No really, it happend…

March 27, 2009

Okay so I am narrowing the gap… only 5 months since my last post.  I can say however that the clip of the last 5 months has been higher than any in my life so far.  A short recap is in order…

November 08 – Intelligentsia Chicago had it’s annual in-house competition.  Blood, sweat, tears and the like were all spilled with the end result being a nice cast of new baristas getting their first taste with a few old hats sneaking into the top slots.  Jesse C., Talya S. and then myself placing 3,2,1 respectively.  We all went on to comprise the Chicago regional team.  This is also the month I saw my amazing friend and peer Talya move into the position as manager at my shop… Stellar.

December 08/January 09 – I worked like mad trying to figure out the 5 million details of how to pull a store anchored in the past through a remodel that push it to the edge of the future as I knew it.  Switching espresso machines, figuring out how to order/make/use ganache, learning how to dial in 6 coffees every morning, changing the way the customers in my shop order and what they expect when they receive their order and then transferring all of this knowledge to 15 other people…  Nothing in my life to this point has asked more of me than this remodel did and there is little else that has been as rewarding.  I highly recommend the experience to anyone who has the chance.

February 09 –   The Great Lakes Regional Barista Jam managed to sneak into this month.  It is hard to imagine that the skill level of the golden days where names like Matusak, Sather and Riddle were givens in the line up for the GLRBC finals could be matched, but this year I feel like the talent was there.  Talya, Jesse and myself all threw our hats into the ring regardless of how much time we had on hand and went against the best in the region.  Talya and myself, still a bit winded from the remodel did not show perhaps as well as we might have liked but were able to at least see good friends be rewarded for excellent displays of skill.  Husband, father and new shop/roaster owner Trevor Corlette broke into the finals and earned 3rd, Jesse (first time competitor) delivered an awesome 2nd place finish and a man more deserving than any I could imagine, Scott Lucey finally took the crown he has worked diligently for over the past few years.  This was not a field that just anyone could walk onto this year and that makes me smile.

March 09 – Sooooooo.  There was a meager amount of time between the GLRBC and the USBC.  For a second or two there it appeared that I might not be able to even attend the USBC.  Luckily for me fate grabbed me with force, shook off my disappointment and replaced it with a solid fire to try and redeem myself.  With the good graces of Intelly I used the week of training time I had to make a few tweaks, found a way and a place out there and packed my bags.  It was a whirlwind that still really hasn’t stopped yet.  I met amazing people, tasted amazing coffee and did my best to deliver what I could once given the chance.  Turns out it worked and I received what is probably the greatest honor that can be symbolized by a large silver trophy in the shape of an apron… I actually won the USBC.  It is to this point the most stunning and unexpected moment of my life.  The number of people who made it possible are vast but a few really stick out.  Talya and Charles, my Chicago anchors who supported, propped up and pushed me all the way through… Marcus Boni for being the first person to say there was no way I was going to get away with giving up after the GLRBC, a person who is constantly always amazing in general.. and last but not least Doug Zell.  In my life he has changed roles a few times going from coffee celebrity I read about on blogs to scary boss/company owner I avoid in the roasting works to competitive coffee maverick pushing boundaries where ever he can while taking along who ever is willing to push with him to the latest role of a good friend who knows when to give me the space to brush myself off and then the support to push further.  For all of these people and all of this success a lucky man am I.

Thank you everyone.

PS  hopefully some of these sections will be expanded in the not so distant future….

Inhouse competition

November 5, 2007

Okay, so Now that it has come and gone I finally have a minute to write a little something about the in-house competition we held this last Saturday at the roasting works. I had planned on an in depth run up with relevant pressing insight about the rigors of training, the pressures of being evaluated by your peers and of the turmoil involved in setting up such a thing. Well, once reality hit, I ended up spending most all of my time working real life bar shifts, training myself and getting ready for a monster trip to Seattle (along with a small amount of non-coffee related personal obligations). Its been busy. Thankfully, as my latest installment of near hits, it all went smoothly.
We had 7 baristas participate in the event, four of whom were brand new to the competition scenario. Everyone involved managed to pull off pretty stellar rounds. We had two trainers, 1 bar shift lead and 4 front line espresso slinging coffee warriors. The format was similar to BGA standard only we held off on the sig drink, just espresso and caps with 10 min. setup and 10 min stage time. There were a few close calls but in the end everyone made it under time. There was a morning round and an afternoon round with an average of the two scores being what determined the final ranking. I love that even with several new and nearly new competitors there was still all sorts of positive things I picked up from their routines. Each barista having a strong suit, be it hilarious and engaging personality, flawless cap latte art or freakishly rapid precision, made this a very diverse and close comp. The spread in the end was around 60 points between first and last, which if you are privy to knowing what comp scores normally are is a really tight field.
Overall the comp was a smashing success in my opinion. The skill level was head and shoulders above last year, everyone was solid and I feel like it gave that good spark of reinvigoration to folks that you always hope these type of events will deliver. Kudos to all, now time to set sights on the GLRBC host by the Midwest’s very own Alterra Coffee.

Stay tuned for Seattle….

found flickr….