message for the future.
Dustin Le - Personal
Special skills: Irony and sarcasm
Free time: I spend a lot of time with my little son (2 y.).
Barkeeper since: 2007
Biggest failure: I once caused a car accident that cost me a lot of time and money.
Most important career step: Working with Mohammad Nazzal at Al Salam in Cologne and Marian Beke at Gibson in London. I learned a lot from both of them, which was very helpful for my professional development.
Favorite cocktail: Old Fashioned. It is simply one of the most honest drinks.
Favorite bar: Old Man in Hong Kong - the drinks are absolutely fantastic and to the point and the hospitality is great, even if you come as a tourist.
Hamburg in three words: Wet, cold, home.