One of the city's own, the Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge's Grant Sceney beat out some exceptional competition last week to go on to represent Canada in the Diageo World Class Final. In the final line up of ten bartenders, not one was a woman, and according to the event organisers barely 3% of all entrants from Canada were women. In a city that is spilling over with amazing female bar talent, we wondered why this could be. So we asked recent winners of the Mlle Cointreau contest, Dani Tatarin and Evelyn Chick to give us their two cents.
Dani Tatarin, Keefer Bar:
I think a lot of women just getting into the competition scene might be intimidated by entering such a big contest as the World Class. I never look at a cocktail competition as women having any sort of disadvantage coming in to it but I've entered and judged a lot of competitions and know what to expect, younger more rookie bartenders might think they aren't ready.
Evelyn Chick, Blue Water Cafe:
I'm surprised by the percentage for World Class, that seems awfully low. I did submit a recipe myself but didn't make top 25. But I'm not bruised by it, you can't get emotional about it because there's always going to be a next time!
"The thing about Bartending is that it is a MALE-dominated industry so the guys behind the bar outnumber the girls by a huge amount. I'd love to see more women behind bars and entering competitions, they have to know going into the industry that they are constantly competing with guys for shifts and jobs.
In my opinion a woman behind the bar has to be more than just a pretty face. She has to be quick-thinking, self-motivated and creative with a good palate. She needs to be knowledgeable about spirits, well-read in classic cocktails, great with people, able to lift heavy boxes, not care about wearing nail polish, be well groomed and eager to learn. A career as a cocktail bartender is a rewarding one but you also have to be willing to work late nights and long hours. As with anything if you focus on becoming better at what you do it will come; it takes persistence and dedication to the craft to win competitions, that goes for men and women.
As for creativity I'm all for it, but creativity needs to be balanced with technique, knowledge, presentation and personality. I've judged and competed in competitions where there were lots of creative drinks but I was horrified by the lack of attention to detail that went in to creating the final result. Bartenders should wash their hands a lot, not pick their noses, play with their hair, touch their face and then go to make a drink. And if you are tasting a drink with a straw be sure to use it only once and know how to correctly straw taste, no one wants spit bitters in their drink.
For Bartenders - women and men alike - if they want to get better at what they do, they should find someone that they admire that they can "Stage" with - just like young cooks do with chefs. Working with skilled trades people who are well-accomplished is time best spent learning and growing, as opposed to spending a bunch of cash going to an unaccredited school for a piece of paper. Educate yourselves, read books, make cocktails and get into the community, this will raise the bar and hopefully foster environments where women and men can thrive in an exciting career as a Cocktail Bartender."
"A lot of the time I believe people need to own a sense of humility to be able to get into this scene, and keep trying until you succeed. I'd definitely like to see more female bartenders go forth and challenge such competitions but as you can see from Mlle. Cointreau, a lot of the girls are first-time competitors and it's super intimidating! I believe that we are just starting to grow as a community to help new bartenders build that confidence to become next level, male or female. Hopefully next year that percentage will go up. Grey Goose Pourmasters are coming up and there are more women this year than they've ever had ( myself, Wendy from Chambar , Lauren Mote from Uva and Kelsey from Oakwood) involved with the competition.
I was the first female and youngest Grey Goose Pourmaster contestant last year and I came 2nd. It takes nerve to be pouring with the 'big guns' and if you're a young bartender, you need guidance and a lot of coaching to get there. I don't think it's just a female/ male thing. Sure, more bartenders are male, but these ladies are coming up and they are going to kick butt! It just takes time, and their time will come!
I'd say the most valuable lessons I take away from a competition is that you're really challenging yourself and forcing yourself to think, and be creative, and perfect those tiny little details that are going to make you that much better of a bartender. It is as much about celebrating something you already do well at as it is to learn from your peers who may have a different set of skills you can learn from.
To really grow as a bartender you need to be critiqued once in a while and with these competitions the panel will give you that. Your guest will tell you whether or not they like a drink but your judges will be able to tell you what you can improve on. I love being in competitions, it makes me think- holy crap! These guys are doing awesome stuff I want to do that too! And winning trips around the world ain't bad either ;)"
· All World Class Coverage [EVAN]
· All Dani Tatarin Coverage [EVAN]
· All Evelyn Chick Coverage [EVAN]