Diageo Reserve’s World Class brought the emotions, talents and aspirations of 20 of Britain’s most talented bartenders together to compete in three testing challenges over two days. Each bartender brought their own character and qualities. However, it was Cameron Attfield who wowed the judges the most. I grabbed Cameron immediately after his win, still clutching his trophy. Here’s what he told me.
“Last year I was not at all polished so I came in a little bit unorthodox, but I was a little bit too unorthodox. So I’ve spent a lot of time watching Dan Warren, because obviously Dan pipped me to the post. What I noticed about Dan was that he was very clean, very coordinated and really really precise as well.
“I wanted to incorporate some of that but still stay true to myself and still be kind of unique in my own way. I tried to to incorporate my personality while making it more World Class, a bit more polished, a bit cleaner and a bit more unique but still with that level of slight unorthodoxy. A little bit of swagger if you will.
“The speed round went really really well. Initially when the drinks were called I thought I had a semi-bad deal because I had two shaken, including an Espresso Martini, two built and a stirred, so a lot of different styles of drinks.
But it’s about a methodical approach, so what I did was what I’ve learned over my bartending career. It’s about round building and essentially how to do it in the right order. I realised I could build two at once, shake two at once, and stir the final one.
In the end I had just over a minute left on the speed round. I made five drinks in just under three minutes. I utilised that time to engage with the crowd and interact with the judges, but also to cheer on Max who was going up against me. We’ve known each other for a while, so there was a bit of everything in the speed round. I'm super stoked that I managed to do it so fast.”
“Initially I was a little bit worried that I didn't convey everything I wanted to get across. I think that was brushing off a bit of nerves. You’re always a little bit harsher on yourself and a lot of times you probably did say what you wanted to say but don’t realize that you did because the nerves kick in. The time starts and then suddenly, there's a minute left. It's not a blur but you wonder, did I say everything and cover all the points I wanted to get across?
It was definitely a bonus that I went to Billingsgate fish market at 6am and hand-shucked the oysters myself. I contemplated whether to do it but the idea was to tie everything together to have a clear reason. After all, whisky, honey, oysters and strawberries is not your classic combination, but I wanted to incorporate something quite unique but still make a delicious product in the end.”
“I was actually super happy with my Ketel One round. I chose to do something a little bit different which I wouldn't think a lot of people are doing, which was peas. I made an awesome pea champagne and I've got to give a big shout-out to Sam Orrick who helped me with the carbonation because the carbonation was a key part of it.
I finished quite strong. The judges seemed to like it. It was a very genuine presentation because everything I was saying I genuinely believe. It was a unique drink made with produce from around the corner. Essentially it wasn't too much of a presentation, just explaining why and how I made it. I think that was why I was a lot more comfortable. So I really enjoyed the Ketel One round and I came away from it feeling quite happy.”
I thought each and every bartender was great in their own right. I'm not just saying that, because, whether you've been in the bar scene ten years or one year you can still learn something from everyone. Someone might pick up a glass differently or garnish their drinks slightly differently and you might look at that and think I’ve never tried doing it that way before.
For me there were a couple of close competitors. I thought Luke Robinson in the Singleton round deliverednone of the funniest and best presentations I’ve seen. It was insane. The character he brought out transported you to somewhere else as well.
The strongest competitors came second and third. Jo Last for sure was amazing. I know her quite well. She has that natural Savoy hospitality, she's very clean, organized, calm and collected. I heard great things about Sean Fennelly before I came here and I knew he was the one to watch out for. For me he's been one of the best competitors. He's a great guy and has so much talent.
“I grew up in London. I was born in Camden and grew up in Islington. I'm a true Londoner, so my inspiration for the Ketel One challenge was memories of getting fish ‘n’ chips and mushy peas every Friday. I also used to get battered sausage which is even more London.
“I started bartending about ten years ago now. I'm 30 now so getting a bit old, as a bartender anyway! I only started to take it seriously when I moved to Australia about five years ago.
It's funny because it was when I was in Australia I met Jack Sotti, the GB World Class Ambassador, and he taught me a lot. He doesn't really know this, but he's been someone I've really aspired to be like because he’s not only a great bartender and a great host, but he's very humble. He's unique and has a lot of presence when he enters a room. It's about conveying what you want to do naturally but also having a bit of poise. For me, Jack is one of my biggest idols in the industry. That's because I've learnt so much from him directly and indirectly.
In Australia I worked for the Speakeasy Group and was lucky enough to win a couple of awards before ending up in New Zealand and opening my own bar for a little bit. Then I moved back to London and was lucky enough to work at Dandelyan. I’ve just taken over Disrepute in Soho so it's basically going from strength to strength. But I thank the industry and I thank everyone around me for it because it's only people within the industry, my peers, that I really aspire to be like. It's down to them, not me.
Where I want to end up is twofold. Ideally, like every bartender, I want to have my own bar. I also want to consult but not high-end consultancy, I want to help make the everyday hospitality worker be a little bit better. By that I mean with a bit more education and understanding of what their guests want. You should be able to walk into any bar, any restaurant, be met by a friendly welcome and receive a certain level of service.
I'd like to educate the bar scene and help them learn and grow. Not necessarily just high-end cocktails, although I'd love to do that as well, but just help build the hospitality sector from the ground up and really re-explain essentially what hospitality is about. It's about having a good time, it's about being comfortable and it's about enjoying yourself. You don’t have to make ten ferments and have the craziest drink.