A Chapel Hill native, Julia McKinley graduated with a degree in Classics and Art from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. After a quick stint in museum administration, McKinley found her interests shift towards bartending and hospitality, assuming a bar management position at Hillside Farmacy in Austin, Texas. In 2013, seeking mentorship and a more competitive bartending environment, McKinley moved to Chicago where she landed a bartending position at Three Dots and a Dash under the tutelage of Paul McGee. McGee’s methodical and creative approach to cocktail builds intrigued and inspired her, and dramatically impacted her approach to cocktail structure and interest in spirits. In 2015, she joined McGee in opening the much-lauded Lost Lake and Milk Room. At Milk Room, she worked alongside McGee, Stephen Andrews and Julia Gordon to create the intimate bar’s meticulous cocktail menus. Next, working alongside McGee and Shelby Allison, McKinley served as opening bar manager for Lonesome Rose and Golden Teardrops where she developed the restaurant and bar’s cocktail programs. It was there, working closely with Allison that McKinley further honed her creativity and performance as a bartender. In 2016, McKinley began studying wine, passing the court of Master Sommeliers’ Certification Exam in 2018. As Beverage Director at Young American, McKinley takes a progressive approach to cocktails, incorporating fortified wines, liqueurs and seasonal ingredients to offer session-style drams meant to be enjoyed in abundance. She also guides the bar in its experimentation with CBD-infused drinks alongside a thoughtfully curated wine list, collaborative drafts and ice cold, cheap beer.
Nick Jirasek’s vast and varied career in hospitality, coupled with his energy and creative approach to familiar food makes him perfectly suited for his role of Director of Food for Leisure Activities where he oversees menu development and operations for Old Habits at Ludlow Liquors and Young American. Jirasek’s food and beverage career began with a job as a short order cook at Nola’s Cup in Oak Park followed by time spent as Director of Food & Beverage for 94th Floor Observatory 360 at the John Hancock. His passion for art led him to develop Guerrilla Smiles Food Arts, where he prepared and served innovative dishes off a camp stove at underground DIY art events around the city of Chicago. It was at this time that he acted as personal chef to artist Tony Fitzpatrick. Next, he traveled to Panama where he consulted on and managed Los Del Patio, a cafe within an art gallery and cultural center in Panama City. After returning to Chicago, he served as opening chef for Currency Exchange Cafe, Theaster Gates' first foray into the hospitality industry in a rehabbed southside currency exchange. Next, he oversaw the kitchen at Gaslight Coffee Roasters where he redefined expectations of coffee shop fare. In 2018 he opened Old Habits at Ludlow Liquors where he brought a proud realness in the rich foodways of Chicago's working history while creatively and whimsically adding his footprint on the city's storied culinary path. At Young American, he oversees the punchy, playful fusion menu channeling America's radically diverse food cultures without the constraint of regional authenticity.