Kristina is one of the co-founders of Small Talk Hospitality and the General Manager of Lone Wolf (It’s one of the best bars in the city along with some of the best thin crust pizza you can find).
She originally started bartending as a way of meeting more people to get their stories. She had wanted to be a college English professor and eventually write a book. Little did she know that after her first bartending shift she was hooked and that’s what she wanted to do. It wasn’t until she got to know a group of cocktail bartenders that brought an entirely new perspective. Her journey led her to helping open Pub Royale, Queen Mary, Estereo and Prairie School.
The creation of Small Talk Hospitality came unexpectedly with two business partners, Laura and Mony. For Kristina, it came out of a loss of direction. The Frank Lloyd-inspired bar, Prairie School, had recently closed. She no longer knew what her path was in the industry and so she decided to create her own. These ladies started an LLC and began consulting for brands. Soon afterwards, it brought about an idea – How can we talk about how to sustain ourselves as a community. Support Staff was born to bridge the gap between mental health professionals within the food and beverage industry. Their goal is to open dialogue about substance abuse, addiction, depression, societal and social pressures. Working on this non-profit is one of her biggest priorities.
When I thought about the idea of the Passion Project, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted Kristina to be a part of it. Not only is she an incredibly talented bartender, she has created an organization to help peers within her community. I admire and am passionate about the food and beverage industry, but there are also some very negative aspects of it. Draining and intense hours, an unhealthy lifestyle both physically and mentally that can lead to anxiety and depression with little to no healthcare. With organizations like Small Talk, these issues can be surfaced and support those that need it most.
- Biggest influences or inspiration for doing what you do?: Taking what I do seriously, but not myself. I rely on the local farmers to produce amazing products and I feel like it is my job to showcase that.
- What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career and with Small Talk?: I moved back to Chicago a little over 10 years ago and I have grinded every day since. I just put my head down and worked, worked and then worked some more. I just wanted to climb higher and higher. I think the most important lesson I have learned is to say no. Being more choosy about how I spend my time and trying really hard to make time for myself to do nothing at all. Its easy to get caught up in this retrace of midwest work ethic but sometimes, its better for yourself and others if you just slow the fuck down. We have learned so much with Small Talk. I could talk about that for hours but I think our biggest lesson is , trust your gut, go with that feeling and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Nothing worth having comes easy.
- What’s your vision/goal for yourself as a bartender and for Small Talk Hospitality?: My vision as a bartender is to make everyone who walks into Lone Wolf feel welcomed and happy to be there. I would eventually like to own a bar sooner rather than later. That is very challenging in Chicago, as we are all looking for that needle in a haystack. But I am not giving up yet. Goal for Small Talk is to have our own 501c-3 and start really trying to implement and create serious change not only for our Chicago community but ideally beyond.
- Favorite bars of all time?: I love the Matchbox because it is intimate and one of a kind. The Green Mill because there are few things I love more than Jazz and a good Martini. Dannys because I think that place is perfect and have so much bar envy when it comes to that place. There are few dance floors that exist in the city that are filled with zero judgement and just a good ol time. Dante in NYC because there is something so comforting about that place. I go there every time I’m In NYC waiting for my hotel room to be ready. Hospitality is always on point.
- Anything interesting about yourself that most people wouldn’t know: I play the ukulele, I read about 3 books a week and I have a very severe plant addiction at my house. I am also a twin. (I have a twin brother.)
- Advice to other people that are trying to find their passion or they already have their passion and how to pursue it?: Make space in your life. Explore new things. You will find something that fill that space and brings you joy. Then, just like that you’re in it! Just surround yourself with people who challenge you. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just realize it is not about perfection, it is about being a little bit better, every single day.