For the second year, Chef Middle East hosted a beverage competition, establishing a platform for bar professionals to showcase their skills and demonstrate their best techniques, flair and talent.
Some of the most unique and reputable beverage brands took part in this competition: Fentimans, UK-based botanically brewed beverages, Juicy, premium quality, long shelf life and highly nutritious juices, Nai Arabia, Arabian natural and healthy iced teas, Les vergers Boiron, premium fruit purees from France, Dolomia, mineral water from the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Italy.
Chef Middle East partnered with Path Bar School offering the perfect pairing for their range of products for contestants to explore and create original recipes for the competition. The journey kicked off through October 2021 in the UAE with a masterclass at Path Bar School, where the participants got an in-depth overview of each of the brands’ range of flavours and the competition’s rules.
They were then tasked to list their creations at their own bars’ menus for one month to determine the commercial performance of the drinks. The competition was down to six finalists, challenged to create another two drinks to nab the first prize in the grand finale that was held on 15th of December 2021 at BFF, Oaks Ibn Battuta Gate, Dubai.
Tauland Hyka, Beverage Category Manager at Chef Middle East said:
“This year, we took a unique approach with strict rules in the use of specific brands and products, pushing participants to showcase their skills and creativity. We decided to bring this event to BFF for its casual and very welcoming atmosphere. The bar is presented as a stage and this gave the chance to bartenders to truly be performing for the audience.”
The judge’s panel included key industry players such as Giovanni Depergola, Co-Founder & Head of education at Liquid Alembic, Sunny Nigrel, Assistant Bar Manager at Andaz The Palm by Hyatt, and Sasha Aleksandar Milovanovic, Group Beverage Head at Addmind Hospitality.
Depergola commented: “It’s always fun judging a competition and The Bar Craft Challenge has a potential to grow as an annual appointment. What I liked the most was the “casual” set up, the passion surrounding all of us and the organization structure of the event.”
Milovanovic said: “The level of the finalists was on par with other major cocktail competitions. We’ve seen some good talents with great future perspectives in the industry.”
“The event was very well put across by Chef Middle East. I liked how bar professionals got an opportunity to showcase their talents and the reward was not just for the first-place winner but for the second and third place as well. All participants performed extremely well and went an extra mile, for me everyone was a winner there.” Added Nigrel.
Zin Mar Win, Bar Captain at Pierre’s Bistro, Intercontinental DFC, was announced as the first-place winner of the Bar Craft Challenge 2021. Win commented: “I created my winning cocktail using Les vergers Boiron blood orange puree from Chef Middle East as a paint inside my glass that paired perfectly with the Tanqueray 10 Gin and the Fentimans pink grapefruit tonic. As for my winning mocktail, it featured Nai ginger green iced tea and Juicy sour cherry apple juice -, with a homemade Moroccan syrup. The name of my winning mocktail is ‘GENIE’ inspired from Aladdin, the well-known Arabian night tales, giving honour to the Arabian brand ‘Nai’.”
Dario La Luna, Bartender at Roka Dubai, won the second prize and Rachelle Escalona from Bla Bla Beach Club won the third prize.
La Luna said: “The drinks I made for this competition took inspiration from the Japanese culture which I have been introduced to in the last year at ROKA. It was my goal to try and create a small slice of Japan in my drinks. This competition was my very first and I truly enjoyed seeing all the bartenders bring their own unique experience and energy in these troubling times. It created a true sense of community.”
In this competition, we don’t only see a fantastic fair play of showcasing the highest calibre and skill level but we also get to network within the industry, where professionals share news, ideas and celebrate together. The success of the Bar Craft Challenge 2021 was definitely owing to the great support from the participating brands, as well as the collaboration with Path Bar School.
Svjetlana Macura, Business Development Manager ME Region at Stanić Beverages, representing Juicy brand, commented: “Juicy is the first juice brand to start working closely with leading Croatian bartenders in mixology 20 years ago and since then we have been striving to meet the requirements of the bar industry. The Bar Craft Challenge, fantastically organized by Chef Middle East, showed an excellent way of the endless possibility of using our juices in mixology. This type of activation is the best way to present Juicy to bartenders to experience the premium quality of our range.”
Fouad Dajani, Co-Founder at Nai Arabia said: “Nai is extremely proud to be one of the sponsors for the Bar Craft Challenge 2021. We view this event, and those like it, as extremely important for the hospitality sector which took such a hit during the pandemic, and which is now in the midst of a very successful comeback. This event was a great opportunity for young, budding bar professionals to make a mark and to display their skills in front of an expert panel of judges. For us as a beverage brand, we are always more than happy to see our range of drinks used as a base for innovative mocktails and cocktails by up-and-coming bar professionals. Thank you to Chef Middle East for organising and allowing us to be a part of this great event.”
It is beyond doubt that the bar industry has come far over the years. Chef Middle East always seek to put the spot on this very fact and to show what industry professionals rank as the best of the UAE, where the standard is simply world-class.