It was with much sadness that we received the letter below from Kerryn McDonough of Wagstaff Worldwide about the condition of Tenzin Samdo, one of Boston’s significant food and drink talents best known for his remarkably original cocktails. Among other interactions with his work, we always loved covering Tenzin at CREATE Boston, where even among the kaleidoscopic mix of brilliant participating artists, Tenzin’s bio always stands out as especially impressive:
If bartender backgrounds are always varied, Tenzin Samdo’s is still definitely less typical. He grew up in India, a Tibetan refugee after his parents escaped Chinese occupation. And he might have stayed in India, but his parents won a lottery to come to the United States, landing Samdo in America in 1996, a high school student in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Being in close proximity to Boston’s bar scene didn’t make him spiritually ready for it. Samdo became a theater student, studying set design, film, and photography. He worked at a bar only to make extra cash. As Samdo tended bar, he noticed his attention to detail turned his drink-making into a tiny obsession. When a friend introduced him to Instagram, Samdo half-enthusiastically posted a picture of one of his creations. The next morning, he had 100 followers—and soon after, followers of high caliber, major spirits companies.
When his Instagram account blew up, so did his job prospects, with job offers coming in left and right. A food lover by heritage, too (with lots of family in Tibet and Italy), Samdo had always been an admirer of Jody Adams. So when he heard Adams was looking for a bartender, he jumped at the chance to turn the unlikely outcome of his travels and travails into a full-time, blossoming career.
Samdo then moved on to manage the bar at Tavern Road in Fort Point, where he served up his creative and Instagram-worthy cocktails for just over a year before becoming a partner at Café ArtScience, where he introduced a cocktail menu inspired by global flavors and exotic animals.
Beyond his cocktail credentials, Tenzin is also a hero of sorts in the Hub restaurant industry, at least since he called out a BU prof who harassed him at work last year (read Haley Hamilton’s account of the matter here). All of which is more of a reason to support him at this difficult time. What follows is the note that Kerryn sent out, along with information about the event this Wednesday and how you can help if you can’t make it there:
If you’re receiving this, you have either worked with or written about Tenzin Samdo. It is with a heavy heart that I’m writing to you about our dear friend, who as you may know has been battling advanced stage liver cancer for the past few months.
Tenzin’s kind heart and positive attitude enable him to immediately connect with others, which has led to an impressive community both in Boston – the city he calls home, and worldwide – the people with whom he shares his home. In celebration of his life and career, ArtScience will host a fundraiser on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 from 8p-1a. Suggested entry price is $20 and tickets are available both via Eventbrite and at the door. For those who cannot attend, a GOFUNDME page has been set up to support his family, especially his eight year old son, Mila.
We’ve never had to navigate sharing such devastating news, but any way you’re able to help share the news of the benefit would be much appreciated. The more eyes, the more donations for Tenzin’s son. I’ve shared some information about the event below for quick reference and am happy to answer any questions you might have.
Chefs Benjamin Lacy, Jody Adams, Ryan Boya, and Kate Holowchik will be serving hors d’oeuvres and light bites from 8:00pm – 11:00pm. Throughout the night, guest bartenders, including Jared Sadoian, will be rotating at the bar, serving Tenzin’s newest cocktail menu inspired by endangered ocean species, a lasting contribution to the legacy he rightfully deserves. Guests are encouraged to share memories of Tenzin with the hashtag #teamtenzin – screens around the room will display the photos all evening.
In Tenzin’s own words, “By consuming the cocktail, you’re destroying the art, but you’re left with the memory. It’s a reminder that life isn’t permanent, but it can be beautiful.”