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Mike O’Riordan (even autocorrect believes it’s spelt wrong) is sitting outside Artisan Putney with his hands in his black Superdry coat taking in what is left of the sunshine from this chilly Sunday afternoon. Fiona (a.k.a. Fi) and I are sat opposite him, a glass of water each, ready to start the interview.

If you haven’t met Mike or if you couldn’t tell by his accent, he is Irish and loves to boast about it. Born and bred in Cork and youngest of four (one of them also works for Artisan), he worked in a cinema for four and a half years before he moved over here to Fish n’ Chips land to attend the British and Irish Modern Music Institute, undertaking a degree in singing. ‘I started playing music when I was four, I played the viola’ – Fi and I gasp in awe – ‘It’s something I’ve always done.’ So how does one go from studying music to making tulips on a flat white?

Whilst he was studying music, he worked at The Roebuck in Chiswick endlessly pulling pints, however, he didn’t want to do evening work anymore, so he quit. ‘The only reason I got a job in Artisan was because Julia (his non-Artisan sister) was a regular and there was a sign on the door and she was like “chuck in your CV” and that was it, that’s how I ended up here.’ 3 years later he is Artisans HOT (Head of Training), maybe not the other kind ladies. ‘People are surprised
when I tell them I’ve only been in this industry for 3 years now. I’ve been through, Barista, Senior Barista, Head Barista for 2 shops, then 4 shops, AST and now Head of Training, I’ve been really lucky here in Artisan.

‘For me, the best moments are, like most people on the floor would agree, the small ones. Like the first time you manage a massive rush on your own and you go that went f*cking great! Or when you get that tulip just right for the first time.’

If you were a coffee what would you be? *laughs in a deep Irish accent* I dunno, espresso? Intense and temperamental.

Mike takes a lot of pride in whatever he does. No matter what the job is he will do it as best as he can. ‘I’ve never bought into the idea of you can only do something well if you have a passion for it.’ This is the first job for him that there is more than pulling pints and handing out popcorn, ‘[…] it was teaching me something.’ He has been working in hospitality for 12 years now, yet he wasn’t always proud of what he was doing, until now. ‘Most of my friends studied law or are doctors/vets, so for me to say I was working in hospitality, it was embarrassing, but with this job I am not embarrassed to say what I do for a living!’

Let’s go back to him and music. Yes, one could say he is famous. Well at least for the Artisan team he is! Two of the songs on the work playlist you can hear the team singing during their shift are Mikes, *ahem* or should I say Michael Cornelius Ryan.

‘I’d never really sat down and recorded anything even though I’ve been really tinkering for the last 9 or 10 years.’ He hasn’t given up his dreams in becoming the next Justin Bieber (or Timberlake)…just yet! He has been working on his latest EP the past couple of months, ‘the recording is done, the production is done, were just doing a little bit of mixing and we gotta get it mastered soon.’ He is wanting to see if people are interested and from there get some gigs (which he hasn’t done in over two years!). This new EP is like ‘[…] a less commercial version of the folk music we’ve been hearing lately– folk influenced singer songwriter stuff.’

We asked him if he could describe himself in 3 emojis. ‘Oh, hmmm… I use the smirk face a lot. I have a tendency to be quite smug’. This is true. ‘I have also recently discovered the face where you are slightly disgusted, like a disapproving look’. I can vouch for that. ‘And the final one is *raises finger to mouth mimicking to shhh*. We all laugh. ‘I mean you’ve both worked with me. I am quite self-aware; I know who I am.’

He became Head of Training towards the end of last year and since then there has been some big changes. One of the main things was the rebranding and the new build downstairs in Ealing for the school. ‘Currently it’s just about settling and making use of it’, he says, ‘now that we have a group of ASTs (Authorised SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) Trainers).’

So, let’s go back to his surname – O’Riordan. ‘Yeah, people can’t say it over here’. Glad I’m not the only one who finds it hard to pronounce. Even when booking a table at a restaurant he goes under Michael Ryan (his middle name). ‘Just imagine the ‘rior’ as ‘rear’ – so it’s Reardan.’ After a couple of try’s Fi and I nail it – easy.

To end the interview, I asked him for any life advice, whilst scratching is growing beard he goes: ‘Try to be as honest as possible or necessary, sometimes it might get you into trouble. Always consider the repercussions of that honesty and if you think it’s worth it, then say it.’

Peace out,