THE WORLD CLASS TOP SIX: Australia, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Greece, Israel and Japan bartenders go through to final
The top six WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year finalists for 2015, selected from among the original 54 contenders, were announced last night after three days of challenges.
Jack Scotti of Australia, Viteslav Cirok of the Czech Republic, Alistair Reynolds of Great Britain, Manolis Lykiardopoulos of Greece, Ariel Leizgold of Israel and Michito Kaneko of Japan were chosen after an exhaustive judging process, presided over by leading authorities in the world of fine drinking and experiential cocktail culture.
“The talent on display this year has surpassed our already high expectations. It was almost impossible to predict who the top six would be because the level of skill was consistent across all competitors – exceptionally high,” said Spike Marchant, judge and WORLD CLASS Global Brand Ambassador. “But what else would you expect when you have the best bartenders in the world under one roof? It was the toughest competition we’ve ever had the honour to judge.”
The bartenders all exhibited varying techniques, styles and philosophies as the challenges unfolded. Michito Kaneko of Kyoto, Japan, was singled out for his technical excellence warmth, personality and creativity while Ariel Leizgold of Israel impressed with his pizzazz and showstopper serves.
“Obviously I am thrilled and a total loss for words to be in the top six. I’ve put everything into this competition. When I have a goal in mind, I just envision what I have to do and I give it my all. I don’t like to do anything half way,” says Ariel who is credited as revolutionizing the Tel Aviv cocktail scene and is acknowledged as one of the top 50 influential people in Israeli hospitality.
For Jack Scotti, from Melbourne, Australia, this was his second WORLD CLASS attempt and although he stumbled in the “Against the Clock” challenge he recovered to deliver a phenomenal performance in the “Street Food Jam”, where his food pairings were a standout along with his showstopper “levitating” cocktail in the “Retro, Disco, Future” challenge.
“When I started my WORLD CLASS journey, I never expected to make it this far. But when I came first in Australia, I realised I had a chance to make it all the way, so I set myself the goal of making it to the final six and here I am. I’m elated,” says Jack.
Great Britain’s Alistair Reynolds, meanwhile, kept his consistency throughout, earning marks on solid performances.
“Alistair didn’t earn his spot through any single, standout performance, but through consistency and quality. He really put us judges through the ringer and I’m really excited to see what he pulls out of his bag of tricks next,” says Spike.
Rounding out the six finalists, Greece’s Manolis Lykiardopoulos presented charm throughout, following in the footsteps of a previous Greek bartender, Aristotellis Papadopoulous who won WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year in 2009.
“I’m happy to be in the top six, but also a little stressed. When I heard my name it was like time stopped – definitely a moment I will never forget. I’m eager to get started on the final challenge,” says Manolis.
Vitislav Cirok from the Czech Republic was a surprise finalist.
“Vitislav was a bit of a dark horse, but his power, dynamism and skill was more than enough to earn him a spot in the final six. I’m certain his will continue to impress as the competition moves into the next round,” said Spike Marchant.
As part of a recently announced partnership between luxury resort group One&Only and Diageo Reserve, the top six finalists will be afforded the opportunity to spend time at One&Only’s unique resorts worldwide where they will create bespoke menus and signature cocktails for discerning drinkers.
Each of the six global finalists of the WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year competition will also receive a TANQUERAY® Champion Shaker – the smaller, bar-mounted expression of Jason Crawley’s classic 1.5m Imperial Shaker – to take home to their respective countries as a token of a shared commitment to innovation and craftsmanship.
The top six now go head to head on Thursday in the “Cape Town Shakedown” challenge, where they will each create a pop-up bar representing their personal vision of “the world’s best bar”.
The WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year winner for 2015 will be announced on Friday at a grand ceremony taking place at Cape Town City Hall.