Checking in with Haley Traub, Winner of Speed Rack U.S. Season 7
New York City bartender Haley Traub emerged as the national winner in this year’s Speed Rack competition, held in May in Chicago. During her journey to victory, where Haley knocked out hundreds of competitors along the way, she stayed focused, her eye on the prize and the crown of Miss Speed Rack 2018. Months later, Haley caught us up on how her life has changed, why her coup meant so much to her family, and how Speed Rack really hits home for her.
You won! What’s the best thing to come out of it for you, professionally?
[The best thing is] the exposure it brings to bartenders — especially the winner — in terms of being able to connect with bars, other bartenders, and brands. I’ve seen the opportunities that have come out of it in past seasons; Speed Rack is definitely known internationally. In my opinion, the biggest benefit is being on a pedestal and being able to make new connections because of it. My boss, Richie [Dutch Kills owner Richard Boccato], said to me: “You’ve always been good. Now people are seeing it.”
Yes they are! Do you have any personal connection to the charitable angle of Speed Rack? Is that what made you want to put in the time to compete?
I wanted to do this first, because of the charity: My grandmother is a three-time cancer survivor. She, my mom, and my aunt all came out for the finals in Chicago which was pretty special.
Admittedly, I also wanted to compete and challenge myself as a bartender. Even though I don't really do a lot of bartending competitions, this was one that I could get behind. That’s the second thing: I wanted to challenge myself. It’s been a big time commitment and an interesting journey — this hardcore competitive event with a charitable aspect.
Did the breast cancer angle of Speed Rack manifest for you more as the competition rolled on?
There was a party aspect and a competitive aspect to it initially, but along the way, I started following a friend who was fighting endometrial cancer — plus a friend’s mom who was fighting breast cancer — and the charity suddenly got a face. The timing of all of this gave it new meaning; these are physical examples of who we’re doing this for. Yeah, it’s still a party but we’re raising money for our friends and family who are fighting this right now.
Haley Traub is the 2018 National Speed Rack Champion and is a bartender at New York’s Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills bars.