Working your way through college can have its ups and downs. But for Adelynn Drescher of Bartlett, swinging up, down and upside-down through a 40-foot-high wine cellar pays off.
As one of only a handful of wine aerialists at Texas de Brazil restaurant in Chicago, she doesn't just fetch a bottle of cabernet. She flies on a wire in a 35-foot-wide vertical shaft packed with about 1,400 wine bottles. She flips back and forth, twists and turns. She reads the label, captures the right one and tumbles back to the lower level to hand the bottle to the server.
Before getting the job, her acrobatics experience was limited to a childhood tumbling class. But she trained with another aerial wine artist and, after a few days, she strapped on a harness and was flying among the bottles.
"I was pretty much afraid of heights to begin with, so I was kind of freaking out when I first did this," said Drescher, 21.
Drescher, a criminal justice student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, got the job last July and splits her cellar work with hostess duties.
When a server gets a wine order, the request is sent to a computer screen on the lower level of the cellar. The bottles are listed with letter and number codes. The wine aerialist gets the info and swings into action.
Drescher can control the speed, do front and back flips and experiment with new moves, such as hanging horizontally and creating the illusion of walking sideways.
It's not all smooth sailing. She's bumped her head a few times doing stunts. But overall, she said she has learned her craft and performs every other hour during her shifts.
Drescher enjoys performing for diners, who often leave their tables to watch through the glass walls.
"It's nice to see how happy they get when they watch," she said.
Texas de Brazil's Chief Operating Officer Salim Asrawi was inspired by wine aerialists at Aureole restaurant in Las Vegas and wanted to bring the unique act a step further. He introduced a hoisting system that goes both vertically and horizontally. It also includes safety features, such as a cable attached to the rear of each harness and emergency shut-off buttons.
Texas de Brazil in downtown Chicago opened last June and is the only one of 14 in the chain with trapeze artists. Even its other restaurant in Schaumburg doesn't have it, said General Manager Vincent Feola of Elgin.
"All the girls do a fantastic job," Feola said. "At first it was a little intimidating to see them to strap on a harness and fly 40 feet into the air. But they're flying around and getting paid for it. How many jobs do that?"