ABOUT CHRISTIAAN RÖLLICH
Christiaan Rollich hails from a small village fifteen minutes outside of Amsterdam. On his fourteenth birthday he arrived at the local tavern dressed up in a shirt, tie and slacks and knocked on the door seeking employment. The owner informed him that he was too young and should try again when he was older. One year later, on his birthday, Rollich returned and was hired as a dishwasher due to his tenacity.
It was widely assumed Rollich would work in the family hospital business, but after a string of odd jobs and a six-month university stint where he studied psychology, he realized it wasn’t a good fit. He literally ran away and joined the circus, becoming a carney in a travelling fair, working the midway. After two years, Rollich gave university another shot and became a bar back at a nightclub to earn extra money, while studying acting on the side. He saved enough money to come to the United States and studied acting at the Lee Strasberg School. Within six months he got a sponsorship to live in Los Angeles and signed with LA Models, lining up another career.
Rollich’s Los Angeles life brought him to Les Deux Café for extra income while pursuing his acting and modeling gigs. Les Deux was the venerable Hollywood hangout run by Michele Lamy and her husband/designer Rick Owens. He worked as a busser but noticed that the bartender was lazy and frequently jumped in to clean up the bar for extra tips while the bartender smoked cigarettes in the alley. Before long, people started asking him to make drinks. Another bartender from New York mentored him and taught the layout. “He gave me the blueprint of how to set up a bar in the same pattern I use even today,” says Rollich. “I still carry the memory and lessons that I learned from that bartender. He changed my life.”
When Café Les Deux closed Rollich traveled to Europe and returned to Los Angeles in 2007. A friend of his was working at Lucques, got him an interview, and he was hired as a part time bartender. It was before the cocktail explosion and everyone was still measuring spirits by counting with no real science. But Rollich became intrigued by the use of combining science, math and artistry to create craft cocktails and began his self-education. Lucques challenged him to invent a cocktail, permitting him to use whatever ingredients he could find. He went into the walk-in of the restaurant and saw the possibilities immediately. His first invention consisted of a mix of vodka, grapefruit, cucumber and simple syrup. The “Greenhouse” made it onto the menu. Soon he was elevating the concept of cocktails into a real art form. He developed a following from Prada and Gucci at private parties catered by Lucques Catering and his career blossomed with celebrity weddings and specialty cocktails he developed for each special event.
Moving into the position of head barman for all of Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s fine dining restaurants – Lucques, a.o.c. and Tavern - Rollich began to look at the bar from Suzanne Goin’s point of view. He understood that he could pattern the bar program to complement Goin’s menus by making nearly every component from scratch. “Suzanne explained how to find balance to make bolder flavors without ruining the integrity of the cocktails. I would go back to her to test my creations over and over again until they were perfect. I put old rules aside and focused on the end product to create a lot of flavor. In essence, my cocktails are here to pair with her food,” says Rollich.
Rollich relishes making everything from scratch – from tinctures and syrups, to bitter and absinthe. There are no shortcuts that go into the science of making his products. Rollich loves the challenge of the changing seasons and is constantly experimenting with new cocktails for the restaurants inspired by his visits to the Farmers’ Market and customizing his beverage program menus for fall, winter, spring and summer. Today, he is responsible for signature drinks at each location – Lucques Gimlet, Moscow Margarita (Lucques), The Thunderer, Tavern on the Green (Tavern), and the Pistolero, The Pinkerton and Green Goddess (a.o.c.), along with seasonally changing specialties.
As head barman at Lucques, a.o.c. and Tavern, Christiaan Rollich has been lauded and published by the Los Angeles Times, Eater LA, People, Los Angeles Magazine, Details and Food and Wine, among others, for establishing thriving bar programs at some of Los Angeles’ most-watched restaurants. “He continues to create head-turning, palate-pleasing craft cocktails to pair with the James Beard award-winning cuisine,” said Los Angeles Magazine blogger, Caroline on Crack. Besha Rodell, James Beard award-winning restaurant critic from the LA Weekly states, “Behind that bar is Christiaan Röllich, one of the country’s most promising up-and-coming crafters of cocktails”
His cocktail book “Bar Chef” published by W.W. Norton will come out April 9th