Timothy Ching from Hong Kong has just won first place in the Beefeater MIXLDN Bartender Competition 2017. The Champion mixologist sat down to answer a few questions concerning his journey through entering the career to finding his passion in bartending.
So tell us a little bit about yourself. Where can we currently find you working and what is your position there?
I’m the Head Mixologist for Le Comptoir. Our group includes a serial of restaurants. From the acclaimed and art-centric Bibo, Hong Kong’s only Relais & Châteaux member, to lively and laid-back 1950’s California surf scene-inspired Hotshot, contemporary Balinese haven TRi and spectacular seafood fine dining at The Ocean, Hong Kong’s first Nipo-Brasileiro restaurant and whisky bar house over 420 exclusive Japanese Whiskeys, Djapa, and the 10-place sushi counter traditional Edomae sushi experience Umi.
How long have you been in the hospitality industry in Hong Kong and where did it all start?
It all stretches back to 2001, Birmingham, England. Back then I was just like every other student out there who would like to make some extra pocket money to enhance our social lifestyle. I was just giving out CV to wherever has the vacancy available, without knowing where it might take me. The first call back was from a cocktail bar named "Digrees". Back then I was only 17, not old enough to go to the bar yet, so I was starting from the very bottom as a "glass-collector", clearing tables, picking up empty bottles, washing and polishing glasses, sweeping, mopping etc...
It all became interesting when I turned 18 and actually started bartending. I was blessed learning from some of the best-talented flair bartenders at the early stage. Passion and love towards this job started growing from the moment I put my heart and mind into my practice, and hopefully one day I will be as good, and as cool as them behind the bar. During that time, the bar was my stage to showcase what I have been practicing and working hard on during my off time.
The turning point was when I realized throwing bottles around was only an extra bonus point in bartending when I came back to Hong Kong back in late 2006. The culture and the pace of Hong Kong were not appreciating throwing bottles and tricks. And then my bartending style became more focused on our guests' needs and preferences, quality of the products and cocktails--the whole guest experience that we now always mention.
What major changes have you noticed in the bar scene in Hong Kong over the last years?
Hong Kong is such a fast-growing place. As one of the upcoming foremost bar metropolises, Hong Kong has enjoyed “phenomenal” growth in the spirits sector in recent years, spawning several bar hot-spots “now shaking up world-class cocktails.” In my humble opinion, beside the top shelf stuff, agave type spirits specifically — Mezal, could be the next Gin in coming years.
What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?
We work and live in this hospitality industry, we meet new and interesting people every day. They all have new experiences and stories for us to learn from. Most of all, this industry allows us to be surrounded by talented creative people who are all about sharing the experience to grow together, what an excitement it is! Furthermore, this is what we love with a passion. Waking up and looking forward and planning what you love to do, is a great way to start our day indeed.
You made it to the finals and became the Beefeater MIXLDN 6 World Champion that took place in London, United Kingdom. How do you feel about that?
Competing alongside some of the best talented in the world from 32 different countries, intensively for 3 days straight, battling through all the different challenges… we shared heaps of laughter, ideas, tears and joy. Every moment was unique and every competitor had their own stories to learn from.
At the end of the day, simply having the chance to spend time with them all, while enjoying all the fun informative tours given by Beefeater, makes that the best week of my life.
Are there any competitions later in the year that you are planning to enter?
No plans for any competition yet. As from now, I have less than a year to maximize all the possibilities with this new title, until the next Global champion is born. I think it's all about planning, marketing, regrouping and refocusing.
How often do you create new cocktails and where do you find your inspiration to create your masterpieces?
Whenever I came across new favours, ingredients or techniques, I always try to dig a little deeper to see if there are any fun facts and stories behind. Also, as I used to be a fine art student, I also relate my cocktail with famous art pieces e.g. Water Lilies from Monet, Aya Takano style of fun colour present, Ice sphere from Othoniel etc...
Finally, what is your drink of choice when you have some time off?
A pint of cold lager can go a long way :)
Watch the recap of Timothy Ching, Head Mixologist of Le Comptoir at MIXLDN 6 Global Final Recap Video in London, UK.
Interview by Nick Willsher