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Get to Know Your Western and Southwest Regional Finalists!

By Shayleigh Ward posted 18 days ago

  
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2019 USBG World Class sponsored by DIAGEO season is in full swing! The competitors are fiercely preparing for the first Regional Competition in San Diego at the USBG Western Regional Conference, March 24th - 27th. There, the Southwest and Western finalists will be competing over 2 days for the opportunity to advance to the National Competition.

We invited the Western and Southwest finalists to tell us a little about themselves and their experience with World Class. 


:: Western Region ::


CHRISTOPHER BLAS

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable at competing at a World Class level. The journeys just beginning but I wouldn't have gotten this far without all my friends and mentors.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

My favorite unique ingredient to use would probably be curry. Inspired by all the delicious curry wurst I had while in Germany.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

If I could make a cocktail for any celebrity it would probably be Terry Crews. I wouldn't make him anything, it would just be a shot that I would take with him.
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GEORGE ADAM FOURNIER

What inspired you to enter World Class?

World Class was the first competition that I ever entered. I made it to the Western Regionals in Hawaii and was impressed by the skills of the other bartenders as well as the genuine desire of the judges and the program to educate and grow the competitors. I've only become more impressed with World Class over the years and find it to be a personal challenge to grow as an individual bartender and as part of our larger community.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

I've been obsessed with bitter melon at the moment. It's commonly available in Asian Grocery stores the juice is potently bitter yet delicious. I've used a few dashes as actual bitters in cocktails, made a homemade tonic out of it and even as the primary ingredient in kombucha.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

If I could make a drink for any dead celebrity it'd have to be George Carlin or J.R.R. Tolkien two men who profoundly shaped my love of language and my world view. I'd love to make either of them a Poet's Dream to see if it really does live up to its name but I'd happily pour either of them a beer and listen to them talk all evening.
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JOSHUA HADDOCK

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I had reached a point in my career where I felt as if I was plateauing and losing some of my passion. I decided to look into World Class as a way to reignite my passion and think about my craft in ways I had never done before. World Class has absolutely done exactly that! I haven't been this in love with my job, my community, and what I do in years!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

My go to drink is a Negroni. It will always be a favorite. Bracing, refreshing, balanced and nuanced but also open to tweaking. It's a perfect drink.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

I am fond of flavors I find in the Vietnamese markets around Seattle. Pandan in drinks is especially delicious!

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BRANDON MICHAEL JOSIE

What inspired you to enter World Class?

The varying challenges that flex my creative muscles to mix thoughtful and delicious cocktails is inspiration enough, but the opportunity to challenge myself alongside my peers is what really inspired me to enter World Class. I’m excited for the lessons I’ll learn, and to apply those lessons in my work.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

A 2:1 Gin Gibson, hands down. It’s never out of season. It’s got savor, flavor, and tang. And it’s delicious without being pretentious.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

I’ve been making a variety of house sodas to use in unique highballs and no-proof drinks, and as such have been playing with different types of acid to balance the sugar. It’s been a fun experiment, and has really broadened my creative palette being able to put flavor at the forefront without citrus distracting from it.
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AMANDA NEUMANN

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I wanted to grow my knowledge and skills as a bartender. World Class has challenged me to be creative in ways I never thought I could. It's made me a stronger, more confident bartender .

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

I’d want to have an island with Palomas. I love the bitter grapefruit agave profile. Plus, who wouldn’t want a bubbly cocktail?

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Pistachio. I like it’s light nutty profile and it makes a great orgeat.
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MELODY SCHUMACHER

What inspired you to enter World Class?

Competitions have always been an amazing tool for personal growth in this field. Within your own bar or position, you might not always have the opportunities to learn new techniques or showcase skills, but a bartending competition can push you in all the right ways. For me, being a female bartender always meant I had to hustle for every opportunity, and I've been working my way up to World Class for as long as I can remember. I'm so grateful and excited that I'm actually here!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

The pragmatist in me wants to say a cocktail of water purifying tablets with a flare gun garnish, but if I could only choose one cocktail, it would be a daiquiri. Not only do they bring up the best memories of imbibing with friends, they are crisp, refreshing,and classic. It would be a daiquiri, no question.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Lemon Verbena. It grows year round in my garden, and provides gorgeous aroma, color, and flavor to a drink. I'll throw it in any easy sour for a bright pop of color and fragrance. I've even made a liquor with it that comes out with similar notes to green chartreuse.
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JASON SEELE

What inspired you to enter World Class?

World Class is the pinnacle of cocktail competitions. It challenges every aspect of ones bartending ability and will push you to your limits. The experience and knowledge you gain from this competition is immeasurable.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

I feel like the obvious choice would be something with rum! However, I have an affinity for Manhattans. There is literally an unlimited amount of variations you can create built on that platform.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

As much as I would like to say Jerry Thomas or another famous visionary bartender, I would love to make a Manhattan for Jack Nicholson. I feel like the conversations we would have could be the most entertaining and interesting interaction a bartender could ever have with a patron.
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CHRISTIAN SUZUKI-ORELLANA

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I come from a family that has been in the restaurant/bar business in Tokyo, since 1946. My grandparents became well-known restaurant figures in Japan—with a total of four restaurants, a cocktail bar, and a ranch that sourced all of our meats and produce. Over the last few decades, most of their businesses have closed due to the failing economy. I want to re-open their first restaurant/bar here in the states. A platform like World Class would allow me to make stronger industry connections and hopefully show the world and my bar community, my story.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

Martini with gin or vodka with a twist because it’s appropriate in all weather conditions and I’m trying to watch my calories!

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

Björk. I would make her a Vesper Martini but call it “Vespertine”—[psst...it’s a Björk record!]
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NATHEN THEOBALD

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I grew up in the service industry, and my passion for food and beverage has always left me hungry for more. I entered World Class to continue my education and to push myself further and further than I have been before.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Recently, in part because of World Class, I have been pretty fixated on star anise. It can be delicate or forceful, floral or bold, and always unique.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

I, as many others, was heavily influenced by Anthony Bourdain. He brought light and romance to our industry, down to the dirty kitchens and street carts the world. And as much as I would love to serve him a well crafted penicillin, I have a feeling that a bottle of good tequila and a six pack of cheap beer to share would do the trick just fine.
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WILL YOUNG

What inspired you to enter World Class?

The World Class competition has been on my radar for a few years now. I’ve been going to the labs for a few years and it has always presented facts or perspectives I’ve never been introduced to before. In my view, it has always been about pushing the boundaries of what a cocktail can be. And this year, I finally decided to throw my hat in the ring. You really learn what you are capable of in these situations. Curating menus in a unique way is something I enjoy tremendously, it keeps you on your toes and forces you to constantly think outside the box. I’m looking forward to pushing those boundaries throughout this competition.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

I’m a big fan of citric & malic acid. Whether you're brightening citrus juice, making citrus stock or adding acid to a cocktail without volume, they can be very versatile. They are a good tool to keep in your toolbox.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

If I had to make a cocktail for one celebrity it would be Quentin Tarantino and I would make him a Sazerac. I chose this cocktail because just like his movies, there are layers of complexity. A Sazerac is a tried and true classic cocktail just like Tarantino is a tried and true Director of some of the best films on the planet. His movies consist of a cast of heavy weight actors just like the components of a Sazerac include ingredients found in many other classic cocktails. Individually the cast and the ingredients can stand on their own, but when they are put together under the supervision of a director or bartender, you get a master piece.
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:: Southwest Region ::

PATRICK ABALOS

What inspired you to enter World Class?

World Class has always been a fun learning experience. It provides the opportunity to look inward and learn more about yourself as well as learning what is happening in the bar community. I am always inspired by what I see others doing to push the field forward and the growth that comes from taking part in the competition.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

It would have to be Marshmallow Root. It makes a great gum syrup. Adds a subtle earthiness and smooth mouthfeel.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

I have always enjoyed reading about Ernest Hemingway. It would be fun to serve him a daiquiri iteration.
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JOSHUA BEARDEN

What inspired you to enter World Class?

Honestly, the chance to be chosen as the best bartender in the world. The opportunity to make new friends with professionals throughout out the globe and learn new things that will help grow my skill set is also incredible. I know I don’t need recognition to be a great bartender, but imagining/daydreaming about the prospect of being on stage accepting the title of “World's Best Bartender” is something that motivates me to be the best I can be.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

A G&T with grapefruit. The tonic to fight off scurvy, the grapefruit for nutrition and the the gin to keep me mellow as I deal with trying to make it back to civilization.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Anything that gives my drinks intriguing and unique colors. Pink pitaya is a powder made from freeze dried dragon fruit and has an eye catching color as bright as fuchsia but with a little more purple and it’s really good for you.
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MAXWELL BERLIN

What inspired you to enter World Class?

World Class pushes people to be better behind the bar. The community it shares forms a family of support from coast-to-coast and beyond.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Fish sauce. Don't bash it till you try it. A dash or two brings depths of umami and the oily texture rounds bright flavors perfectly.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

I'd make Anthony Bourdain a perfect Bahia caipirinha with lots of cachaça. His words inspire me to travel the world, meet the exotic, and share the stories.
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HONG NGUYEN

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I wanted to see how far I've come since I've started bartending. I applied to World Class on a whim hoping to be able to showcase my skills and personality as a "thank you" to everyone who has influenced me in my career thus far. I want to show everyone how appreciative I am for investing their time and support in me and that if I can do it, anyone from my community can do it as well!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

Oh, man... I feel like so many people are going to go with the tiki route, but who can blame them? I think I'd have to go with the "Saturn" cocktail. I'd get my fair share of vitamin c to keep scurvy at bay, and it's just so darn amazing for my palate! Fruity, bright, and refreshing? Yes, please!

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

You know, the first person that popped in my mind is Barack Obama. I have such a positive image of him in my mind and I've heard he enjoys beer, so I'd be honored to serve him a sort of Bee's Knees Shandy of sorts. Hopefully he'd like it and share some awesome stories with me!
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JAMES PEDERSON

What inspired you to enter World Class?

My inspiration to enter World Class was to show how amazing the cocktail scene is here in the Southwest. We have talented and passionate bartenders that continually amaze and inspire me.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Sherry. It's such a versatile ingredient in that it can be the substitution for sweeteners, bitters, vermouths, etcetera.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

Anthony Bourdain. I'd love to make him a Perfect Tequila Manhattan.
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SAMUEL PENTON

What inspired you to enter World Class?

My co-workers and managers have inspired me to enter World Class. They have helped shape me as a bartender over the last year and I want to represent them well.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

Painkiller! What could be a more appropriate drink for forgetting you are stranded and just enjoying some sandy beaches.
If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

A fresh and lively daiquiri for Ernest Hemingway.
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SARONY RITH

What inspired you to enter World Class?

My daughters inspired me to enter World Class because I have to prove through my actions that woman are strong, knowledgeable, creative and worthy, and if you want to change a perception you need to do it from a platform in an impactful way. I believe I have a message that is sincere and will connect with people who are standing in their own way in front of their path to success and growth.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Imagination; Because it is limitless, always in season, and as unique as you are. Imagination is my favorite ingredient.

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

I would love to make a cocktail for Hayao Miyazaki to show gratitude for his films featuring capable young girls as leads and heroes of their own stories. My daughters and I cherish his ground-breaking films which inspire generations of girls to believe in themselves. I would make him a respectfully twisted Aviation cocktail with Tanqueray 10, chamomile lavender infused maraschino liqueur, lemon, violette garnished with rose tea bud and a rosewater mist because his films always featured a bit of magic, beauty and flight.
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KARSON SKOVSGARD

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I've never competed before but have always wanted to. This competition really stood out to me because of the grand scale of it and also the wide variety of spirits used in it, and not just one brand.
What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

I've been going nuts over nuts lately. Pecans, pistachios, almonds. There is so much you can do with them!

If you could make a cocktail for any celebrity living or dead who would it be and what would you make them?

Hands down, Tom Hanks. I would make him about 15 Flaming Doctor Peppers.
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HENRY WHITTAKER

What inspired you to enter World Class?

My mentor who inspired me to learn about craft cocktails had just finished his first World Class regional competition at the time, and portrayed the importance of challenging myself in this art. He recommended I enter in the competition and bring what I've learned to the table. Although I did not get in on my first initial submission, I was very inspired and humbled at how hard I pushed myself to put together unique cocktails. This is my second year submitting now, and I am very excited to see what the other competitors and judges can teach me through the challenges provided.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

A highball. I can drink 1,000 of them without becoming tired of them. Also this is a desert we are talking about, lets keep it simple and stay hydrated....and drunk.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

Fat. Any kind honestly. From oils, to butter, to animal fats. I think washing spirits and cocktails is loads of fun. Fat also provides a unique opportunity to introduce sugar laden flavors and thickening textures to spirits without crushing their original intentional flavor profile.
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ANDREW WRIGHT

What inspired you to enter World Class?

I was inspired to enter World Class because I’m looking for a challenge. I’m also looking for the opportunity to see different perspectives and grow my career.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only ONE cocktail what would it be and why?

If I could only choose one cocktail it would have to be the daiquiri, with Ron Zacapa, of course! I really like the beauty in simplicity. I appreciate how the flavors are well defined, balanced and are refreshing.

What is your favorite unique ingredient to make drinks with right now?

I’ve been experimenting with different peppers and how do draw out the vegetal notes while minimizing the spice factor. Guajillo peppers have been my latest example of an ingredient I’ve been working with.
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To find a World Class bartender or cocktail near you, visit 
http://worldclass.usbg.org
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