On 18 February the final of the Polish edition of Bacardi Legacy Competition was held in Wieliczka. The final was won by Mr Rafał Nawrot, the bartender working at Qubus Hotel Prestige Katowice.
Karolina Celińska: The victory means not only enormous prestige but also next step in Bacardi Legacy Competition. Could you remind us what were the preliminaries like from the very beginning? And what is waiting for you now?
Rafał Nawrot: Everything started from sending my application to Bacardi Legacy Competition in which I had to create my own genuine cocktail and describe it. From all the applications sent from Poland, mine turned out to be one of the 20 that qualified. In November the second stage in which 3 best bartenders were selected took place. The last stage was held in Wieliczka. I am the winner which means I will be representing Poland in the World Final in Puerto Rico. I am looking forward to a wonderful journey to Miami in the first place, where I will be able to participate in 5-day workshops for bartenders delivered by David Cordoba, the global ambassador of Bacardi brand. Then I will go to Puerto Rico to rival bartenders from all over the world in Bacardi Legacy Grand Final.
KC: How do you prepare for the Final?
RN: Training for such an event is really hard work. I am doing my best to eliminate every little mistake each day. I pay a lot of attention to details. I improve my moves, style, watch films from previous editions, talk to last year’s winners, ask them for advice etc. I am working to make my presentation flawless. It's not easy as I will have only 10 minutes during the Final to prepare my cocktail and tell about my inspiration.
KC: How did your adventure with the art of bartending start? What does one have to do to reach your level?
RN: I have been a bartender for almost 7 years. I think one could tell that I didn’t choose it. The art found me itself. There was a day when I came to one of music clubs in Katowice to ask about a job. They told me I could wash the dishes and that's how it started. I liked the tricks that bartenders could do and I wanted to be like them. I started to apply for competitions, joined the Polish Bartenders Association and I practised and practised all the time. I think it was my persistence and ambition that brought me here, to this stage of my professional career. I am sure I’ve made the right decision and I wouldn’t change it for any other option.
KC: Where do your inspirations come from?
RN: In Bacardi Legacy Competition I was inspired with combination of Polish and Caribbean cultures. In my presentation I mixed Polish hard work and persistence with Caribbean openness and fun coming from their lifestyle. Who else joins those qualities if not the bartender? I think that a bartender can express multiculturalism with his attitude. I try to learn from the best, so this is why I can say that other bartenders are also my inspirations. I have managed to work out my own bartending style in the course of my career. I am constantly striving for perfection.
KC: What skills are the most important in the job in your opinion?
RN: You must know how to learn from others and observe those bartenders who are older, have more experience and are more advanced in their technique in the first place. Gastronomy develops very dynamically and you must keep up with the progress. If you want to achieve success you must be patient and work on your skills, improve your technique. You cannot be just another passive observer. Inventiveness and creativity are also important as the job is based on ability to come up with new recipes and creations of cocktails. If you can’t make your own compositions, you cannot call yourself a bartender. It’s also your agility behind the bar that matters, your fitness and ability to show off your own, genuine style. All these elements turn the bar into a kind of theatre, and the bartender is the actor, screenwriter and director in one person.
KC: As a professional bartender you surely do know some tricks of the trade as well as the latest trends. What is trendy in the art of bartending these days?
RN: Recently the so-called 'tiki cocktails' are getting more and more popular. They are exotic cocktails, fruit cocktails based on rum such as 'Mai Tai' or 'Zombie'. The fashion comes from the West, which shows that the art of bartending in Poland is going in the right direction. The basis for creating such cocktails is the knowledge of mixology. It's the field of science which deals with mixed drinks. The science tells us how certain ingredients should be mixed and composed to obtain proper colour, balance of taste and aroma as well as consistency of the mixed drink.
KC: What have you learnt during your work at Qubus Hotel?
RN: In the first place I’ve learnt how to work in a large and strong group, where individual departments must cooperate to create one team. Working at Qubus Hotel Prestige, one of the best 4-star hotels in Katowice is a real prestige. I have a free hand here as far as creating of cocktails is concerned, so I can develop my skills constantly. Most of the people who visit Sky Bar know me and my skills, so they often ask me to make some special composition, which I make in accordance with their tastes. I am really happy when I see that Guests enjoy my proposals. I always try to suggest something unconventional. I try to make my drinks genuine, even if they are truly classical compositions. At the moment, at Sky Bar, I am happy to work with bartenders who have a vocation for the job. I love my job and it fills a huge part of my life. I am a lucky guy to do the thing I love. Somebody said that it’s the most masculine job in the world and it's true by all means.