Employee Spotlight: Bikesh Pandey, Illy Master Barista
With an enthusiasm for espresso and a love of busy airport life, Bikesh brings a special energy to the Illy cafes at TPA.
Hailing all the way from Nepal, Bikesh has had a long journey in the coffee industry that led him to his role at TPA.
Growing up in a country with a strong tea culture, Bikesh's introduction to the world of coffee came during his time in England. Bikesh went to London to finish high school, and his first sip of a cappuccino from Illy sparked a newfound curiosity in him. Inspired by a friend working in a café, he embarked on a journey to learn the art of making espresso.
When he was 18 years old, Bikesh returned to his home country in South Asia and started working as a barista with Illy.
“The first thing I learned how to do was an espresso,” Bikesh said. “Then, I started learning how to properly steam the milk, how to pour it into the cup, and even doing my own latte art.”
Slowly, he became more involved in the field. His dedication paid off, as he was promoted to Barista Trainer and Quality Control Specialist across Illy coffee shops in the country. He then spent a year in China as both a Barista Trainer and Sales and Marketing Associate. In 2017, Bikesh pursued a Master Barista course at Illy’s Universita del Caffe and learned the ins and outs of coffee. Later, he finished a technical certification course on espresso machines. With almost a decade of experience under his belt, Bikesh had become an integral part of the Illy family.
In 2021, Bikesh decided it was time for a change. He moved to the United States with his wife and originally relocated in Boston. However, Bikesh’s strong connections with the Illy headquarters led him to Tampa. Through the company’s assistance, he got in touch with TPA and embarked on an exciting and different opportunity.
“My first time in Tampa was when I came to the airport for the interview,” Bikesh said. “I have loved Tampa ever since, especially the weather.”
Now managing a team of 11 employees at both the Airside E and F’s Illy locations, Bikesh is thrilled to be working at an airport café for the first time in his career.
“I love working here because it's a busy place and you have a lot of people at the same time,” Bikesh said. “A café is a more relaxing place and you have limited customers. But here, you always see people coming and going. That makes me happy.”
At first, Bikesh was daunted by the constant influx of customers at TPA. He remembers feeling nervous during his first day, never having experienced such a fast-paced environment before. However, Bikesh quickly adapted and came to love the new environment, realizing that he enjoyed the diversity of customers.
His favorite thing about working at TPA? The vibes.
“I like the vibes at TPA, which are always very positive,” Bikesh said. “People might think it’s too busy, but for me, I like being surrounded by people rather than being in a quiet place.”
Unsurprisingly, his personal favorite drink remains the classic espresso. “Even though there are a lot of techniques and options, my main focus is on the espresso,” Bikesh said. “That’s the base of every coffee.”
When he’s not working, you can find Bikesh spending quality time with his wife, who also works at TPA with Southwest Ground Operations. Bikesh enjoys frequenting the downtown Tampa area and is an avid fan of the beach. Eventually, he wants to visit his bucket list destination: The Bahamas.
“I would love to go and see the beautiful beaches,” Bikesh said. “Also, I’m always watching food vlogs of the Bahamian cuisine. I’d love to try it someday.”
For those interested in a similar career path, Bikesh’s piece of advice boils down to two words: passion and patience.
“First thing is to have passion," Bikesh said. "You need to really have a passion for service to be in this field. The next thing is patience. Slowly, gradually go with the flow, and then prove yourself.”