Turbo Lama, Bern

Monika Zünd

From clubs to the 5-star hotel industry to the hip after-work bar. The enterprising woman from eastern Switzerland has even had a taste of the kitchen. Since this summer, Monika Zünd has been working as Chef de Bar in a new location in Wankdorf City.

Mid-August, Monika Zünd is sitting at a small table on the terrace of the bar that has just opened. The sun is reflecting off the modern new buildings, trains pass Bern-Wankdorf station at regular intervals.

The newest restaurant of the Mosaik gastronomic group had not even been open to guests for a whole week when its bar manager and deputy manager, Monika Zünd, played a decisive role in developing the bar menu and the concept.

With Turbo Lama, a large, all-day eatery complements Mosaik's animal family, which has repeatedly caused a stir in recent years with the Gin Bar zum Kuckuck and the Peter Flamingo, Kater Karlo and Oscar Elch pop-ups.

From 5-star hotel to high-volume cocktail bar

The move to Turbo Lama meant a change of scenery for Monika Zünd in more ways than one. For a year, the likeable woman from eastern Switzerland worked at the historic Bellevue Palace, where she could be found both in the modern Noumi and behind the bar of the time-honoured Bellevue Bar.

A woman with visible tattoos on her neck, hands and arms is no longer unusual in many bars, and yet Monika Zünd needed a bit of convincing to be allowed to take the job at the 5-star establishment.

"Five years ago, visible tattoos would have been unthinkable at Bellevue, but recently the establishment has been striving for a more modern look," says the 30-year-old, whose appearance and demeanour have elicited consistently positive feedback from guests.

The image of the bartender has changed fundamentally in recent years, Zünd is convinced. Less the classic, more beards and tattoos. As one of four children of a Thai woman and a self-employed Thurgau electrician/policeman, Monika Zünd is the only restaurateur in the family.

She grew up in Münchwilen near Wil (SG) and after compulsory schooling completed an apprenticeship as a cook, but then switched to sales for the time being because she misses contact with people.

Later she moves to Zurich, where she works at the cash desk in a club. At the Züri Fäscht she is put behind the bar - a throw in at the deep end. She worked in clubs for years, and after Zurich she also worked in several places in Basel. Before moving to Bern, she worked at the bar in the Noohn restaurant under the supervision of Nevroz Gökce, the bar manager at the time.

The move to Bern was not easy for her: "At the beginning I had a bit of trouble finding my feet. Compared to Basel and Zurich, it's very quiet in the city of Bern. Things only really start happening here on Thursdays. But that's good for me (laughs)."

Balance and inspiration

Thanks to the new working hours - Turbo Lama already closes at 10 p.m., from Thursday at 12.30 a.m. - she now benefits from more time for her friend and horse. The animal and nature lover has been a gifted rider since she was young and takes care of her foal Hira every day after work.

But even if time in nature means a balance to Monika Zünd's daily bar routine, she can't completely switch off. In the forest she finds ingredients, impressions and flavours that she incorporates into her signature drinks. At the same time, she occasionally takes her mixing utensils with her on walks and hikes.

"A woman with visible tattoos on her neck, hands and arms is no longer unusual, even behind the bar counters of 5-star hotels."

The digitally well-connected influencer (with over 7,300 Instagram followers, an accurate description) creates content for spirits producers, a digital sideline that didn't exist in this form for Barkeeper a few years ago.

Three years ago, Monika Zünd travelled to Thailand, her mother's birthplace, for the last time. She also lets her roots flow into her cocktail creations; for a "coriander smash", for example, she likes to go into the Asian herb kitchen from time to time.

She also mixed yuzu and lemongrass for her final drink at the Haecky Luxury Competition 2019. "I love Japanese bar culture," says Zünd, who is also a great lover of Japanese whiskies. Mezcal is also a passion of the upbeat bartender. She also likes to work with gin, although she sometimes gets fed up with the gin hype.

A new challenge

Zünd has left the pressure to perform in 5-star gastronomy behind her with her move to Turbo Lama. What is new is the management responsibility. Her mixed team includes professionals and part-time students; the proportion of women and men is more or less balanced.

Monika Zünd beams when she talks about her new creative possibilities. Thanks to the flat hierarchies, she enjoys a lot of freedom, but also wants to give her service and bar staff the opportunity to contribute.

"Regular training sessions are planned where everyone who is motivated can contribute their ideas and inputs," says Zünd and adds: "It is important to me that a drink always tastes the same. There are bars where a cocktail tastes different every time. Every employee should be themselves and be able to approach the guest individually. But everyone should always pull together.

This article appeared in
Issue 4-2020

BAR NEWS magazine as single issue

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