Taking place across three days in a sun-drenched villa in the north of the island, the seven finalists travelled from the UK, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, America, Singapore and Italy to present a drink and food pairing based around the Mediterranean ingredient of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
‘The cocktail I created is from two different drinks,’ she told Imbibe, ‘one is the Gibson and one is the Bloody Mary.
‘Everyone imagines Bloody Marys will come out a red colour with lots of crazy garnishes, so I was thinking if I can make a Bloody Mary look like a Martini how cool would that be? I clarified the tomato juice and as it’s lighter than usual, it helped to bring out the Gin Mare flavour.’
Judge Julian de Féral told Imbibe that what marked Chen above the rest was the simple fact that her drink was outstanding.
‘It read a bit weird on paper,’ he said, ‘but she absolutely nailed it; all the ingredients sang, it was simple but progressive, and the food pairing – not just what the chef prepared, but also the garnish, really worked, which wasn’t the case for some of the other drinks…’
‘Matt deserves some recognition too,’ said de Féral. ‘His drink was also outstanding… it was perfectly pitched, humble and personal while really understanding the brief.’
The finalists mixed their drinks in front of a judging panel featuring Jorge Balbontin, brand activation manager for Gin Mare, Julian de Féral, creative director of drink strategy at Gorgeous Group London, Diego Olmedilla, president at Facyre Spain (Federation of Chefs and Pastry Chefs of Spain), Marc Alvarez, bar manager at El Barri group (from Ferran and Albert Adria), and Cherry Wan, operations manager from Jia Group International.
As winner, Chen, who is originally from Taiwan, was awarded with a trip abroad to a five-star hotel and dinner at a three-star Michelin Restaurant.
Having presented their drinks, the finalists and Gin Mare’s international array of guests were treated to seminars from drinks experts focused around the divisive topic of sugar and its various incarnations, as well as two fast-paced nights out on the famous party island.
With the competition over, Chen and her fellow finalists, along with some of the judges, were flown to Barcelona for a night before heading to Gin Mare’s distillery.
‘My feedback to Gin Mare is maybe next year the competitors should have a little more time with the chef to realise their food pairing collaboratively – I felt it was the weakest link with some of the drinks,’ said de Féral.