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Young Baristas on the Runway

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Raj preparing his Victory sign for SNBC

This year 2010, we have a total of 5 strong participants going for the Singapore National Barista Championship (SNBC) competition. Out of these 5 competitive barista, we have our regular stars John Ting & Keith Loh in the game, as well as first timers Vignesh S/O Surandran, Rajan S/O Subramanian and Astro Mastroianni Gajendran.

In short, SNBC is a barista competition held at a national level and it is open to all barista enthusiasts. At the same time, SNBC also aims to

  • Promote the growth, excellence & recognition in the Barista profession in Singapore.
  • Growing the Barista’s knowledge of and expertise in the preparation and serving of specialty, espresso coffee through competitions.
  • Promoting the knowledge and consumption of specialty coffee to the consumer through the Barista.

see link – http://www.singaporecoffee.org/forms%5CmediaRelease081106.htm

I had a short conversation with these 3 new baristas earlier and realised that they each have a very special background and passion for coffee. Take Rajan S/O Subramanian (Raj) for instance, he did not use to enjoy coffee as much as he does now. His first encounter with coffee making is with automated coffee machine where it can churn out different types of coffee at the touch of a pre-programmed button. Until he found his way to Whitebait & Kale (another successful restaurant owned by Keith, previously located at Camden Medical Center), that’s when he started learning about coffee beans and the steps to preparing a good cup of coffee.

Acquiring only 16months of barista experience, he has great skills in detecting the various aromas and flavours that can be found in good coffees. He grew to appreciate coffee along the way and he found that coffee could be such a versatile beverage, where there are so many ways to enjoy and so much room for creativity and developing new coffee drinks.

Seizing the opportunity of 2010 SNBC, Raj decided to push himself to maximum, he wants to test if he could remain compose while maintaining consistency when working under pressure of speed and from judges scrutiny. He mentioned that this is his first time taking part in a competition for work purpose, and he is extremely excited for the day to arrive. Apart from wanting to discover his real talents as a barista through this competition, Raj also jokingly claimed that he wish to be ranked at least within the Top 10 listing if not able to defeat Keith.

Raj’s signature coffee beverage for the competition will be Masala Espresso, where he obtained his inspiration from his Dad’s favourite beverage – Masala Tea. He realised that Masala has so many aromatic components that could pair really well with espresso when given the right concoction.  We are all eager to know the outcome of this wonderful drink Raj has created!

Forever Cool-looking Vic is ready to charm the judges

When I found the chance to dig up some information from Vignesh S/O Surandran (Vic) about his preparation for the coming SNBC, I detected some sort of delightfulness in his tone of speech. He was really cool when conveying a message to me that he had nil knowledge about coffee and even hated coffee before he started working in Oriole Cafe & Bar. He rejected coffee for its bitter taste in the past, but after 13 months of contact and learning about coffee everyday, he is able to accept coffee in many ways. Most importantly, he realised that coffee can taste sweet eve without adding any sugar to it, as the many flavours within the roasted bean is good enough to have it just the way it is.

Having served thousands of cups of coffee ever since his joined date in Oriole, Vic decided to challenge his own capability for the first time through national standard competition. With very strigent marking criterias, Vic is determine to find out his ‘position’ among Singapore Baristas. So I continued pestering to find is there is 1 thing that he should really improve? After a long thought, he told me that the only thing he needs more training on will be ‘the way’ to tell the judges just how good he is (*laughs*). Little did i expect such a statement to be coming out from a serious-looking Vic.

He carried on to share that the reson for him to come out with his signature drink this time is because he loves this dessert very much, and hence decided to incorporate it into a coffee drink – Apple Strudel. Vic first job started some 9 years ago in a German restaurant, and back then the signature dessert served in the restaurant was Apple Strudel. The dessert was so good that it captivated Vic and because this is his first crucial competition, he swears to showcase this unique pairing to the best he could.

Last but not least, we have Astro Mastroianni Gajendran (Astro) in the house, happily sitting at a corner, hoping that i can catch up with him to gather information about his signature drink for the Barista competition this season. Well, since Astro is so passionate about sharing his ‘trade secret’, I paid full attention to his story. A little different from Raj & Vic, Astro loves coffee to begin things with, but he was barely exposed to the interesting history and knowledge of coffee. Astro is also facinated with the kind of flexibility coffee bean has. “It is very interesting because there is no 1 fixed flavour in coffee. Various flavours could be determined simply just in the way you roast it.” revealed by Astro.

Astro studied automotive in Malaysia for a living, but because of some forceful fate, Astro was offered a job in Whitebait & Kale, and later got posted to work in Oriole Cafe & Bar. Being in Oriole, he does not just want to be a mediocre wait staff! He exclaimed that his aim is to choose a task and he wants to excel in, and so he picked coffee. I could sense that Astro has got some in-born talents in coffee as he was so elaborative about all sorts of coffee types and explained how taking part in the SNBC can be a very good way to showcase himself and coffee to the coffee industry in Singapore. He is proud to represent Oriole and shout out to the industry that the best way to enjoy coffee is by tasting quality coffee ‘WE’ serve.

His enthusiasm in coffee has encouraged him to come out with his favourite snack of all time, chocolate and strawberries. He discovered that since strawberries are good to go with chocolate fondue, and many chocolate cakes are also often topped with fresh strawberries, he believed that it might be a good idea to co-experience this with his most preferred coffee drink – macchiato.

He is really in anticipation for this competition to kick off, because back in Malaysia, there aren’t as many occassions for similar competition to take part in. Astro is proud to tell his family and friends that he is given a very good opportunity to show others what he have learnt about coffee-making and also to learn from the better challengers. At the end of the day, Astro wish to bring back these knowledge that he has received to his hometown and share it with people who are not exposed to coffees that can be infused with many different flavours and still taste very awesome. 

Astro is all set to WOW you with his signature coffee beverage

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Categories: random

BREAK-ing FREE

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Finally the long-awaited hoarding in front of us has ‘officially‘ came down, and a walk-way between us and 313 @ Somerset is paved! To me, this is like a whole new beginning for Oriole, with the bright warm rays flooding into the interior of our friendly nesting ground. Also, the sight of rapid human traffic flow beyond the alfresco area is just the kind of visuals we desire to achieve – – “people-watch“.

I do not know what kind of mixed feelings you may have, but to me, whether it is a sunshine morning, tired afternoon or good-to-catch-up evening,  it really feels relaxing to be sipping a wondeful cup of freshly-brewed Piccolo Latte and get tucked away in a cooling alfresco corner to watch the town whirl into another shopping madness.  A little unexpected surprise came from the elongated pond next to our alfresco dining tables. I could not imagine the amount of effect it has added to the atmosphere for outdoor dining and espescially so for a good happyhour chill out!

If you haven’t been around since the opening of this Somerset Discovery Walk, I think you should really have to book a slot in your busy weekend schedule to come check out the kind of ambience I have been bragging about here.

Categories: random