Well, I must say, this was a very exciting competition. Eleven contenders, lots of new faces. Amongst them, very refreshingly, two women: Hannah Van Ongevalle and Sofie Ketels. Everybody was very curious and already expected a lot from the new ones.
The first challenge was themed “Stars & The Theatrical”, for which they had to design their own signature cocktail inspired by famous actors, celebrities or movies. The goal was to entertain with their creations. Great drinks, great drama! The competition started with Jef Berben who made a wonderful performance as a parody on Darth Vader with his “Singleton Porthole”, containing Singleton, Jedi Bitters and a very outlandish shaking technique: “ the Imperial shake”. Dries Botty surprised us with a miniature red carpetwalk, complete with miniature sponsor wall and a polaroid groupselfie. Dieter Van Roy used American native arrows as cocktailsticks!
In the end it was Benjamin Bruyneel from Jigger’s (Ghent), who won the first challenge with a combination of Johnny Walker Blue Label, strawberry syrup amongst other ingredients. He hooked up his story on president Nixon and the famous Blue Moon song.
The second round was the market challenge, where each competitor received 20€ to visit the Aula, a local shop that opened especially for the Diageo World Class Competition, and where they could buy anything they wanted to make their second cocktail. Jürgen Nobels from Uncle Babe’s Burger Bar won this challenge.
But to win ,of course, one must score well on both challenges together and that is exactly what Hannah did. She blew our socks off in the second challenge with a very imaginative, but daring liquid variation on the famous aperitif dish: Ganda ham (or in her specific dialect pronounced as ‘hannah ham’) and melon. Talisker whisky, melon, basil, port, Carpano antica formula and Ganda ham, everything went in the shaker without hesitation and came out beautifully. Did we mention that in the meantime she performed a card trick on one of the judges?
Hannah works together with her father, Jan at The Pharmacy, their own speakeasy in Knokke at the Belgian coast. Jan Van Ongevalle said that he was proud beyond belief, even as we spoke his son Ran was attending another cocktailcompetition in London. So it runs in the family, you could say.
This girl, whose battle name is ‘Hannaconda’, has a lot more cards up her sleeve. There’s a great task upon her shoulders now. She has one month to prepare herself to beat the rest of the world – and by this I mean the best of the world – on the Diageo World Class Global Finals (taking place from 27/07 until 02/08 in the UK). A period of time which was described by former Belgian winner Carl Van Droogenbroeck’s wife, as hell on earth. Four weeks to become able to beat everybody sounds indeed like a daunting task, but Hannaconda is ready to go to war. At the table during dinner she quoted the American poetess Maya Angelou:
“I have learned that people will forget what you said, will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Diageo World Class Belgian Finalists:
1st place: Hannah Van Ongevalle (The Pharmacy)
2nd place: Benjamin Bruyneel (Jigger’s)
3rd place: Didier Van Den Broeck (Dogma)
1st Challenge winner: Benjamin Bruyneel (Jigger’s)
2nd Challenge winner: Jürgen Nobels (Uncle Babe’s Burger Bar)
A huge THANK YOU! from The Cocktail Nation to all contenders, you have all shown that the Belgian Cocktailscene is getting bigger and better each time again.
Keep on raising that bar, boys…and girls!