If Jon Taffer is the genius behind Bar Rescue, Rob Floyd is the heart. He’s become one of the most popular mixologists on the reality TV show with very good reason. While he can craft cocktails for any bar and teach them to any bartender, what makes him great is his personality. It’s clear every time he appears that he not only loves what he does but he loves teaching people and he loves life in general. That kind of positive energy is few and far between, and it makes Rob a wonderful example of what you can do when you put your whole heart into something.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Rob to discuss his work on Bar Rescue, what he’s learned in his seasons of teaching bartenders around the country, and more about what makes him such a dynamic individual. He’s actively making things brighter for many people, whether it’s entertaining us on TV, passing his skills on to the teams he works with, or in his philanthropic work and we could all learn a lot from him.
Brittany Frederick: How did you get here? What was your journey to the craft of mixology?
Rob Floyd: Originally, I was an actor. I was very successful. I did daytime. I was at Carnegie Hall. I was working with James Cameron, and I became a single dad. So I had to quit acting, and I went and got a job, what I used to do, which was bartending. I realized that I really enjoyed making people happy. Whether it was on screen, or all of a sudden behind a bar, it didn’t really matter. I was doing what was my core.
BF: From there, how did you end up on Bar Rescue? Was doing reality TV something that interested you or did Jon Taffer find you and recruit you for the show?
RF: He found me. The guy’s a genius. He’s one of the most smart, giving, intense, passionate people I’ve ever met. I’ve worked with some really famous chefs, and he reminds me of those who get to the top. He’s just brilliant. I got a call from his producers to go ahead and meet with everybody, which I did. I was a huge fan of the show and loved his work, so it was one of those divine blessings. It’s been six going on seven years of doing the show, and every time I’m on with him, I learn so much. He’s just incredible.
BF: At this point you’re one of the longest tenured experts on the series in either discipline. What keeps you coming back for season after season?
RF: It’s always different. I’m always amazed at what an incredible crew Jon runs. You’re on location, and it’s easy to lose focus, but they never do. And that always starts at the top, because Jon doesn’t lose focus. He’s always very specific and knows what he wants to do and accomplish. He doesn’t waste time. It’s like you’re jumping on a train, and it’s a bullet train, and you are going somewhere. There may be a lot of bumps in the road, but you’re moving there fast so it’s impossible to lose focus. And he drives that train better than anybody I could imagine.
BF: There’s only 42 minutes of show per episode, and you’ve got to share that with Jon and with the chef that you’re working alongside. So how much of your training sessions end up on the cutting room floor? What don’t we see?
RF: There is a lot that just because in the arc of the show, the excitement behind it is how Jon works with people. I love the training sessions, and I always work with Jon on training sessions with teams. But sometimes it becomes so specific that I don’t think there’s a lot of high drama all the time in that. But it’s something from the word go, when Jon decides what that brand is going to be. He and I work very hard on just the cocktail list, on just designing it, what it could be. It is four to five days of literally sleepless nights to get something done and get something done right. Because if he doesn’t like it, he dumps it. Which is exactly what you should do, but it gets very tiring too.
You get exhausted, but it always comes out just beautiful. It’s just maybe a little different than what you might have originally expected, so that keeps an excitement behind it. And as far as the training, he understands and has done hundreds and hundreds of programs around the world, around the country. I’m able to sponge off of what he wants to do and help with the creative side in all different ways. But I don’t think you get to see a lot of that. Sometimes we’ll train for hours off-camera too, to make sure teams are up and running. And that’s just so that they can really, really be ready.
BF: What do you learn from working with these different bar staffs around the country? What kind of an impact has Bar Rescue had on you creatively?
RF: I always learn. With Jon, he’s an incredible motivator. I learn from him when I’m working about how to work with people and get what you really hope to get. I learn a lot of the science behind it, so that’s one of the great things that I always take home. I run programs all over the world—I do hundreds of programs—and when I’m working with him, I feel like I’m working in a graduate program.
I teach at the Institute of Culinary Education, I guest lecture, and I always feel like I draw back on the stuff that Jon and I work on when I’m talking to future chefs. It’s so specific, and it’s so good and helpful to these folks that it’s really a great tool and something that I love. And then after that, I love the journey we all take together, that journey of “This place is failing” to “This place could be a huge success.” Every day when I start, Jon knows where he’s going, and I’m just watching and contributing like a team player.
BF: One quality that’s admirable with you is that you’re so chill in every episode. No matter how hard it gets or how belligerent someone gets, you’re always this calming influence. Is that your personality or a learned skill from working in this industry, or both?
RF: Maybe both. My wife’s amazing. We’ve got five kids, so it’s chill because I know what this outcome’s going to be. Whether it’s being a dad, or whether it’s working, or teaching, or working on the show, I just have to trust it. There’s definitely a centering process that I always focus on every morning. I try to get up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, work out and really center myself every day, as much as I can. And then you kind of throw yourself into that madness and just try to be as grounded as possible.
BF: We’ve been talking about it throughout, but you’ve got a lot of other projects going on outside of Bar Rescue. Can you inform fans about what you’re working on now so we can follow along?
RF: I have a deal where I work with Princess Cruise Lines, and I do all their cocktails. I also do a new brand called Good Spirits for Carnival lines. It’s part TV show, part live cocktail experience, which I love doing. In 2019, we had about 8,000 performances of that show. So I’m really proud of those things. And I love teaching younger bartenders to be phenomenal, to be exceptional, to be great and not be afraid of our profession.
And then I also have a studio in Nashville, where I do virtual events, and I send out cocktail kits. I send them out all over the world. Sometimes I do virtual events with big companies. They open these huge cocktail kits, and everything I do in there is really fun and on brand. I love our profession, and I’ve been so lucky and blessed to work with people like Jon Taffer, like Jose Andres, I had the opportunity to work with Gordon Ramsay once. Just absolute geniuses in the field, and to be able to absorb what they do and try to do it myself the best I can and give back to our community.
BF: A large part of what you do is so selfless, whether it’s charity work or mentoring work. Can we talk more about that aspect of your career and why is it such a priority for you?
RF: I try to be as active as possible in charity, to give back. That’s something Jon and I align on very well, about giving back. I do a lot of work or fundraising for pediatric neurology. I try to do 15 to 20 percent on giving back. Sometimes it’s more; sometimes if we’re slammed around the world, it’s a little less. But I try to make that a really big part, so that when we’re having fun and we’re sharing these moments, we’re also making the world a better place.
I want to continue to teach people how to drink differently—how to enjoy alcohol, but on a different level, responsibly but fun. Create more of a liquid chef culture so we can enjoy it as opposed to trying to get to a place. I really want to continue to do more charity work, make my life more about giving back, and keep using this wonderful God-given platform to be able to do great work.
Jon does such incredible work, especially with the Cleveland Clinic and with neurology. So I’ve been really lucky to align myself with people with that same motive of giving back, taking care of others. It’s a core value, and it’s something that I want to continue to expand on.
Bar Rescue airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Paramount Network. Fans can currently watch repeats on Paramount+ and the Bar Rescue channel on Pluto TV. For more about Rob Floyd on the show and his projects outside of it, visit his website.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.