Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bartender Blows Smoke Rings at Corporate World




What does one do after graduating from an Ivy League university and the world's top-ranked graduate school for international management? If you're Steve Shaw, you move to Moscow and tend bar at the Hungry Duck.


After graduating from Columbia University in 1991, Shaw worked at a bar in Manhattan where, along with the rest of the world, he watched the dramatic implosion of the Soviet Union. It was then that he began thinking about moving to Russia.


"I was seeing things in Russia go from bad, to really, really bad, to what I perceived as hopeful," said Shaw, 28, whose mother came from Poland and grandparents came from Ukraine. "I was really not doing much with my degree from Columbia, and with my Eastern European heritage I saw a window of opportunity to come here."


And it was in Moscow that he seemed to find work to suit both his background and his nature. With his restlessness and his curly black hair dangling down his neck, Shaw could not see himself fitting into the button-down corporate world. The restaurant industry seemed more suitable for this chudak, or eccentric character, who speaks Russian and likes cigars and "chauvinistic humor."


After earning a master's degree in international management from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management, he tried a host of jobs -- from privatization consultant for Price Waterhouse in Uzbekistan to tea trader in Sri Lanka.


Then he became a bartender at the Hungry Duck, a rowdy nightspot popular with both Russians and expatriates. Later he became financial controller for Starlite Diner, a job he left about a year ago.


In addition to bartending part-time at Cali's, a new restaurant serving California food from Tex-Mex to Chinese, Shaw now has his own business in the works.


Most of his time is devoted to a restaurant and bar he is tentatively calling The Embassy Club, a name he says is intended to evoke an exclusive international setting.


The restaurant, which he plans to open in June off Tverskaya Ulitsa, will be a risk, he said, but it's a risk he's ready to take in hopes of a big return.


Primarily a cocktail lounge, the restaurant, he said, will also be Moscow's first cigar bar, which he describes as a smoker-friendly club with private and public humidors.


"Every major city in America has at least a handful of cigar bars, and Moscow is four to five times larger than most," Shaw said, puffing smoke into the air.


"And, that's without good quality Cuban cigars, which are the best in the world. It's like having a champagne bar that doesn't serve Dom Perignon," he said.


Food at the restaurant will include tapas, snacks that can range from simple olives to complicated seafood dishes and are served in most bars in Spain.


Shaw, who is single and lives in the city center, said he plans to stay in Moscow for five to seven more years.


He also holds the post of president of the local Thunderbird Alumni Association, runs with the Hash House Harriers (which he said is a great way to burn calories and drink them right back), and he frequently rides his mountain bike around Moscow.


And, he boasted: "I also make the best Bloody Mary in Moscow!"