Talent shortage pushes KY restaurant to look beyond US borders

KY business uses US visa program to hire professionals from other countries

BARDSTOWN, KY (WAVE) - The Bottle and Bond Kitchen at the Bardstown Bourbon Company is making waves with its four and five star cuisine and cocktails.

But it almost didn’t happen.

“You’ve got to have an exceptional culinary team,” Bardstown Bourbon Company President David Mandell said. “That talent was just not here locally. So we had to get very creative.”

Bottle and Bond provides traditional instruction and practical experience to chefs and servers from other countries.
Bottle and Bond provides traditional instruction and practical experience to chefs and servers from other countries. (WAVE 3 News)

Turning to the U.S. State Department, the J-1 Visa program allowed Bottle and Bond to bring qualified, educated young chefs and servers from places like South Africa and the Philippines. Those obtaining visas don’t just work, but also continue their education.

Bottle and Bond provides traditional instruction and practical experience in a variety of skills.

“We hold the classes that teach them how to own their own restaurant. How to run a bar,” Bardstown Bourbon Company Vice President Garnett Black said. “How to do purchasing and how to do evaluating food and how much you need for every day. All of that they get during this whole year.”

In addition to skills for success, Black said participants get paid, along with free transportation and subsidized housing.

Out of 42 employees, 16 hold J-1 visas.

South African chef Lerato Lekgwara is nearing the end of the one year visa and said she has acquired a taste for a particular American dish.

“Cornbread,” Lekgwara said. “I love cornbread.”

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