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Behind the Scenes at Diageo's World Class Global Finals 2013

This year I was fortunate to attend Diageo's World Class Global Finals 2013, aboard the Azamara Journey cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. This was my third World Class final, after Delhi in 2011 and Rio in 2012. 

This year I was working with DiffordsGuide.com to produce both a daily newsletter aboard the ship and information for an all-World Class write-up that is now online

Difford world class

Most of the time I was copying down recipes and reformatting them. By my count, there were 520 cocktails made in the challenges by the bartenders over a 5-day period. While we had a couple hundred submitted to us in advance, that still left several hundred more to collect. The photographer with us had to try to capture as many as possible along with the parties and other events throughout the week. And because we couldn't be everywhere at the same time, we had to guess which competitors we thought were doing best in order to capture their drinks and pics.

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No doubt you'll have no pity for my workload, as we were working on a luxury cruise liner we boarded in Nice and took to St. Tropez, Ibiza, and Barcelona. There were parties in each of those cities at night but we were typically holed up on the boat with the competing bartenders and then writing the next day's newsletter until late at night. So, those cities look great from the shore. 

 

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Part of the reason the competition ran so late was the camera crews filming a second season of a television show about the finals. They were just one of the cogs in the big machine that is World Class. There was an onboard media team (and tons of media), tons of staff running the competition rooms (and making sure they were stocked with hundreds of ingredients each), other logistical teams, translators, etc.. Plus there were guests and former competitors onboard from many markets around the world. 

 

 

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That was a lot of handlers, homies, and helpers for 44 contestants, but believe you me, the bartenders didn't have an easy time of it. In the few hours between each challenge or when they were supposed to be sleeping at night, finalists were back in their rooms repacking and washing supplies and rehearsing their next drinks. Those bartenders who didn't make it through in each successive elimination must have felt at least some relief, as they could actually enjoy riding on a cruise ship rather than feeling like they were rowing it.

 

 

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To read more about what the challenges were, go to DiffordsGuide.com.  Bartenders could create elaborate advanced displays for some drinks, while others in the Market Challenge and Time to Play challenges had to be invented on the fly. It seemed to be a good mix of challenges that tested mixological skills, bartending ability, and personality in different ways. 

Out of the initial 44 contestants, after the first elimination the Top 16 were:

* Angus McGregor, United Arab Emirates
* Cross Yu, China
* David Rios, Spain
* Emil Åreng, Sweden
* Gareth Evans, United Kingdom
* Ivar de Lange, Netherlands
* Kirill Runkov, Russia
* Jason Clark, New Zealand
* Jeff Bell, United States of America
* Laura Schacht, Switzerland
* Luke Ashton, Australia
* Mario Seijo, Puerto Rico
* Mattia Pastori, Italy
* Monica Berg, Norway
* Simon Crompton, Cayman Islands
* Tsuyoshi Miyazaki, Japan

And the final eight were:

* David Rios, Spain
* Jason Clark, New Zealand
* Jeff Bell, United States of America
* Laura Schacht, Switzerland
* Luke Ashton, Australia
* Mario Seijo, Puerto Rico
* Monica Berg, Norway
* Tsuyoshi Miyazaki, Japan

As you've heard by now, David Rios from Bilbao, Spain was the winner. He used a translator most of the time and unfortunately translators usually whispered in the ears of the judges rather than spoke loudly, so it was hard to tell in most challenges how he was doing - but it all looked really good. One judge told me afterward that he was consistently good in every challenge, rather than having good and bad rounds that other finalists did.

I did witness Rios' speed challenge round and it was fantastic, though Jeff Bell of the USA ultimately took that round. To see all of Rios' recipes during World Class, check here.

 

 

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All in all, it was an amazing competition and the best World Class I've attended so far. Like almost everyone I've met working at World Class, I come home exhausted from a week of 18-hour days without a doubt in my mind that I'd love to do it again. 

For my Flickr photos, see here.

For the write-up on DiffordsGuide.com, visit the site.

 

 

Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF is now available for sale.

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