We had the good fortune of connecting with Shannon Jackson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shannon, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The reality is that we are taking risks every day because we have no idea what the future will hold, but to be called “Risky” is another matter. Risky is defined as the possibility of failure or loss, and I take risks in my personal life, but I am not considered to be it. Since the start of my career, I’ve been somewhat risky. In the hospitality industry, you have to take some risks to be successful or make an impact. Over the last few years, I’ve been considered a bit risky. From working on a restaurant line just two months after graduating culinary school, and not just working on the line but also approaching the restaurant to put my signature dish on the menu (which they did), to serving on the Colorado Distiller Guild board for the last  2 years. In addition to running a bar, teaching culinary and bartending, and working at the Black Bear Distillery’s bar, I was just recently elected President of the Colorado Springs Bartender Guild, and am currently in the process of completing my first cocktail book. It is true these risky moves in my career could have gone horribly wrong for me, but I am thankful and blessed as they have helped me grow as a person and gain more knowledge.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Well, I would say my passion for what I do is what sets me apart from others. No matter how my day goes or how frustrated I get, my passion just won’t let me quit and I keep pushing through. I am most proud when I get to see a student become successful and when I get to see a customer enjoy their experience, not only with a great cocktail but with the education of the cocktail. I am most excited about writing my cocktail book currently, and hope in the next few months to have it available. NO, it wasn’t easy, nothing is really easy, but I overcome the challenges with a great support system, especially my husband and kids. I have truly been blessed with great family and incredible friends. Well, since I have a few brands there is a lot to know. First, Paragon Culinary School is an elite culinary school founded by World Master Chef Victor Matthews. The program has trained a great number of chefs within Colorado Springs, our program is a year-long program, with every student learning every department of the culinary world, from the foundations of basic skills to Baking and Pastry, Service & Wine and Management. My other brand, Black Bear Distillery, where I am the Bar Manage,r is a grain to glass distillery located in the small town of Green Mountain Falls, CO, 9 miles west of Colorado Springs, We offer 6 products currently, Irish Style Bourbon, Caribbean Cask Whiskey, White Rum, Gold Rum, Rye Vodka, and MountainShine. Currently, we are operating on our winter hours, which consists of tours and tastings by appointment, except for one Saturday a month when we open up the tasting room bar. This will happen until Memorial Day, when we switch to Summer hours, in which we will have the bar open, food trucks, and tours and tastings every Saturday from 1 pm to 8 pm. The final “brand” would be the Colorado Springs Bartenders Guild, where I currently sit as the Director. We love and support not only the bartenders in Colorado Springs, but restaurants as well. It has been hard for the bars and restaurants, so we try to do whatever we can to show love and support for them. We have some events coming up so please stay tuned and help us support bars and restaurants.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, there is so much to see and do in Colorado Springs, so I don’t know if a week is enough. Of course, the Black Bear Distillery would be on my list. Some other major things would be Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, I am not sure about restaurants, because there are just so many good ones in Colorado Springs. I would definitely want them to see the food truck scene, especially Last Bites BBQ, which has legit BBQ, and Chef Rob’s Soulfood and Seafood. We would walk the town of Manitou Springs. These are just a few places, Colorado Springs is such a beautiful place with great food, so, we would definitely need more than a week.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My biggest supporters and mentors on this journey would be my husband Bobby Jackson & Master Chef Victor Matthews, but also my kids and all of my family and friends. Bobby has not only been my husband and teammate in life, but also in my career. He is the Distillery Manager of the Black Bear Distillery and the Lead Instructor at Paragon Culinary School. No matter what, he has given me nothing but love, support, and encouragement along the way, not just as a husband, but as a coworker. Then, there is Master Chef Victor Matthews, who is such a rockstar. I am very thankful and blessed for all the support, mentorship, encouragement, opportunity, and knowledge he has shared along the way. My other huge supporters are my 3 kids, they have been such an inspiration my biggest fans. I can’t thank them enough for their love, support, and encouragement, Thank you guys for taking this journey with me. To all of my friends and family, thank you for all your support, love, and encouragement. I have truly had a fantastic support system and have been very blessed.

Website: blackbeardistillery.com, Paragonculinaryschool.org

Instagram: @paragonculinaryschool, @Black_Bear_Distillery, @sjcocktailswithclass

Facebook: @paragonculinaryschool, @blackbeardistillery

Image Credits
Photographs by Bob Jackson

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