Japan’s Michito Keneko has been named as the winner of the 2015 Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender competition, beating the global field that gathered in South Africa for the final.
After four days of challenges and competitions Keneko was selected as the best from among the original 54 contenders by a panel of expert judges.
“When I heard my name, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I was in total shock,” Keneko said after the announcement. “I’m very happy to have won. This is definitely a turning point in my life. I can’t wait to tell my wife and family. But I must remember that even though I am the World Class champion, I must stay humble and true to myself and what I love.”
Thirteen years ago Michito quit his job as a construction worker to become a bartender, after tasting cocktails in his home region of Nara, Japan. Three years ago he opened his own bar in Nara, The Lamp Bar, where he is the manager and sole bartender.
Johanna Dalley, global director for World Class said: “Since its inception, World Class has been passionate about giving the best bartenders in the world the global spotlight they richly deserve.
“These are incredibly talented professionals whose skill is on a par with the world’s best chefs but who also deal directly with the public on a nightly basis, have the flexibility to create great drinks that to the exact specification of each and every one of their guests, be part sommelier, part maître d’, part host, part alchemist, part entertainer and part confidant.”
Keneko beat Australia’s entry, Jack Sotti of Melbourne’s Boilermaker House, to claim the title. Sotti had made it into the top six finalists, but failed to move beyond that to claim the top prize. As the winner Keneko now has the opportunity to travel the world as a global brand ambassador for World Class.