Featured Bartender: Tia Barrett
As Esmé’s Beverage Director, Tia Barrett oversees the curation of the beverage program at the Michelin-starred fine dining destination in Chicago’s Lincoln Park community. With the program, Barrett aspires to provide a platform for distinct and underrepresented voices in the industry with a wine list that predominantly showcases bottles from women and BIPOC producers, as well as those with a philanthropic mission. The 50-bottle list places emphasis on biodynamic or certified organic wines while considering approachability, as well as unexpected offerings that inspire education and discovery among guests. This intention is echoed throughout the bar program with bespoke craft cocktails, spirits and beer selections that similarly tell a story about an independent producer, their process and their commitment to giving back.
In her role, Barrett draws upon her deep and multifaceted experience across the industry. She was most recently the Director of Service at the Michelinstarred Entente in Chicago’s River Northneighborhood, and previously curated the cocktail program at Boka Group’s GT Prime Steakhouse.
At Esmé, Barrett shares in proprietors Jenner Tomaska and Katrina Bravo’s mission to reimagine the fine dining model while cultivating community within the restaurant — among both staff and guests. Described by Tomaska and Bravo as a “love letter to Chicago,” Esmé is similarly deeply personal for Barrett, who grew up in Glenview outside of Chicago where her parents settled after immigrating from Jamaica. While Barrett studied Sports Medicine in school with ambitions to become a Physical Therapist, she was consistently more inspired by her work at a local restaurant and wine bar. It was during this time that she unearthed her passion for unlocking the stories behind the beverages she was pouring, while cultivating meaningful connections with guests. This passion continues to fuel Barrett’s approach and aspirations to provide memorable experiences that inspire feelings of commonality and community.
PHOTOS BY AARON MOSES ROBIN