Shift Drinks: Mike Wiley of Hugo’s Restaurant + Eventide Oyster Co.

Mike Wiley is an owner and chef at Hugo’s Restaurant and Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine. He is pictured here with a Campari on the rocks.

Shift Drinks is a photo series produced by Knack Factory that features some of our favorite folks in food and hospitality telling us stories about their preferred cocktails and how they got into the industry. Featured in the photos are chefs, servers, proprietors and other industry professionals as well as the construction of their drinks of choice. The beverages were prepared with love by master bartender John R. Myers.

Disclosure: Hugo’s Restaurant and Eventide Oyster Co. are clients of ours, though their representation here has nothing to do with our scope of work with them. In fact, they are helping us out by lending their credibility to our project and we are grateful for that. 

Can you tell me why you selected this beverage in particular? 

This is not my beverage. This is Steve Zissou’s beverage from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I am just drinking this because I have an unshakable crush on all things Bill Murray. I also thought it would be photogenic. It’s a little ridiculous. I worked at a restaurant in Crested Butte, Colorado right when the movie came out and I had the bartender trained to go through the kitchen and get shift drinks for everyone, which inevitably happened after the obligatory shift car bomb, which was not itself a shift drink…

It is just something that had to happen.

Yes, it was like mopping. You had to sweep, mop, do a car bomb and then order a shift drink. So anyway, when the bartender would ask for mine, I’d always go “Campari?” And she’d lean in and say “On the rocks?” And I would give her the [snaps fingers / makes a finger gun noting affirmation] gun like that.

You and I have very similar feelings for Bill Murray. What is it about him that you are so attracted to? 

I come from a long line of smart asses. My family would collectively watch Ghostbusters a lot when I was a kid. From the opening scene on, we thought that was the bee’s knees.

I actually have this depressing recurring dream about Bill Murray where I get on a plane and there is no one else on the plane except for Bill Murray.

[Bartender John R. Myers begins laughing hysterically]

It’s not funny! It’s a sad, sad story! So—and this is literally the only recurring dream that I have—I get on the plane and I look at my ticket. I see him and realize, “Oh my God, it’s Bill Murray.” I sit down next to him and my hands are sweating. I want to not be an asshole. I want to be an appreciative fan and to not scare him. So I muster all the gumption I can and say to him, “Mr. Murray, it’s a total honor to be seated here next to you and I don’t want to nerd out or anything. You’re movies meant a lot to me. I am just thankful that you do what you do.” And he goes, “UGH! GOD! Does anybody want to trade seats?” and he gets up and walks away.

That is devastating. Moving on, how did you end up in kitchens? 

I was working at this place where the sous chef needed help one day. I helped him out and he said, “You’re pretty good at this. We should get you in the kitchen because everyone knows how bad you are out in the front of the house.” I thought it sounded great and that I wouldn’t have to wear that ridiculous monkey suit so that was good. Sometimes you need to recognize, “I’m not good at this” and then walk away.

Why is hospitality in particular an arena that continues to appeal to you? 

I love the craft of cooking and the technique of learning new things and exploring new ideas. I love working through stuff that has been done hundreds of millions of times and trying to push it into a new direction.On the hospitality end, my mother would always say to me that getting good grades is important and making people laugh is great but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is being a good person. I always talk to the cooks about that. They are working right in front of the guests and I think that so much of hospitality is about simple human kindness, common sense, and trying to anticipate needs. It is about trying to get to know people a bit and trying to have a bit of fun. I have recently learned that having a good time while providing a service can help a guest have a great time as well.

I think that it is a little surprising to me that I ended up in all of this. I am certainly glad that I have.

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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.