Why did you choose a career in this field?
I was living in NW Arkansas around 1999 and was a coffee drinker and frequenter of coffee shops. I had just graduated from a ministry school and was pondering my future when I realized that my obsession with coffee was something I wanted to pursue full-time. It was literally an “Aha moment” that happened one day and from that point forward I was pursuing the wonderful world of coffee and coffee shops. I was fascinated by the variety of tastes of origins and the culture/experience of the shop. Today that has led me to be in it for over 20 years having worked behind the bar in multiple different capacities of leadership, competition, consulting and now full time as a consultant and podcast host. I chose this because of the richness of the landscape of the product of coffee. It has endless possibilities and the people are very open and accessible.
What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?
My first job was a barista and I was fired after about 5-6 months. It was really jarring and almost derailed me. Today I look back and readily admit that I would have fired me too! I was passionate but not a great worker. I learned that lesson well though and made becoming the best barista on staff at every other job I got after that my goal.. I lacked focus on the whole cafe, I loved coffee but neglected the big picture. I am happy to have had that experience since we learn the most through our failings. I ended up quickly being able to take on leadership roles in future jobs and credit that first job with setting me straight early on.
How did you prepare for the interview?
I did not really prepare. I was just passionate about coffee and at that time there were not many people around who were passionate about coffee so for the first couple barista jobs I had I simply displayed a deep knowledge, dedication, and passion that they wanted working for them. Today it is different. A lot of people are passionate. If i were applying today I would want to demonstrate a solid history of care and service to people through coffee more than a care for coffee service alone. The industry is looking for hard workers who can take direction but also lead where they are planted. As a hiring manager in the past and as a consultant now, I value self-awareness, humility, and resiliency in the face of challenges.
Books that helped you.?
E-myth revisited by Michael GerberSetting the Table by Danny MeyerIt’s OK to be the Boss by Bruce Tulgan
Things are changing very fast in the industry; how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc.
I run my own podcast called Keys to the Shop with now over 1 million downloads and 400+ episodes. It has helped me stay in tune but I would also just encourage people to follow shops on IG and take part in trade shows and conferences like Coffee Fest and SCA. Roast, Standart, Barista Magazine are helpful publications too.
Any advice about CVs?
Be honest and communicate as if to a person, not a company. people hire people, not CVs.
Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.
I have never applied for a job that I did not get in this field. I have been blessed in this way. However, I will tell you I have not hired people mostly on the basis of attitude, lack of self-awareness, and a lack of demonstrable work values in past jobs. Where I personally have struggled within jobs I have had has been around staying focused on my role’s priorities vs the things that I personally wanted to work on or thought were important. ie: I had to keep the main thing my main focus and not let extra work or projects dominate my energy. That has led to some corrective action in the past. As I have said above, I am glad for those moments
since we learn a lot through our mistakes and challenges.
Chris Deferio is the host of the industry-leading podcast, Keys to the Shop. A podcast designed to give insights, inspiration, and tools to the coffee service professional. A 20+ year specialty coffee veteran, Chris came up at the beginning of what is called the 3rd wave coffee movement and has seen great success in a wide variety of roles from the barista, USBC competitor and finalist, 3-time latte art champion, barista trainer, consultant, conference speaker, judge, cafe manager, and multi-store operations manager. With a library of now over 400 episodes, his podcast, Keys to the Shop, has been downloaded over 1 million times and is widely regarded as one of the best resources for coffee shop owners and professionals that want to thrive in their businesses and careers.