David Suro Piñera | Philip Ward | Bobby Heugel | Ryan Fitzgerald | Misty Kalkofen

David Suro Piñera
David Suro Piñera - President - Tequila Interchange ProjectBorn in Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, David Suro-Piñera migrated to Philadelphia in 1985. Excited to showcase the food and spirit of his homeland, he opened Philadelphia’s first upscale Mexican eatery, Tequilas Restaurant, in 1986. It has since become world-famous for serving authentic cuisine as well as offering a list of over 135 brands of fine 100% Agave tequilas. As a restaurateur and a tequila aficionado, he was determined find the highest quality tequila. This quest propelled him to develop and produce his own boutique tequila brand, Siembra Azul — a small batch, artisinally crafted super-premium tequila, which is made from only the finest blue agave.

In the 1990’s, Suro-Piñera returned to Jalisco, Mexico to assemble a dream team of tequila experts, scholars and producers to collaborate on creating this innovative new tequila. “This tequila is different because there is so much attention to quality at every step of the way,” says Suro-Piñera. “From the care in the selection of the plants, to the ovens where the Agave hearts are baked to loosen up the juices, to the juicer, to the fermentation, to the distillation, to the aging, to the bottling, we have not sacrificed anything for quality.” After over 5 years of painstaking efforts, Siembra Azul launched its first batches of Blanco and Reposado in the U.S. to rave reviews in the spring of 2005. The following summer, the first batch of Siembra Azul Añejo was introduced as the third product in the brand’s stellar lineup.

Siembra Azul’s trademark, “The Future of Tradition,” is Suro-Piñera’s mission. His intent is to convince people that tequila should be considered among one of the greatest and most complex spirits in the world. Suro-Piñera passionately believes that by educating the consumer about tequila’s technical and mystical heritage, and building a brand based on these ideals, Siembra Azul is setting an unparalleled standard for the tequila category.

Suro-Piñera’s passion for his culture and heritage continue to expand with every project he pursues. Just a few years ago, he established the Siembra Azul Foundation, SAF, a non-profit organization that empowers Mexican migrant workers and Hispanics in the U.S. linking them to the services and resources available to help them achieve their goals. This undertaking has been another one of Suro-Piñera’s dreams: to give back to his community and champion the needs of Mexicans living in the U.S. A portion of proceeds from the sales of his tequila benefit this organization. One of SAF accomplishments was to help build an education, health, and arts program in San Mateo Ozolco, Mexico. This achievement was accomplished with the help of the First Lady of Mexico Margarita Zavala de Calderón, First Lady of Philadelphia Lisa Nutter, and Puentes de Salud.

In 2010, Suro-Piñera helped found the Tequila Interchange Project, an organization that advocates sustainable, traditional, and quality practices amid growing trends surrounding modern production in the tequila industry. This group is composed of well-respected bartenders, academics, educators, consumers and tequila enthusiasts. In July of 2011, he was selected to be a Board Member and President of this organization.

Suro-Piñera has also served on several boards including Philadelphia’s Mexican Cultural Center and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. In September 2006, the Mexican foreign relations offices, along with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, awarded Suro-Pinera “Businessman of the Year” for his tenacity and spirit of entrepreneurship and for setting the example of achieving the American dream. He also serves on the Board of Directors for JUNTOS, a community center for recent Mexican and Latin American immigrants in the South Philadelphia area as well as on the Board of Advisors for Drexel University’s culinary school. In 2009, Suro-Piñera also became a board member another community programs, Puentes de Salud, which provides medical care for community members. In 2010 he became a CEO Ambassadors for 21st Century Skills, together with Academies Inc., which focus on education and making investments towards the local workforce and economy. Recently he became a Board member of Friends of Farmworkers, an organization that provides legal representation, education, and advocacy on the employment-related legal rights of farmworkers, food processing workers, and landscaping workers throughout Pennsylvania.
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Philip Ward
Vice President
Philip Ward - Vice President - Tequila Interchange ProjectPhilip Ward was born and mostly raised in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He wound up in New York City via chance, a plane ticket to Rome, and four months in Europe and Africa. He stumbled into the Flatiron Lounge and the until then unknown world of cocktails in June 2003 under the tutelage of Julie Riener. Hired as a barback he quickly became enamored with the drink making process and became obsessed once promoted to bartender.

He would spend three years at Flatiron the latter time as head bartender leaving eventually to help open the Pegu Club with Audrey Saunders where he again served the latter portion of his time as Head Bartender. Seeking something smaller, more intimate, and the chance to run his own program in January 2007 he jumped ship to open and run the beverage program at what has become the renowned Death and Company in New York.

After a little over two years of service there and again seeking a new venture or frontier he opened the much anticipated Mayahuel in New York City, the first Tequila/Mezcal cocktail bar which Philip owns and operates.

Philip has consulted and helped open bars around the country including Tequilas in Philadelphia, Watermark in Asbury Park, Craft and Commerce in San Diego, and for the entire Auberge Hotel group.

He was nominated for Bartender of the Year three years in a row at Tales of the Cocktail where Mayahuel won Best New Bar in World and Death and Company won Best American Bar this past July.

In late 2009 along with the talented Katie Stipe (Flatiron, Mayahuel, Clover Club, Vandaag) he officially started his consulting venture Last Call Consulting wishing to help discerning palates in New York and beyond.

For reading material just google, Philip has been featured in many pertinent rags, subscriptions, cocktail books, and even had a TV appearance (That’s how bad TV is these days!). He will also be featured in his own chapter for this year’s Food and Wine Cocktail book.

He lives in Brooklyn with the woman he loves and his perpetually hungry cat Ralph. In his minimal bit of spare time he is a voracious reader, a bad writer, and worse painter.
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Bobby Heugel
Bobby Heugel - Treasurer - Tequila Interchange ProjectSince opening Anvil Bar & Refuge in his hometown of Houston, Texas in 2009, Bobby Heugel has continued to make an impression on the restaurant and bar scene nationwide.Over two and a half years since opening, Anvil has received countless national accolades — Bon Appétit named Anvil one of the “Top Ten New Cocktail Bars” in its August 2010 issue, GQ magazine included Anvil as one of “The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America” in October 2010 and Anvil was just recently listed in Food & Wine’s “50 Best Bars in America” in December 2011. Yet, it is Bobby’s work beyond Anvil in 2011 that has shown Anvil is only the tip of the iceberg.

Bobby was named a Star Chefs Rising Star and nominated for a James Beard Award in the Best Wine & Spirits Professional category for 2011. He was also included in Forbes “30 Under 30” Food & Wine movers and shakers list which will hit the stands mid January 2012. Beyond these accolades, Bobby’s consulting company worked with several beverage programs and spirit brands nationwide. Bobby and his partners also worked towards opening a new restaurant, Underbelly, with Houston chef, Chris Shepherd, and a beer bar, Hay Merchant, with Anvil partner and longtime friend, Kevin Floyd, which will debut in a matter of weeks. Their coffee shop, Blacksmith, a partnership with David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto, will follow this upcoming spring as an expansion of their affiliated micro-roaster, Greenway Coffee. Bobby has plans to establish several other concepts inside and outside of Houston in the following years, but he is quick to establish his pursuit of these endeavors as an interest in talent, not a restaurant group. Bobby believes “the future of this industry lies in the hands of talented individuals and personalities, not idealized concepts – an important distinction that will direct the most successful and influential trends of hospitality, food, and beverage communities.”Amid all of his new endeavors, Heugel’s most notable accomplishments to this point have arguably been outside of his businesses. In July of 2011, Bobby was chosen as one of four individuals from a membership pool filled with the nation’s most-respected bar professionals to serve as a Board Member and Treasurer for the Tequila Interchange Project, an organization he helped found in 2010. The Tequila Interchange Project seeks to promote sustainability and traditional production methodology amid growing concerns surrounding modern production trends in Mexico. He, along with the other members of TIP, regularly meet with regulatory officials in Mexico as well as independent researchers and professors at the University of Guadalajara to address these issues.

In November of 2011, a group of Houston restaurant and bar owners teamed together to fight for independent businesses against misguided and looming municipal policies on parking issues and urban density. Amid that struggle, a glaring need was exposed within the Houston restaurant and bar industry: an active organization that campaigned for independent restaurants, bars, cafes, food trucks, purveyors and producers. OKRA, an Organized Kollaberative on Restaurant Affairs, is the product of a union of individuals who found that as group, not only could they have a positive impact on their industry, but rally the support of the Houston community. Bobby was quickly elected President of OKRA, which has already become an active political organization in Houston and will continue to represent the independent restaurants on political and social issues.

Beyond its political agenda, the organization also plans to host quarterly food festivals that will benefit rotating charities, teach classes on food, wine, and spirits monthly, and host other events. Most exciting, however, is Bobby’s dream of opening a non-profit bar that will finally become reality under the operation of OKRA. The group hopes to refurbish an existing bar to minimize costs and generate as many funds as possible for charity. While the search has just started, OKRA isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel; instead, the organization is attempting to open a simple, neighborhood bar that allows Houstonians to support their community by buying a drink. Bobby and his OKRA colleagues plan to open this bar in the summer of 2012 – a concept that challenges restaurants and bars nationwide to pursue collaborative efforts that engage their communities.

Bobby feels that the future of this industry hinges upon an ability to engage social and business endeavors with equal consciousness. At only 28 years of age, we are certain to see this perspective continue to have an impact on the food and beverage industry nationwide.
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Ryan Fitzgerald
Ryan Fitzgerald - Tequila Interchange ProjectAfter 10 years in the restaurant business Ryan Fitzgerald found himself behind a bar in one of the best eating and drinking cities in the world – San Francisco. Since moving to San Francisco Ryan has worked at and helped to open a variety of notable bars and restaurants including Bourbon and Branch, Tres Agaves, Foreign Cinema, Bacar and most recently Beretta. As the director of spirits and cocktails Ryan has helped to maintain the high quality products that earned Beretta a nomination for best new bar at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008, while also expanding it’s beverage program to include recurring public spirits and cocktail classes as well as a regular schedule of guest bartenders.Ryan is a certified Doctor of Tequila, a USBG Spirits Professional, B.A.R. graduate and founding Tequila instructor at Bourbon and Branch’s Beverage Academy. His passion for spirits knowledge has taken him to Mezcal palenques in Oaxaca, Whiskey distilleries in Kentucky, and Tequila distilleries in México. His eagerness to share his knowledge has led to guest bartending stints at Drink in Boston, Mayahuel in Manhattan and the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong.
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Misty Kalkofen
Misty Kalkofen - Tequila Interchange ProjectMisty Kalkofen first stepped behind the bar while studying theology at Harvard Divinity School. She credits local music legend Brother Cleve with cementing her interest in classic cocktails the day he “presented her with a bottle of Old Overholt rye and dubbed her his protege.”Upon completing her degree in 1998, Kalkofen realized what most excited her about the Bible was the passage where Jesus turns water into wine. Shortly thereafter, she joined the opening staff of the B-Side Lounge, the first bar in the city to focus on classic cocktails and vintage spirits. The B-Side’s emphasis on hand-crafted cocktails was revolutionary during the era when the sour apple martini ruled. Kalkofen teamed up with a few fellow enthusiasts to create Boston’s first modern day cocktail club, the Jack Rose Society. Together the members of the JRS explored cocktail history, examined recipes and laid the groundwork for the now thriving Boston cocktail community.

In 2006, Kalkofen joined friend and fellow B-Side alum Dylan Black to re-concept Green Street, the oldest continually operating bar in Cambridge, MA. At Green Street, Kalkofen continued to cultivate the cocktail community both behind and across the bar by transforming the space into a cocktail destination. Kalkofen stirred Manhattans and opened Miller High Lifes with pride for the thriving avant-garde clientele of foodies, locals and students in its vibrant Cantabridgian neighborhood.

In 2007, Kalkofen founded the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of the Endangered Cocktail, fulfilling her desire to “cocktail for a cause.” Rooted in the belief that everyone loves a good drink, people like to do good things, and broads can accomplish anything, the ladies of LUPEC have raised over $40,000 for local Boston women’s charities by throwing the best parties in town. LUPEC proudly supports Jane Doe Inc, the Friends Boutique at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the women’s wing of the Boston Shelter for Homeless Veterans and On the Rise (and we think you should too).

In 2008, Kalkofen joined the staff of Drink, Barbara Lynch’s high-concept cocktail bar. Under the tutelage of Lynch, John Gertsen and the BLGruppo, Kalkofen developed a deeper appreciation for the role of that intangible but indispensable component of a great restaurant experience: hospitality.

In 2010, Kalkofen became a founding member of the Tequila Interchange Project, a Mexico and US based not for profit consumer advocacy group comprised of bartenders, educators and academics focused on tequila education and the preservation of sustainable, traditional and quality practices in the tequila industry. As a board member of the Tequila Interchange Project Kalkofen is able to share her love for the history, heritage, and culture of Mexico’s noble agave spirits.

In 2011, Kalkofen teamed with Patrick Sullivan of the B-side Lounge to open the much-anticipated neighborhood cocktail bar, Brick & Mortar. At Brick & Mortar, Kalkofen applied the many lessons, tips, tricks, and techniques she learned in 20 years behind the stick to create a neighborhood bar that offers balanced cocktails, cold beer and friendly service. In 2012 Kalkofen and Sullivan founded Revolution Cocktail Catering and Consulting thus realizing a dream to take their passion for cocktails and spirits education beyond the bar room.

In April 2013, Kalkofen joined the family of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals as the East Coast Juez thereby continuing her quest to educate spirits enthusiasts about the culture and tradition of Mexico’s artisanal agave distillates.

Misty Kalkofen has been featured in Bon Appetit, Imbibe, Food & Wine Cocktail editions, Wine Enthusiast, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Tasting Panel, Wine & Spirits, and more. Kalkofen was nominated for American Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail 2011 and International Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail 2012 and 2013. She is a graduate of the rigorous BAR program and continues to minister to cocktail communities nationwide through active involvement in the BARSmarts regional programming. Kalkofen has spent the past twenty years honing her craft and her palate and has earned a reputation as one of Boston’s foremost authorities on cocktail history and culture. Cultivating a spirit of camaraderie among cocktail lovers (while showing everyone a really good time in the process) is Misty’s mission across the many communities she touches.
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