Quiet Industry

11 May, 2018

Monica Berg, one-third of the (p)our team, may be the quiet one, but her ethos underpins their work. by Hamish Smith


ALONGSIDE HER FAMOUS COLLEAGUES, Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale, Monica Berg is a lesser-known entity. Most know her name – but not necessarily how she made it.

Berg is Norwegian but was born in Seoul and adopted by Norwegian parents at the tender age of four months. “In my generation it was common for Norwegians to adopt outside of Europe in places such as Korea, which was poor back then, a developing country. In Norway there are a lot of Koreans but no Korean immigrants or culture. Before I moved to London I had never eaten Korean food,” says Berg.

Hospitality made an early calling, as Berg took her first job in an ice cream parlour. From there it was food service in an events company and eventually on to drinks. Her first G&T had her hooked but at 19 she was too young to work with spirits behind the bar – if she were to bartend, it would need to be abroad. Crete was where she’d end up on her gap year and when she returned, she returned a bartender. Studying continued but it was her night classes – pubs, clubs, volume bars – that paved the way for a career. Serving crap drinks to baying crowds was speed and confidence building. “I walked away with £600 in tips one night, half of which was people throwing coins at me. It was so intense I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was fun though.”

Berg was more bar-world experienced than your average 21-year-old student, though she was still young to be a teacher. The local bartender school, Butlers Bartenderskole where she had trained, took her on as a teacher in 2003 and by 2005 Berg had bought the business. “At one time we had schools in Norway, Greece and Madeira and I had a contract with the Norwegian army – bartending was a course they could take to re-enter society. I taught the Norwegian special forces, which was interesting.”

Berg took to teaching. “I really enjoyed it. Many people who came had never succeeded in school – some had reading and writing difficulties – but they enjoyed the practical side and grew in confidence. I’m in touch with some of them and seeing them behind the bar now reaffirms my belief in education.” At the heart of everything was a steadfast integrity. “Brands offered me a lot of money to speak about their products but I always said no.”

In 2009 she took a job as bar manager at Ice Bar in Oslo. She developed quickly and by 2011 was competing in international cocktail competitions. “The global bar community was becoming very connected. Norway is a dark market so going to these places wowed me. When I came to London, I had no idea. A friend told me to go to Artesian.” That advice would be telling.

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