With the UK Final of World Class taking place shortly we thought we’d have a chat with last years winner Gareth ‘Gaz’ Evans.
Over the last year Gaz has been on the journey that comes with winning the UK leg of World Class. That alone is no mean feat, he had to go through UK heats, a semi-final at Heathrow, a UK final on a plane to and from New York, European Final in Madrid and the Global Final on a Cruise Ship.
As World Class is such a huge and intimidating competition we thought we’d sit have a chat with someone who has been through it all to get some tips and show why all the stress and late nights are worth it. Let’s not forget that Gaz has also been heading up Jason Atherton’s ever expanding bar group around the world and coming up with his own pun based drinks so it’s been a busy old year.
BarLifeUK: Hey Gaz, this time last year you were getting ready to enter the UK Final of World Class did you have any clue how your year would unfold?
Gareth Evans: No clue whatsoever. I don’t normally plan too much in competitions and to be honest I felt like I had no chance as I was up against some pretty big hitters. Winning the UK final was amazing and it’s all gone rather well since then. I’ve certainly enjoyed my year that’s for sure.
BLUK: At what point during the various UK challenges did you begin to believe you had a chance of taking it out?
GE: I think when I got through in Heathrow.
People like Aaron and Mark (Aaron Jones and Mark Scott) had been in it before and I felt their style was going to go down a lot better than my ridiculous puns and silly garnishes, but when I got through to the last 4 I realised I might have a chance and that I should pull my finger out and take it seriously. Kev (Kevin Griffin) pushed me all the way though, we had 3 days of competition in the European final that were pretty intense. At no point was I thinking ‘I’ve got this’, and I was very happy to hear my name read out.
BLUK: Any tips for those about to go into the UK Final or indeed any other cocktail comps?
GE: Relax and do what you’re good at. It’s a big stage and I realise it’s nerve wracking but at the end of the day it’s only mixing drinks and talking. We can all do that.
I always try to tell a bit of a story, even if it’s a stupid one, and obviously remember who is sponsoring the competition. I also try to take risks, and try something a bit different. Even if it doesn’t work out you’ll be remembered for trying, and you can come back next year and give it another go.
BLUK: What has your World Class year entailed?
GE: Travelling, meeting people and being constantly surprised that people are willing to come to listen to me chat crap and make average drinks at a snails pace. The competition is massive and it’s only when I go to places like Singapore and Hong Kong you realise how big it is, people recognise you. It’s madness
BLUK: Has there been one stand out highlight?
GE: Being on telly was fun. My mum realised I probably wasn’t going to be a lawyer finally but she seemed happy as she can bore her mates. Making drinks at Gleneagles was banging as well.
I think, and this sounds really lame, the highlight was calling the missus when I won in Madrid. The comp was really tough, and I had really put it all out there, so to hear my name read out was awesome. Kevin was amazing and incredibly sporting. It’s the comp I always wanted to win since I saw Ryan Cheti win it in 2009, and I used to think about what it would be like to win. I am not a classically trained bartender, I have never worked at anywhere super famous or anything, so to call her up and tell her I’d done it was pretty emotional.
BLUK: In retrospect what, if anything, would you have done differently at the global finals? You know, seeing as you didn’t win!!
GE: Hahahahahaha (there may have been an expletive or two here – Ed) . I would do a couple of things differently I guess but I really don’t think I was that far off the pace, at the global I think tiny mistakes are what separates the top few and I think I was definitely in with a shout, just the way the cookie crumbles. I will definitely go back next year and try to go one better.
In all honesty though, in hindsight (and I know this sounds like I’m nowt but I promise I’m not) I am better off not winning the global. I saw David (2013 winner David Rios) a few times since and he told me he is home about 4 days a month. I would definitely have had to leave my job and that isn’t something I would want to do as I love my job. My long suffering girlfriend would probably have killed me as well. Top 10 in the world is all good for now ta. Not too shabby for Gaz.
BLUK: What have you learnt in the last year that has had the most effect on you?
GE: I have learnt that World Class wasn’t as focused on fancy serves on boards and dry ice as I thought. It has a very different reputation to what it actually is I think.
I also learnt to adapt and not stress about things out of my control. The competition involved making over 40 drinks in 22 rounds, in 7 countries over a period of 9 months. I made drinks in a theatre, a bullring, an open market, a casino, a beach club, a cruise ship, the first class lounge at Heathrow and the galley of a plane. And Nightjar. Everything that could go wrong did so I learned to suck it up, be patient and deal with it. That has been very useful in my job.
Lastly I learned that there are amazing bartenders everywhere in the world. I made some really good friends, and of course hired Monica (Monica Berg a fellow finalist last year who has moved over to run Pollen Street Social) out of it.
BLUK: What next for you once you hand over your World Class title to this years UK winner and everyone forgets who you are?
GE: I think I’ll go and work at BarLifeUK, how hard can it be? (touché Mr Evans, touché)
I hope to push on at work, we have lots of new projects in the pipeline which are very exciting, and hopefully still work with World Class and Diageo a bit, we have a few things coming up.
BLUK: Finally – Pun of the year?
GE: Has to be Greengage Mutant Ginger Myrtle. Or maybe Robin Hood, Quince of Thieves. I like Maid in Cuba as well.
Thanks to Gaz for his time and good luck to all 8 of the UK finalists next week.