"I hated cocktail parties and gatherings..." Trader vic mentions his 'anti-social' behavior in his biography.
Victor Bergron was born on December 10, 1902, just four years before the San Francisco fire and earthquake. As the nation went through the depression and the world wars, he struggled to open his restaurant and invent the famous "Mai Tai."
"I don't like the small talk that goes on at them and the fact that nobody cares to discuss issues of the day or philosophies - anything outside of general pleasantries. So I've always been uneasy at these gatherings and I hate going to them. I hate them. People working in the sciences and doctors and creative people I1m comfortable with and have lots of good conversations with, but in any other phase of social life I'm just not happy." He's the inventor of internationally recognized restaurant, Trader Vic's.
"I think people do this stuff for status. They got all poo poo and funny inside and think this will help their status. You don1t get status that way. A person acquires status as a result of the things he does for his community and to improve himself, not because he can afford to dress up his eighteen-year-old daughter in an expensive white dress."
In his own wards, "Hard Years" was in the early 1930s as the nation went through the depression. In 1932, Trader opened his first restaurant, Hinky Dinks with $700 while his brother told him it was a bad idea.
In the old days, the original prices were 15 cents for whiskey, a dime for beer, and 20 cents for lunch at Hinky Dink's. "The country was in the Depression and people didn't have a lot of money to spend. They could drink a couple of beers for a dime a piece and to many of them, it was better than looking at their four walls. Many people came every night, spent fifty cents, sometimes a dollar."
Trader loved to be behind the bar and watch people come in for relaxation and for conversation. "I suppose they mostly came to get away from drab surroundings at home, or maybe there was a special occasion to celebrate. You never know why they come to a corner bar for cocktails when they could have them at home."
Right before the world war began, Victor became Trader Vic from a owner of Hinky Dink's. And the story behind the name of Trader Vic comes from their trip to Havana.
During the war times he says, "...we were rationed on scotch, bourbon, and gin. Well, the liquor dealers tried to pull a fast one on the bars and usually it worked. The dealers would try to make the bars buy a case of rum for every case of bourbon they needed. I didn't go for that kind of a deal. All of the other restaurants had hundreds of unused cased of rum in their cellars, but I didn't. I never had a damned one. We were selling a lot of rum and when we wanted to buy rum, we bought it, but when we wanted to buy bourbon, we bought that. I wouldn't make any phony deals with anybody at any time. I still won't. I goes against my grain." That's how he handled his business for years.
By 1954, the war was over and Trader Vic opened his restaurants in San Francisco, Oakland, and Beverly Hills and a cocktail lounge in Seattle and Chicago. And his next step were brought by his existing clients.
"All this time, we didn't have big contracts with Hilton. And we didn't have big contract with Western. We just exchanged letters. And it stayed that way for good many years, until Mr. Hilton got some new people in the company and they wanted big contracts. Oh well, I don't believe in big contracts. I believe in the integrity of people. ...but we ended up with fifteen- and twenty-page contracts with the Hilton Company and finally ended up doing the same with Western."
Along with his 'big' contracts, Trader Vic's restaurants were opened outside the United States shortly after. Today you can taste his original Mai Tai in Thailand, Lebanon, Egypt, Germany, England, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan as well as several locations in the United States.
Trader Vic's Food Recipe
Trader Vic's Curry Recipe
Trader Vic's Original Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe
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