I think the seed of my entire coffee career is what happened working at 7th Street."
Chad Freilino ’06 didn't know it at the time, but the 7th Street Café, where he was a manager, provided much more than spending money for a college student.
"I think the seed of my entire coffee career is what happened working at 7th Street," says Freilino, director of coffee for OTG Management. The company operates restaurants, bars and World Bean cafés in 10 airports, including LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy, Philadelphia and Newark. Freilino has worked in the coffee industry eight years.
The steady convivial hum at 7th Street gave Freilino a love for coffeehouse culture. His knowledge of and passion for specialty coffees would come later while living in Portland, Ore., and working for Caffé Vita, a coffee roaster, as a sales director. There, he trained baristas and educated the staff in cafés, bars and restaurants that sold Caffé Vita products. He also was involved in equipment installations, all the while building a reputation in the "pretty small industry" that is specialty coffee.
A Caffé Vita executive recommended Freilino to Michael Coury, the chief culinarian at OTG and a partner in the firm. In December 2011, OTG hired him "to breathe life" into their languishing coffee program at LaGuardia.
Freilino succeeded, thanks to his connections and resources in the industry. And he was able to parlay his interest in science, which is integral to the coffee business, into an occupational calling.
"Every single crop of coffee from every single region has to be analyzed for acidity, flavor, body and aroma," he says, "and then you take that information and figure out what type of brewing method would make it taste best. And you have to teach people to do that."
Until May 2013, Freilino hired and trained every OTG barista. His duties have since expanded and are broader in scope, but he says he's still guided by an adage in the coffee business: the proof is in the cup. That focus remains a priority for him as OTG serves an average of 9,000 cups of coffee daily.
"We're very often people's first stop when they get through security," Freilino says. "So, they may come to us somewhat disheveled and may have had a negative experience. I like to think we shock people out of the negativity of that experience and take them to a positive place."
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