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Born and raised on the north side of Chicago, Kirk Ingram has been a leading force behind the bar at American Grocery Restaurant for the past three years, and he is now heading up the team at the newly opened speakeasy, Vault & Vator. After receiving an A.S. in Management from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, Ingram attended the American Professional Bartending School in Schaumburg, Illinois before relocating to Greenville, South Carolina. Once in Greenville, he tended bar at The Owl and the Greenville–Spartanburg Airport before joining the American Grocery team in 2013.
When not in the restaurant, Ingram’s hobbies and interests are still wholly devoted to the passion and pursuit of food and drink. An avid gardener, he makes his own bitters, tinctures and tonics and has built a curing chamber from an old refrigerator to make fermented sausages. He pickles and preserves garden grown ingredients to use in his craft, and he is particularly excited about a Kaffir lime tree’s fruit that he has used to infuse cocktails. Ingram is a voracious reader, concentrating on the history of alcohol, specifically pre-Prohibition era America and how that time helped create organized crime (he is from Chicago after all!).
Currently living in Greer, South Carolina, Ingram cites many influences: his father who taught him not to choose to be common; Dr. John Lewis, his management professor at Hahnemann University who taught him that god is truly in the details; chef Thomas Keller who once wrote “it’s all about finesse” on a piece of receipt tape and handed it to Ingram at the airport bar; and cocktail greats David Wondrich, Jerry Thomas, Dale DeGroff and the team at Death and Co. who taught him that you can stir and shake a cocktail at the same time.
Ingram’s excitement for the industry is palpable and he loves everything from the cacophony of the kitchen during service to the deafening silence when the last customer leaves to the strange and bizarre conversations that happen at the bar to the bonds one forges with coworkers to the unexpected friendships that happen because true hospitality turns curious guests into regulars. An original through and through, Ingram follows the motto that “where there is no vision, the people perish” and he brings this enthusiasm, dedication, knowledge and drive to everything he does both inside and outside the restaurant.