DIAGEO BAR ACADEMY TRAINEE TO WORLD CLASS FINALIST: TOP TIPS
As Diageo prepare to host the 2021 World Class competition virtually for the first time ever, we caught up with Italy finalists Simone Mole and Vincenzo Pagliara. Learn how Diageo Bar Academy training prepared them for World Class and their top tips for progressing through the competition.
Italian-born Simone Mole fell in love with the industry at a young age, building his career from the ground up and is now General Manager of Neo Mediterraneo Vibes. Ahead of the World Class competition, Simone took part in Diageo Bar Academy training which, among other things, really helped enrich his knowledge, particularly on brands like Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray Ten. Since being named Diageo World ClassItaly Bartender of the Year 2021, his sights are firmly set on the upcoming global finals.
With 10 years experience under his belt, Vincenzo Pagliara entered World Class after embarking on an intense training course with Diageo Bar Academy. From working in clubs in Napoli to iconic bars in London and luxury hotels in China, his experience spans the globe. But according to the co-founder of Laboratorios Folkloristicoit doesn’t matter how experienced you are, there is always something new to learn and skills to improve. Vincenzo drew on the invaluable training and support from this course to get through the different stages of the competition and was placed second in the Italian heats.
FIVE TIPS FOR WORLD CLASS SUCCESS
1. MASTER THE ART OF FLAVOUR
If you want to craft unique and exciting serves to impress World Class judges you need a solid understanding of flavour.
Simone: From my experience you need to invest time in studying and experimenting with different flavours to understand those which complement one another and create balance. With this knowledge, you can make a great drink. When it comes to crafting your World Class serve, make sure you know the brand and liquid you’ll be using inside out. You want to make the brand the star of the show and rather than try to change or infuse the flavour of the liquid, look for ingredients you can use to enhance it.
Use your senses always to discover more about your ingredients too, smell them, taste them, touch them. Think about how you can connect everything with a drink.
Vincenzo: Look at your bar as your training room, using every shift as an opportunity to learn, refine, and improve your skills and knowledge. Aside from research, I like to develop my flavour knowledge practically through blind tasting and creating and experimenting with classic cocktails. We live in a creative world where new trends and techniques continue to emerge so you should train every day to stay ahead of the curve. That makes you competition ready.
2. HONE YOUR TECHNIQUE
Technique is a skill you can constantly build on and improve to ensure you serve excellent drinks every single time. Perfecting your technique helps you stay at the top of your game.
Simone: Always try to push yourself a little bit further - I love the saying “better than yesterday and less than tomorrow”. Be comfortable with the fact that there will always be ways you can improve your technique and practice, practice, practice. Training is also a great way to improve and prefect your technique. I trained with Diageo Bar Academy before World Class and the dedication and support from the Diageo Bar Academy trainers, really helped me focus on my goal and prepare me for the competition.
Vincenzo: At the end of the day, you are competing against yourself – so you should always be pushing your limits to reach new heights, particularly when it comes to your technique. I had the privilege of working in some of the most iconic bars in the world, including Montgomery Place, Claridge’s Hotel and The Connaught Bar. I fully immersed myself in my role and learnt from the best while doing so. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance or take part in a formal training program, you can even use the e-learning resources available on the Diageo Bar Academy website to build your skills in your own time.
3. STUDY THE CLASSICS
Classic cocktails are classic for a reason, not only have stood the test of time they can help inspire you when creating your own cocktails.
Simone: Classics always have and always will pay the bills, they’re the basis for any great cocktail menu. I spent time studying and perfecting these serves so that now, my strength is in the classics, and I use my knowledge of their construction to create my own serves. When studying and crafting classic serves, focus on every detail for flawless delivery – use frozen glasses, perfect ice, garnishes and juices must always be fresh, with sparkling sodas.
4. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Whether you’re smoking a cocktail, muddling or shaking – it’s important to practice your skills and techniques particularly ahead of a competition like World Class where this can be the difference between winning and losing.
Simone: I truly believe that the more you practice the better you are. Kobe Bryant used to say, “I’m better than my competitors not because of my skills but because I train for 12 hours per day while my competitors train 6 or 7 seven hours”. This mentality stuck with me through World Class preparation and kept me focused on my goal.
Vincenzo: I practice every day, whether I’m preparing for a competition or not. As bartenders it’s our job to keep our guests happy and with practice we can provide consistently great serves and deliver on expectations. Emotion and adrenaline can take over in big competitions and my advice would be to try to train yourself to channel these emotions and feelings in the right way to create captivating moments and experiences.
Remember you can always seek help to improve your skills. While training with Diageo Bar Academy, the trainers were so supportive, they helped me realize where I needed to improve and how.
5. HOW TO STAND OUT
Standing out from the crowd is vital at competitions like World Class so don’t be afraid of a little self-promotion – it could help elevate your profile and get you recognised by the judges.
Simone: Whatever you do, you must always be yourself, in the bar you are working in, in the competitions you compete in and on social media networks you engage on. Use your social networks to promote yourself while influencing others. Spread positive vibes, share your achievements, or use the platforms to share advice and tips you learn with your followers. Above all, be sure to manage your profile and ensure you set a good example.
Vincenzo: Competing in World Class is an opportunity to really establish yourself in the bartending community. Use this opportunity to let people know who you are, what you stand for and what you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to know your worth and talk about it in a humble way. Training with Diageo Bar Academy I experienced the real sense of community that exists in the industry. It was a truly emotional experience which helped me prepare for the rollercoaster of emotions that came with World Class. Be ready for it, prepare for it and enjoy every second.
FIVE KEY TAKEAWAYS
- Take time to study and experiment with flavour in order to create exciting, impressive serves.
- Assess your technique and find areas where you can improve to perfect your skills.
- Take inspiration from the classic cocktails when crafting new, exciting serves.
- Practice and prepare ahead of competitions for a polished serve delivery.
- Don’t shy away from self-promotion, use your online channels and network at competitions to raise your profile and get your name known.
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