Meet Your Midwest Regional Finalists!

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Here is a quick look at our marvelous Midwestern mixologists who who will be moving forward to the Regional World Class Competition. Three Finalists from each region will then go forward to compete at our National Finals.

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

 

 

David Binion

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

I would like to integrate more ingredients, we have over 100 and I was mind blown you could have more!

 

Do you have any rituals right before competition time?

Getting off the hamster wheel.

 

What's the simplest thing you've never mastered?

Being late.


 

James DeFrance

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

The online bartender labs reminded me that understanding the fundamental flavors of base spirits your very familiar with but may not have tried straight in awhile can be valuable and is still important in building drinks and communicating with guests.

 

What is the best bartending advice you received?

"You want to give the guest everything they need before they even ask for it.  Perfect service is that it will never occur to a guest to ask you for anything."  This is a goal I try to chase every night and even occasionally am able produce some pleasant anticipatory surprises.  It makes life so much easier.

 

Do you have any rituals right before competition time?

I recently re-watched "The Bridge on the River Kwai," on of my favorites.  Before the reluctant hero goes out on his mission the commando commander tells him, "There's always more thing to do." This proves to be invaluable advice.  So, right before presenting I make sure to take a moment to consider if there is one thing in my preparations that I can do and if there is one more thing I can do in presenting beyond what I initially intended.


 

James Hodge

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

A bartender has to know a great deal of history and technical know-how when it comes to spirits and the drinks that are made up with them. As such, it is immensely important that we constantly learn and re-learn everything we can get our hands on. The Bartender Lab program was a comprehensive look into the nitty-gritty of the spirit world, and filled in a lot of gaps knowledge-wise. 

 

What is the best bartending advice you received?

Interestingly enough some of the best and most recent advice I've gotten on bartending came from a chef; it was "think like a cowboy, but don't be a cowboy". They explained to me the concept of a "cowboy chef": Someone who constantly cuts corners, sometimes even when it diminishes quality. As a bartender that tends to be very particular, being able to adapt and make a situation work that you didn't plan for is something important to keep in mind.

 

What is the best compliment anyone could give you?

"I can't believe you're such good friends with Jim Meehan and Jeffrey Morganthaler!"


 

Casey Miller

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

Any time I have the chance to have an exceptional bartender guide me through a full tasting of a spirit portfolio is a solid point in the win column for me, no matter how many times I've done it before. Splitting up into groups for the mock competition round was fun, but more importantly, it brought into sharp relief that I'm now at a point in my career where people are beginning to look to me for leadership and advice. That was a weird concept for me to wrap my head around.

 

What is the best compliment anyone could give you?

I quite enjoy the fuzzy feeling I get anytime someone tells me that I made an evening very special for them.

 

What's the simplest thing you've never mastered?

 Complete sentences.


 

Shelby Minnix

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

I enjoyed the change of pace and return to a simplistic approach towards spirits and cocktails. Often times we can get caught up in trying to present complicated features or presentations in our line of work and forget that the base of the matter is to present a guest with something they will enjoy. 

 

What is the best bartending advice you received?

Stop overthinking.

 

Do you have any rituals right before competition time?

Whether it's glassware or an article of clothing, I always treat myself and buy something new to use in the competition. 


  

Dean Pitcher

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

If there is one thing that helps drive my passion behind the bar it is being surrounded by others that share it, too. This gives a unique opportunity to converse with others that care about something the same way that I do. Not only does it help strengthen my skill set, but it constantly reminds me of why I fell in love with bartending in the first place. 

 

Do you have any rituals right before competition time?

A shot of Fernet while listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

 

What is the best bartending advice you received?

If you are the smartest person in the room then you are in the wrong room. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself and continue learning your whole life. 


 

Katharine Renshaw

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

It definitely helped me think outside the box, and think about cocktails in a different context - I got "dinner party" for my inspiration, and I love to think of occasion-specific cocktails! It also helped me consider different ways to use ingredients. I tend to create cocktails with a culinary mindset so it's fun to think of different ways to incorporate flavors and nuances. 

 

What is the best compliment anyone could give you?

"Can I have another?" Or becoming a regular. When a drink or an experience is so great that you come back for more: that action to me speaks louder than any words. 

 

What's the simplest thing you've never mastered?

Handwriting. Mine is terrible. 


 

Trevor Scovel

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What is the best bartending advice you received?

Having an apron and some tattoos doesn't make you special; however giving guests an experience that makes their day better - does. 

 

Do you have any rituals right before the competition time?

Eating healthy at least a few days before and especially the day of the competition. Get some good sleep, and maybe some headphones in. I want to stay focused, but be relaxed enough so when the competition starts, it's like people area at my rail at work. 

 

What is the simplest thing you have never mastered?

Remembering to taste my drinks before I pour them into the glass.


 

Nathaniel Smith

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

Absolutely! Hearing Charles Joly talk about his experiences at World Class firsthand, and ideas of cocktails, presentations, tasting, and concepts has been an invaluable tool for me to advance my thinking of cocktails and competitions in general.

One of the coolest bits of advice was Joly open-ended questioning everyone how often they sit down at their own bar, to see how it looks from a guest's perspective before a shift starts. I do this every day I work now; to make sure everything is perfect, in place, and pleasing to sit and enjoy a drink, from the guest's viewpoint.

 

Do you have any rituals right before competition time?

None. I treat it like bartending, I just come in and do my job and try to do my best for my guests.


 

 

Carl Sparks

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Following the live or online Bartender Lab: Do you feel that this education helped to advance your skills, or change your mindset when working at your bar?

I enjoyed the change of pace and return to a simplistic approach towards spirits and cocktails. Often times we can get caught up in trying to present complicated features or presentations in our line of work and forget that the base of the matter is to present a guest with something they will enjoy.

 

What is the best bartending advice you received?

"Be fast but don't rush." When you rush, panic, use abbreviated gestures with your guests: it conveys a message to them; that selling a product is more important than the experience they are receiving. By taking control of the situation and remaining calm, you exude confidence in the presence of your bar team and guests. Now, we all have busy nights unless you work in a 12 seat bar with no tables; but the idea that you must take generalship over the experience you want to create is paramount. Don't ever let them see you sweat.


 

Doug Spradley 

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What is the best bartending advice you received?

A bartender should be like a duck on the water-- calm on the outside, but feet paddling at a million miles a minute underneath the surface. The key is to not let your guests see underneath the surface.

 

What is the best compliment anyone could give you?

I love when people come in to actually meet me after hearing about what I do from their friends and friends of friends. The best compliment is someone just saying, "Are you Doug?  I've heard about you."


 

Tim Wells

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What is the best bartending advice you received?

The best bartending advice, not to mention the best life advice. Mise en place. Just as in the kitchen, even behind the bar everything has it's proper place. Life is so much easier when your not playing twenty questions as to where something is. Although let's face it, we've all had that moment at 7pm on a Saturday night. Honestly though, mise en place is a phrase to live by. my home bar is so organized I could probably make a solid drink in the dark. 

 

What's the simplest thing you've never mastered?

Ha. But for real, I'm laughing at this already because you probably will too. I can conjure a cocktail out of thin air. I can make sourdough bread from my own mother dough starter. I can make risotto, crepes, beef wellington, design a gourmet dinner menu in my head while I walk through the grocery store, but I cannot for reasons that elude me, successfully cook boxed macaroni and cheese. 


 

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