After taking the globe by storm at the World Class final of the year in Miami 2016, Jennifer Le Nechet is not only the world’s best bartender but the first female winner in the competition’s history. Back in her native France, we catch up with her to find out about her experience at the finals, inspiration and goals as she looks ahead to her year as World Class Bartender 2016…
Q: Tell us a little bit about you?
I have been bartending for about 5 years. Before this I studied Spanish and American Latin Literature and Culture. It was during my studies I had the chance to live in Spain for a year, where I discovered a new culture and lifestyle. When I got back to Paris I decided to work in the hospitality business.
I started to work in a classic French brasserie. This was only meant to be a temporary position but I found myself very comfortable behind the bar, and loved that every day was different and I got to meet lots of new and interesting people. I heard that Cafe Moderne in Paris was looking for a bartender so I decided to apply. I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to work there.
Q: What made you enter World Class?
On joining Café Moderne I meant Mido, the owner, who introduced me to a range of new cocktail techniques. When I first applied for the job I was asked if I was keen to learn and push boundaries by participating in cocktail competitions, and after a few weeks Mido started to share his experience of World Class with me. Mido competed in World Class 2014 where he placed third - so he had a lot to teach me!
I was very curious about World Class because I always wanted to challenge myself professionally. I became increasingly inspired behind the bar in Cafe Moderne and after 6 months I finally had the opportunity to express myself when I was given the chance to put a couple of my cocktail creations on the menu. Mido guided me and taught me how to express my creativity and find my own style. World Class was the first ever cocktail competition I entered. The whole experience was amazing and when my name was announced as the winner I was overwhelmed! I’m excited now for what the year ahead will bring. Watch this space…
Q: Where do you take your inspiration from?
I find my inspirations everywhere, from different kinds of art in the kitchen, movies, music or books. One of my favourite hobbies is travel; this really helps inspire me by introducing me to other cultures.
Q: What does being crowned the World Class Bartender of the Year mean to you?
I worked very hard for a year to get ready for the competition. It’s a marathon where you constantly have to perform. To be crowned World’s Best Bartender in Miami means so much to me.
Q: What was your favourite serve from the competition?
One of my favourite serves was the punch I made during the Superstar Pool Party challenge. My punch is called El Taco Rojo and I took inspiration from the Mexican culture to create this drink. I served it in a bespoke taco tiki glass, which was made by a famous French artist. I infused Don Julio Blanco with grilled corn (using the sous-vide cooking technique), added my homemade soda (a beautiful mix of bell peppers, basil, lime juice and spices), and garnished with my homemade sun salt mix. I believe it was the perfect cocktail for the pool party spirit.
Q: Why would you encourage other bartenders to get involved with World Class in 2017?
The World Class competition is not just about ability, it's like a marathon - endurance and regularity is the key to succeed in this amazing competition. I would encourage every bartender to enter the World Class Competition if they are ready to showcase their skills and creativity by spreading love through cocktails; and of course to meet fellow bartenders from all over the world.
Q: Where is your favourite city in the world to enjoy a cocktail?
I would definitely say Paris. There are so many incredible bars which have opened in the last few years and the cocktail culture is exploding. London is also one of the best cities I’ve visited. I’m looking forward to travelling to many more cities in my role as a Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador.
Q: What are your recommendations to have a World Class weekend in Paris?
My top 3 recommendations for having a World Class weekend in Paris are
Q: What things should we look out for in the cocktail scene in 2017?
Aperitif cocktails are a huge trend right now, bringing old French brands back into fashion. I’ve also seen a lot of new techniques inspired by the kitchen being brought into cocktail making. In France it has been long tradition to pair food and wine but now food pairing with cocktails is becoming extremely popular. Bartenders are increasingly working like a chef by sourcing amazing products to highlight the flavour of cocktails.