Chef Joel Finsel of Manna - Biography

Wilmington, NC

November 2011

Joel Finsel was practically raised in a bar. Growing up, his parents owned and ran a pub in the Poconos. Finsel was often found spending much of his after school time on barstools, playing video games. The bar’s energetic vibe left a strong impression on him, and today, the bar scene at Manna continues to fuel Finsel with creative energy.

At age 18, as soon as he turned of legal serving age, Finsel enrolled in a bartending course during his college winter recess. Here, Finsel created cocktails with mock ingredients, learned bar tricks and random useless bar trivia, such as how the Tanqueray bottle takes its shape from an English fire hydrant. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a bartending job at the Banker’s Club, a local converted bank-turned nightclub in his hometown. Finsel worked there for the next five years and was eventually promoted to bar manager.

After graduating from Kutztown University and having enough of small town life, Finsel moved to Philadelphia. Six months later, when Astral Plane’s bartender of 27 years left the establishment, owner Reed Apaghian offered Finsel the job. Though Finsel had some tough shoes to fill, he fit right in with the bar’s laid-back atmosphere and personable clientele. Apaghian and Finsel had a strong mutual respect, and Finsel relished the opportunity to experiment with cocktails behind the bar. His creative concoctions, dedication, and hard work earned him a 2004 StarChefs.com Risings Stars Award. Finsel then headed south to Wilmington, South Carolina where he took on bar responsibilities at Caffe Phoenix. He is currently working as a bartender at Manna, also in Wilmington.