Elitte Bartending School and Wait Staffing Agency

Running since 2011, the Elitte Bartending School and Wait Staffing Agency is tucked on a busy street on Chicago’s Northwest side, in the Portage Park neighbourhood and directly opposite the iconic 1920s Portage Theater. Surrounded by the eateries, offices and shops of the Six Corners area, it is in a prime position to capitalise on the city’s seemingly never ending thirst for new bar keeps and drinks servers to staff its busy pubs and restaurants.

Founded and co-owned by husband and wife team Angela and David Torres, Elitte promises to provide training which is second to none – ‘a step above the rest’ – in order to make ‘all of our students the very best they can be.’ As an added incentive for budding bartenders, the school’s fees are incredibly good: $289 will get you the full Bartenders Certification training program, an amount which is cheaper than for any comparable bartending course in the US; Angela and David believe they are changing the standards for bartending schools, while making the training inexpensive for anyone who wishes to learn. The couple are keen to stress, however, that low cost does not mean poor quality teaching – the instruction is hands-on, rigorous and taught by industry veterans with two decades’ experience under their belts.

Elitte’s main program is the aforementioned Bartenders Certification, which is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education. Forty hours in length, and available in a variety of schedules – one week (the ‘accelerated’ course, consisting of full eight hour days for five days); two or three weeks, in four and a half hour morning, afternoon or evening sessions; weekend classes; and bespoke schedules arranged around particular student needs – it is designed to teach wannabe bartenders anything and everything they might need to work behind the wood in a busy pub, club or restaurant.

Topics include an intro to flair pouring, essential bar management skills such as setting up or breaking down the workplace area, drink recipes, beer and wine service, as well as inventories, glassware, handling cash and the register and getting those drinks poured and out to customers as quickly as possible. The program also focuses on customer service and alcohol awareness, along with input on interview techniques, job searching and prepping an awesome résumé to get you noticed ahead of the rest of the pack. The Elitte staff also throw in state accredited BASSET (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training) certification which is mandatory for anyone working with alcohol, free BASSET certification renewals every 3 years, free lifetime job placement assistance and refresher courses, and the opportunity, post-graduation, to join the company’s internship program run by the school’s sister company Professional Wait Staffing Services.

It is not all about intensive training at the school, though – they offer several entertaining short courses for people who wish to dip their toes into the bartending waters or just enjoy a few hours learning something new with friends. A Flair Bartending class shows students how to flip and toss bottles and cocktail shakers like a pro – which is always guaranteed to bring in the big tips – while the four hour Beer 101/Tastings and Mixology 101 do exactly what they say on the tin, and give you a basic appreciation of craft beers and draughts or the art of mixing cocktails and exotic drinks; the latter two courses are also available as add-ons to the Bartending Certification program. BASSET certification is also available as a standalone qualification should anybody wish to take the short instruction module.

Elitte offers bar kits for sale for the budding home bartender, gift certificates which can be bought for friends and loved ones who are keen on learning the bartending arts, and a raft of weekly and monthly events, such as ‘Beer Field Trips, liquor and liqueur demos, and parties which are staffed by Elitte graduates, students and staff.

The real feather in the company’s cap, however, is its sister organisation Professional Wait Staffing Services (PWSS). Elitte offers job placement and internship/apprenticeship through PWSS, meaning students and graduates frequently have the chance to work live events – some of them massive, such as the 2013 American Beer Festival at Soldier Field – or tend bar at some of Chicago’s premier lounges, bars and nightclubs.

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