Ran Van Ongevalle Highlights Family At Bacardi Legacy 2017

When, in Berlin, the 2017 Bacardi Legacy winner was announced the stage was overrun by Ran’s family, this family however are a bit different from the usual.

For a closer look at the heats and the final of this years Bacardi Legacy competition check out the links in this sentence. However, as there always is with Bacardi Legacy, there was another story to come out of the week. This year, it was a….

The 2017 finalists
The 2017 finalists

Family Affair

If you have ever met someone who has been involved in Bacardi Legacy they will probably have mentioned ‘Family’. Andy went to the Bacardi Legacy Global Final in Moscow back in 2014 and came back going on about family, I mocked him. Mocked him for falling for it (what ‘it’ is I’m not sure), for becoming soft. Then I started to judge the UK heats and went to Australia, I started talking about the Bacardi Legacy Family.

It doesn’t matter how many times you hear it though, it is very difficult to understand, to comprehend how such a gigantic global brand can possibly get away with banging on about family. Legacy final 8 competitor Dave Kerr addressed this in his presentation at the final with a story from the week, I couldn’t sum it up any better.

‘I’m a little bit of a cynical guy, anyone who has met me for more than 10 seconds can attest to it. You always hear this thing about the Bacardi family and, being the cynical guy I am, I always thought, yeah that’s just a way to humanise a big corporate, global machine. Until I got here I still kinda thought that, and then I met Enrique Comas. 

A few nights ago he was hosting us at a family dinner at Soho House, him and his brother (Adolfo) started telling a story about their grandmother. They were in their house in Miami and she’d have a bunch of people round, why wouldn’t you go there there was probably heaps of free booze. When they hosted cocktail hour it would get to the end of it and she would regale this tale about how she wished the entire family were in their real home in Cuba. She would make a toast saying ‘maybe next year’. Enrique made that toast and I saw a tear in that man’s eye and I realised that this is real, this is family, it’s not nonsense and that touched me, so thank you.’

What we have realised over the years of being involved in this competition is family is important in many ways to many of the competitors. Let’s be honest there aren’t many parents in the world who dream of their child becoming a bartender and therefore support, and more often recognition, from family is a big deal, something that being involved in a global cocktail comp final can give.

For, another top 8 competitor, Taiwan’s Grace Tsai this was certainly the case. Being not only the youngest child, but only daughter in her family, taking the step to leave home to become a bartender is something that is difficult to comprehend, add to the mix that her family doesn’t drink and it seems almost impossible. However there she found herself, on stage in-front of hundreds of thousands of global viewers making her drink. There is no doubt in anyones mind anymore her decision was the right one.

Ran Van Ongevalle
Ran Van Ongevalle

Connor Myers from Ireland also knew the importance of family. The morning of the global final, as he was preparing to join the other final 8 on the main stage, his mentor Alan Kavanagh called him from reception and asked him to come down immediately. As he stepped into the foyer his was greeted by his parents who unbeknownst to him had booked a ticket out months ago. That was the confidence they had, quiet rightly so, in their sons abilities.

The Van Ongevalle’s

The Bacardi family maybe one of the most successful in the spirits world, but when it comes to the bar world the Van Ongevalle family will give the Boadas family in Barcelona and Calabrese and Estes families in London a run for their money.

At the top of the tree is Jan, the father who started this whole affair. Jan came to bartending reasonably late in life and only opened his bar The Pharmacy in Knokke, Belgium in October 2013. You probably haven’t heard of Knokke, it certainly isn’t one of the towns you think of when you think of cocktails in Belgium.

Located in the northwest of the country on the border with The Netherlands it is a seaside town that see’s the well-to-do folk of the country descend during the holiday seasons. It may not have seemed the obviously place to open your first bar but as we discovered Jan, and his family, are not your normal bunch.

We got the low-down on the family from Ran’s sister Hannah the day after the competition, a prouder sister you wouldn’t have found anywhere else in the world that day. Both Hannah and Ran had different dreams growing up.

For Hannah her dream was to be an actress, so in her early teens the family gave her the opportunity to live out her dream and sent her off to Los Angeles, on her own. She went to classes, went to auditions and returned not so sure about that particular career. It was then she found her true calling, behind the bar at The Pharmacy.The-Family

Ran wasn’t so keen on acting, a model’s life was for him. In true form he was given the opportunity to pursue his dream and went to Tokyo and became a successful model over there (Hannah has some pictures of Ran in some extraordinary outfits if you ask nicely!). Once again though it was behind the stick at the family business he found his home.

They are more than a family of bartenders who work together however. Jan entered Bacardi Legacy in Belgium 5 years ago, although not with quite the success of his son. Hannah however made it a step further making the Global Final of World Class a couple of years ago. If that wasn’t added pressure for Ran then we don’t know what is.

Family Pride

They were all there on the night, the night than Ran triumphed over 37 other bartenders to take his crown. Before you could blink they were engulfing him on stage, tears were flowing, the family smile shone across the room.

It was a moment that summed up perfectly Bacardi Legacy.

The bad news is that the next in line has just turned 18. Noa is now behind the bar at The Pharmacy and god only knows what she will achieve. Be afraid.