The 16th annual Tales Of The Cocktail festival kicks off this week in New Orleans, and we recently sat with Executive Director Caroline Rosen to learn more about the event and the new Tales Of The Cocktail Foundation.
After nearly a decade long career in hospitality, Caroline Rosen assumed the role of Executive Director of the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation in 2018. In her present role, Caroline serves on the leadership team of the new Foundation, shaping its global suite of events and forming new philanthropic initiatives and grants programming.
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m from Alabama, but I have close ties to New Orleans – I attended undergrad here at Tulane. I moved to New Orleans in 2003, and then left for a while after Katrina. But I’ve been back for a few years now. My husband and I bought a little creole cottage right outside of the French Quarter and this is home now!
How did you get your start in the hospitality industry?
I have a hospitality and non-profit background. I’ve been a partner in restaurants in Alabama and I’ve helped found non-profits. Most recently, I was an Executive Director of a non-profit that focused on an initiative called Chef’s Move. There, we focused on getting local minorities to one of the best culinary schools in New York. They focused on getting education and mentorship, and then they bring that knowledge back to New Orleans. When the opportunity came to do that for the whole hospitality community (as part of Tales Of The Cocktail Foundation) both locally and nationally, it just made perfect sense. So here I am!
We get a lot of questions from young people asking about how they should transition from having a job to a career. How did you go about that transition?
My college degree was in Psychology and Neuroscience, so I don’t use any of that anymore! I kind of just fell into the hospitality industry. I was a Sales rep for Mountain Valley spring water, and then ended being their National Marketing Director after 5 years. That’s how I got involved with Tales actually. Mountain Valley came on as a sponsor one year and from there, I fell in love with New Orleans and the people!
What I can say is that you just have to find something you love! I love giving back, and if you can just find a way to focus on those things that you’re most passionate about, you can turn that into a career.
Talk about Tales Of The Cocktail, and the foundation’s mission, etc.
So the Tales event is in its 16th year, but we as the Tales Of The Cocktail Foundation are in our 1st year. We are here to educate, support and advance the hospitality community! And that can mean a lot of different things. We really took a novel approach this year, and one of the things we’re doing is giving back $250,000 in grants! We’ve compiled a grants committee group of 12 of the brightest minds to help us decide what the biggest pressure points in our industry are, and how to help solve them.
On Tuesday (July 17, 2018), we’re announcing our first grant award recipients. As a foundation, we want to make sure that we are specifically giving back to New Orleans! So I think you’re going to see the Foundation become a yearlong resource for so many local hospitality members as well.
And for those who don’t know, what is the Tales of The Cocktail event all about?
It’s a huge festival for the city! We bring in over 16,000 people over the week, and we have an $18.9 Billion impact on the local economy! Post-Fourth of July is a slow time for New Orleans, so Tales is a wonderful time for our local industry.
For starters, you can go to TalesOfTheCocktail.org and buy Tasting Room passes. We have brands from all over the world that come here to showcase their newest products. Those are scheduled all day, everyday from Tuesday until Saturday. We have educational seminars on everything from The History of Chartreuse to Bystander Training for Bartenders. We’ll also have world-class bartenders from around the globe showing off their skills…there are over 300 events as part of this year’s festival!
We’re doing something new and really amazing this year called Beyond The Bar, and it’ll be held at New Orleans Athletics Club. It’s free and it’s focused around health and wellness. We have free ear acupuncture, yoga classes, HIV testing, group therapy sessions, and so much more…a lot of useful things for our industry employees! This was created with local bartenders in mind! You know, there are statistics around bartenders losing their hearing at a really early age, so us offering things like free ear acupuncture is our way of showing support! We want to take care of the employees because they take care of so many of us!
How important do you think the hospitality industry is in a city like NOLA?
We are the hospitality mecca of the world! I firmly believe that New Orleans has the best hospitality in the world. It is something that no matter your race, education, or socio-economic background, brings us all together in New Orleans. We’re like a gumbo! And I think that it’s safe to say: a lot of peoples’mama’s cooking are the best in the world. And we have some of the best restaurants in the world…some of the best cocktails in the world! Just think about how many cocktails have been founded in New Orleans.
Hospitality is what makes New Orleans, New Orleans. I’m just glad to play a small role in it!
What is your ultimate vision for TOTCF, and where do you see New Orleans going in the next five years?
I see the Tales Of The Cocktail Foundation continuing to grow into a huge resource for our local community. Getting people around a table or around a bar is something that I see as being really important. So I see a lot more face time with the community. I see a lot more growth in our grant giving.
We want to bring the world’s thought leaders here, and also become a hub of giving back. I think that’s important for the city. We can do it! And it’s great to see all of the people that come here already. The Bon Vivants are a group out of San Francisco, and they’ve structured a Day of Giving with KIPP schools, and they’ve done it for 8+ years during Tales! They create their own events, like Pig & Punch, and have given back over $300,000 to our local community because they love our city. So, over the next 5 years, I hope to see more of that love!