Our intimate coffee community in Louisville recently lost one of its brightest young coffee professionals to the coffee Mecca known as Seattle. We were excited to catch up with Chris Elliott at SCAA and ask him a few questions about his new role at Slayer Espresso.
It’s safe to say a lot of baristas would kill to work for a company like Slayer (get it?). What exactly will you be doing? Is this your dream job?
Usually, my work here fits quite neatly in a couple of categories: marketing and content. My job is to make Slayer look good, mostly through social media and writing for our website. Slayer is a small company, though, so I wear a lot of hats. Actually, I joke that I own the hat store. That should hint at the range of my work. Also, isn’t there a word for “hat store”? Let me ask @hermitudinous. Anyway, I’ve joined some serious momentum because the product has already made a lot of noise and the brand’s image is somewhat established. That makes my job a lot easier. And, yeah, this is exactly what I want to be doing right now. I’m crazy about coffee, but I really enjoy this unique view of the industry – from behind a desk, that is. I like to write and it turns out that there’s a lot to say about coffee, about Slayer, about coffee + Slayer, etc.
Is it true that everyone who works at Slayer is given a single-group machine for their home?
They actually give us GS/3s. It keeps us coming into work for the real coffee. 😉
You recently got married. How does your spouse feel about your coffee obsession?
Oh, she’s right there with me; we got into all of this together. While we were going out in college, nearly every date included a visit to one of the many amazing cafes in Los Angeles. It was like we had a template: Our first real date started at Intelli Silver Lake. We both learned about Slayer on a date at Portola Coffee Lab. We checked out Caffe Vita’s new shop on Sunset Boulevard just an hour before I proposed. And our entire wedding party met at Bellano in Santa Clara on the morning of our wedding. Yeah, we’re both in this.
Your career in coffee has taken you from California to Kentucky back to your native Washington. What have you learned along the way?
More than any big-picture life lessons, I just learned a lot about myself. I used to think that I could only ever live in the Northwest but, wow, Los Angeles was incredible. And I loved Louisville. The travel and transition has really energized me and given me an appreciation for places that I never thought I’d care about.
Your job with Prima took you all over America. Do you have a favorite city or cafe? What about a dream destination you have yet to visit?
Slayer will, too, I think! Some of my best memories traveling with Prima are from our trip to Chicago last summer. But my favorite city and cafe? Tough, of course, but I’m thinking Four Barrel on Valencia in San Francisco. One of these days, I’d really like to see what’s up with coffee in Europe. I mean, I’ve never even tasted coffee from Europe, which is just silly. Dale from Hasbean actually just visited us at Slayer this morning, and he left some behind (on purpose, I think). He moved the UK up on my list by a few spots.
What’s most exciting about living in Seattle?
For us? The city is beautiful, the weather is right, and our families are close. That’s more than enough.
What cafes should we visit when we come to town next month?
Stumptown, Slate, Milstead & Co., and Caffe Ladro on Howell because that’s where Amy works!
Favorite way to brew coffee at home?
Kalita 155. I picked up an adorable, canary yellow knockoff in China, so I’m all about that right now.
A lot of baristas feel the tension of wanting to work in coffee, but needing to earn enough to support a family. What advice do you have to people who want to make a career in coffee?
I’m drawing from a shallow pool of experience here, but… I think that a career in coffee should, for the most part, be pursued in the same manner as a career in anything else. So… show up on time, attend to detail, nurture relationships, diversify your skills, act – no, be – professional, etc. Smart people (who may not know a thing about coffee) write about this stuff all the time. Actually, James Hoffman just did. And he does know some things about coffee. To address the full scope of your question, though, I encourage those who struggle to support a family on coffee’s wage to consider: family is more important than careers x, y, and/or z. Career goals don’t have to be the first things to cut, of course, but I have a strong hunch that caring for a family (if you have one) is more fun, fulfilling, and exciting than anything that a tiny, seed might promise. Unless it’s a gesha. Then just forget everything.