We’ve all had to do without these last couple of years--and coffeehouses and restaurants are probably some of those “withouts” that hurt us more than we thought. Thankfully, things have lightened up a bit, and some establishments are finally allowed to re-open. Sure, we still have to maintain social distance and wear masks. Indoor capacity is still pretty limited. But, there’s nothing quite like the food and hospitality industry re-opening, albeit slowly, to make us feel like normal is back.
When we talk about restaurants or coffeehouses, we often describe them as “charming” or “cozy.” Clearly, the atmosphere is just as important to the patrons as the quality of the food and beverages they serve.
For Anthony Bellifemine, or Ant Bell, it was so important, it persuaded him that it was where his future belonged.
“I was born and raised in New Jersey,” he says. “Growing up, I went out to eat at different restaurants with my family. I always loved the atmosphere, the noise, the people, and especially the food. It really made me want to do something in the food and hospitality industry. I want people to enjoy my service and always look forward to coming back.”
In 2016, Ant Bell completed the first step to his goal: he graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education for Baking and Pastry Arts. He wasted no time in putting his education to good use.
“I did my internship and got hired at Erie Coffee Shop & Bakery in Rutherford, New Jersey. I worked in the kitchen for a little over a year, then I took a hiatus to work a State job.”
That state job was quite a deviation from his first passion, and something inside Ant Bell just rebelled against it. He eventually admitted to himself that he was unhappy and gathered his courage to ask for his job at Erie back. It’s a testament to his work ethics and social skills that a positive result came of it.
I want people to enjoy my service and always look forward to coming back.
“The kitchen staff was full, but the barista position was open. Renee Faris, owner, gave me the job,” he relates. “I then trained with Café Grumpy, a roastery out of Brooklyn, New York. at their training lab on the Lower East Side of New York City. I've been running the front of the house at Erie for almost four years now and I couldn't be happier.”
Happiness doesn’t just feel good, it can taste good. Ant Bell certainly expresses his joy through coffee. And, like many coffee lovers, he has firm opinions about the making of good coffee. His experiences as a barista have only made these opinions stronger.
“Being a barista is not as easy as it looks. There is a science to making good coffee. You can't make a good cup of coffee without training and experience.”
When we asked him what, in his opinion, makes the perfect cup of coffee, his answer was all about precision. “Paying attention to every detail. Making sure all the equipment is high quality, all the coffee recipes are measured and weighed out to exact specifications. Also, using fresh beans from a reliable roastery is very important.”
Maybe that’s why we all go through a trial-and-error phase before we find that ideal cup. But, hey, no one who really loves coffee would say that the process isn’t worth it.
In the age of social media, great tasting coffee is one thing. Great tasting coffee that also looks great could put you at the top of many people’s lists of shops to try. It’s a side to being a modern barista that Ant Bell loves to cultivate in particular.
“My favorite part of making coffee is creating latte art. It is what customers look forward to as well as a great tasting cup of coffee. It's a good skill to have, especially for social media.”
There is a science to making good coffee.
As an artist, Ant Bell loves having his latte art seen and appreciated. In fact, he shares that his happiest work experience so far has got to be when his latte art was featured on a show called Restaurant Hunter.
Ant Bell is perfectly happy where he is right now, but he’s also nurturing dreams for the future. “I plan on opening a coffee shop in a couple of years,” he shares. “For me, there is no fear when I'm doing what I love.”
There must be a little less fear for him now that he’s been honing his skills and has learned some valuable lessons. We picked his brain about what we coffee-chugging fans of makers and builders consider very valuable--the perfect coffee for every season.
He gamely gave us his recommendations. Check them below to see if you’d like to give them a try! And, nope, there’s no need to wait for the next season.
Fall: Cinnamon Maple Latte
Winter: Mexican Mocha
Spring: Iced Honey Lavender Latte
Summer: Hibiscus Rose Iced Tea
You can find Ant Bell at Erie Coffee Shop & Bakery at 10 Franklin Pl. Rutherford, New Jersey. If you want to see his latte art, feel free to check out his Instagram at @baristabell.