What went through your head when your name was announced as the winner of Coffee Masters New York 2018?
I couldn't believe it, it was my dream come true. Of course I was really happy and excited to be crowned as the Coffee Masters champion, but what really went through my head is that all of the contenders were already winners and that all of my fellow baristas did a great job.
I believe that the standards of this competition are really high and being able to participate in it means that we are moving the specialty coffee forward.
Why did you enter the competition?
The real reason is because I like to compete. I believe that we all can be better in what we do, but we have to work hard and learn as much as we can through the process.
What are the different ways that you prepared for Coffee Masters?
In 2017, I competed in Coffee Masters London and I almost placed last. I didn't even pass the first round and I remember that my weak point was my signature drink. The judges told me that they liked my presentation but I was missing the "wow" factor. So for 2018, I wanted to prepare the best recipe ever and that's what I focused on the most.
Tell us about your signature drink, "First Impressions"?
My Signature Drink was inspired by the traditional cocktail, Old Fashioned. This is one of my favorite drinks and the idea was to give it a twist with some coffee. I decided to call it "First Impressions" because I think that first impressions are the most important thing in food and drink service, making a good first impression can take your clients to better experiences.
The coffee I used was a natural processed anaerobic fermentation coffee — it's very complex and unique and its flavor profile reminds me of apple pie. So I wanted to share this experience with the judges and bring a little piece of my homeland to New York City.
Why should guests come and watch the competition?
Because the standards are really high, guests are going to be impressed by the quality of drinks that are being served in this competition. Coffee Masters is a fast-paced and you get to see the contenders battling against each other in a short time frame — this makes the competition really exciting at every stage!
How has your life changed since receiving the Coffee Masters New York title and the grand prize?
I'm really happy with my success, but I know that I still have to work hard to improve and to accomplish all the projects I want to do in life. Since I started competing internationally, I've had the opportunity to meet and to work with outstanding baristas throughout the world and I believe this is the true reward out of it. I know friendships and memories are going to last forever compared to the material prizes.
Any other advice for this year’s contenders?
Just go for it and don't give up! Don't be afraid of competing and showing your skills to others, just enjoy the moment and I can assure you that hard work is always going to pay off. You will learn through the process and you are going to improve over time.
The big difference between the first time I competed when I almost placed last and to the time I won Coffee Masters was that I enjoyed every second I was out on stage and I was really happy to be there. This time I proved to myself that with a good attitude you can achieve whatever you set as a goal in your mind.
I hope this will motivate other baristas to try to accomplish whatever they want and that they can make it if they believe in themselves.