Matt Lamothe ’09 is more than your average bartender. Dubbed “Chief Bar Operator” by John Gecewicz, the owner of the Cardinal’s Nest, Lamothe has been serving up drinks and ideas from behind the bar since the restaurant formally opened its doors in mid-September. As I sipped homemade Sangria from a bright-red straw—a special touch courtesy of Lamothe—this pre-med jock turned entrepreneur disclosed his plans for the Cardinal’s Nest and the future.
Argus: So Matt, how did you land such a coveted job?
Matt Lamothe: Well, one of my roommates, Alexi Krisel, from the class of ’09, got the job as head chef, so I asked him if they were looking for a bartender. I landed an interview and John and I hit it off from the start. He hired me, and I helped him set up the bar from the ground up. I got lucky though. I probably wouldn’t have looked for a job at all it weren’t for Alexi, A.K.A. “boy chef.”
A: Did you have any previous bartending experience?
MS: In Connecticut, you don’t need a bartending license as long as the place doesn’t serve hard alcohol. Where I’m from in Simsbury, Connecticut, I worked as a host and backup bartender. When the real bartender was out, I filled in for him. Also, as a college student, I’m just naturally a bartender.
A: If you’re in the class of ’09, then you must be graduating very soon. Did you take a semester off?
MS: Yea, I graduate in less than two weeks. I took a year and a half off after my first semester. I started in the summer of ’04 in HPPI (The Health Professions Program Initiative), and spent the summer studying medicine at the University of Connecticut Medical Center. I started on the pre-med track here, and then took time off and lived in New York City with a friend, while taking classes at the New School University in economics, government, and the arts. It was a diverse curriculum. Then I came back when I figured out that I wanted to engage more in the liberal arts education, particularly in International Relations. I’m interested in how various cultures interact with one another in geopolitics, especially amongst third world countries and developed nations. You can only do this at a liberal arts college, so I decided that I might as well embrace the arts rather than fighting it.
A: What are your plans for after graduation?
MS: Hopefully, I’ll be working in Philadelphia for Comcast, in network sales and marketing where I interned in the summer of ’08. Nothing’s set in stone—I may pursue a career in film in Los Angeles. I’ve had a long and interesting path here at Wesleyan—I owe it to my parents and myself to take on all adversities I face leaving Wes head on… I say, “Bring it.”
A: Have you been involved in film at Wesleyan?
MS: I co-produced a film in the fall of ’09, and helped Ted Feldman with his thesis film—he filmed the entire thesis in my apartment. I also played an investment banker in Dallas Bossort’s ’08 senior thesis film called “Today” about a single father whose life at home and at work is in shambles. I played the role of the father’s old classmate who is a successful banker at JT Marlin. My character invites him to a party to celebrate the closing of his 20th account at JT Marlin. It’s a dramatic comedy, but more comedy I’d say.
A: What have you been involved in—outside of bartending and film—at Wesleyan?
MS: My freshman year, I was recruited for football, and I played hockey as well, but I had way too many concussions to continue. I currently play Rugby.
A: What has been your influence at the Cardinal’s Nest?
MS: John and I are always coming up with ideas to make this a unique and fun place. My influence has been mostly in promotion. When I’m in class or with my friends, I’m speaking highly of the place. After they come and see the place for themselves, they’ll come on their own. More than bartending, it’s really important that I can talk to people and engage customers, not just the Wesleyan community but the Middletown community, as well.
A: What about “Das Boot” (a 90 oz glass boot of beer) and “King Kong” (50 oz)? Did you come up with these gimmicks?
MS: John brought these ideas from his restaurant in New York, but we collaborated on the wheel [customers pay $5 to spin a wheel, where they can win anything from a free “Das Boot” to a shot of hot sauce]. John wanted to make this place campus-friendly, where college students can have a nice meal and a glass of wine, not just a bar setting. The aesthetic is cozy, fun, and I guess we make up for [not having hard alcohol] with unique offerings like “Das Boot.” Hold on a second, I hate having this place silent [he pauses to turn on background music].
A: And the “Insane Wings Challenge?”
MS: You have to eat six wings in under five minutes. If you can stomach it, you get free wings and a free beer.
A: You’re business card has the acronym “CBO” written under your name. What does that stand for?
MS: There’s a lot that goes into making a small place like this work. I make sure everything’s stocked, wait tables, work in the kitchen when I have to, and help close down. John promoted me to a management positions, and when he asked me what my title should be I wanted it to be funny since I knew I wouldn’t be here permanently. I chose CBO—Chief Bar Operator or Owner—the two are interchangeable.
A: Aside from the CBO title, what have you gained from the job?
MS: It’s allowed me to see more of the Wesleyan community. I may be a government major and rugby player, but I’ve had conversations with people I never would have met otherwise. I’m very fortunate to be able to meet new people. It’s been a good couple of months—and the money’s good too.