Gene Samuel in Conversation with Brown + Balanced

During these unprecedented times, the hospitality industry needs leaders like never before. Josh Davis is an industry veteran with over 15 years of experience and he is also the founder of Brown And Balanced which started as an event at Portland Cocktail Week and Camp Runamok and has since built into a stand-alone entity.

The first season aired last fall, with a focus on different Black hospitality professionals. Brown and Balanced, presented by Campari America, was such a success and is back again for Season 2, continuing on Friday, October 29th with Gene Samuel of Las Vegas.

At the core of Brown and Balanced is the mission to share talents and stories of Black and Brown food and beverage professionals and the projects they’re developing through digital content. As Davis describes it, “think In Living Color and Mad TV meets Charlamagne Tha God meets Black and Brown Bartenders. BOOM.”

When quarantine and lockdowns swept the nation, Brown and Balanced hosted a series of Happy Hours over on Instagram featuring bartenders, servers, and cocktail enthusiasts from all over the U.S. to share their stories and backgrounds. After taking time to rest and restore, Brown and Balanced is coming back to continue conversations.

Keep reading to get to know Gene Samuel and in support of Brown & Balanced, we ask that you please keep up with all of Campari America’s industry-focused events and education by following @CampariCommunity or signing up for the Campari mailing list HERE.

Brown + Balanced with Las Vegas’s Gene Samuel

Name, City/State, most recent place of employment.

Las Vegas NV. Crazy Horse 3 and Black Tiger Barbeque

What are your pronouns?


If you weren’t a Bartender what would you be doing?

Acting/TV Host/Father/Hubby

How did you get started in the industry?

I needed a career change and it hit me like a thunderbolt. I left Hollywood because of a toxic relationship, came back to Vegas and had to figure it out.

Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the issues you face?

The constant struggle of “I have to make people who don’t look like me feel comfortable enough to be around me.” I have to grind 5X harder than my peers to get the job that may have been handed to them. Not many will invest in me, despite my accolades and accomplishments, experience and certifications.

Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the things you take pride in as being a part of this subculture inside of the hospitality industry?

I truly take pride in the Peers that have come before me. Lynn, Clyde, Joe P, Jackie. It also makes me proud to see so many beautiful, colorful, intelligent and bright young women and men get shine, opportunity to create space, and tell their stories of trials, tribulations and perseverance.

What do you feel the leaders can do better to provide equal opportunities and representation for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the industry?

Become more actionable. I don’t mean knee-jerk reactions, but the right action. Really put money into the hands of Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Lots of money, lots of hands. Put us in leadership positions that have a substantial impact. Aggressively seek us out. Stop looking for our differences and start looking at what makes us true colleagues and peers. Invite us to the discussions on spirits and global trends. TAKE US ON THOSE ALL INCLUSIVE TRIPS TO PLACES LIKE MAURITIUS, OR THE BALKANS, ETC. We deserve to be the first to learn about global spirits, too.

If you could describe yourself as a cocktail what would it be and why?

A cheap beer and a good whisk(e)y, or rum, or vodka (you get the picture). I’m simple and easy.

With the social climate in the world today, I feel like our industry is a microcosm of society. How do you see Black/Brown Bartenders using their platforms to enact change in what we see across the bartending community?

I see the action, I applaud all of the efforts. My only hope is to see a bigger outreach between all of the Black and Brown platforms. More connectivity. I truly get inspired watching a few of my colleagues get down in their spaces! Shout out to Lauren Paylor, Tiffany Barrierre, Thandi Walton, Lynn House and Touré Folkes from Turning Tables Nola. They and a 1000 more are inspiring and affecting change and I am thankful for that.

2020 was a crazy year, with the shutdown affecting all of our businesses. What are some ways you have been able to shift and try to stay afloat?

I didn’t. I sold barbecue as much as I could until my team and I took a mental break. If it weren’t for my wife, we probably would have lost everything! My state/city did a horrible job supporting the F&B community.

If you could have drinks with 5 people dead, alive, or fictional who would you choose and what would you be drinking?

Jay-Z, My grandmother (on my fathers side), Nelson Mandela, Danielle Quintana, and Lynn House (Here’s a secret: Lynn and I have never officially met. Every time we have been in the same city, I avoided her. She’s a GOD-QUEEN who I have looked up to for my entire career and I didnt want to pull on Superwoman’s Cape – very intimidated by her!)

What is the best advice a bar mentor of yours (official or unofficial mentor) has given you?

Show your passion, don’t talk about it (Bobby G Gleason). And, do it from the heart, because you can’t teach soul.

If you could go back to the beginning of your career what is some advice you would give yourself?

Be disciplined, stay passionate, stay away from cynical people, be educated or get educated. Find your place and excel. Don’t stop trying.

Jive Turkey cocktail recipe + preparation

  • 2 oz Wild Turkey
  • .75 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Honey Syrup
  • 1 oz Wildberry Jam
  • .5 oz Egg Whites
  • 2 dashes Orange Cream Citrate
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg

Method: Combine all ingredients except egg white and orange cream citrate in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over pebble ice. Whip shake egg white and orange cream citrate and layer over the cocktail. Grate nutmeg over the top and garnish with a lemon wheel and a fresh berry of your choice.



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