BARTENDER OF THE YEAR — And The Nominees Are...


BARTENDER OF THE YEAR — And The Nominees Are...

Counting Down To The 21st Staging Of The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards 2019 committee is pleased to announce the 13 nominees for the Bartender of the Year Award. The top five finalists will be selected on Monday, May 20 and the winner will be announced at the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards on Thursday, May 30 at Devon House.


Gossette Brown —Brown, currently a bar supervisor, has been employed for the last eight years at the multi-award-winning Rock House Hotel in Negril, Westmoreland. Brown is, too, the reigning Taste of Jamaica Bartender of the Year, Jamaica's culinary ambassador to the gastronomy product overseen by the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the lead bartender on the National Culinary Team, and a council member of the Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists Limited. Impressive credentials aside, his cocktails are truly memorable.


Donnine Wilson — Lead bartender at Half Moon Hotel. Wilson is the winner of Half Moon's Internal Bartender Competition, having developed several cocktails, including the festive libation dubbed 'Legacy 65' in celebration of the property's 65th anniversary.

Wilson beamed with pride when she shared her ideation behind the development of this cocktail. She wanted to make a connection with Half Moon's past and its present, using natural herbs and spices. The Legacy 65 cocktail is comprised of pimento liqueur, fresh ginger, lemongrass-infused syrup (lemongrass is used across the property, especially in the spa), fresh lime, pineapple juice (the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality) and Blackwell Rum. Wilson highlighted the connection with Blackwell rum and the Half Moon Hotel. Half Moon's Marketing & Communications Manager Danille Gordon confirmed that in 1958 Chris Blackwell, who had been teaching water-skiing at the Half Moon Hotel, decided to record the in-house jazz band led by Bermudian Lance Hayward, a young, blind jazz pianist. Blackwell's first recording, an LP of jazz standards released in 1959, was the genesis of his independent record label Island Records. In 2016, Half Moon paid homage to the band members and Chris Blackwell by hosting a historical retrospective celebration for the band and its work and exhibited the original copies of the album.


Andrew Weir — Bartender at Russell T-20 Restaurant & Sports Bar, Old Harbour.

Weir is a rising star, having begun his bartending journey about two years ago. He has found a passion for creating pleasurable, feel-good cocktails, and is aspiring to be a master mixologist, travelling and inspiring young bartending professionals to choose the bartending profession because they love it and can make a difference in providing high-quality customer service.


Adrian Johnson — Lead bartender/bartender supervisor at the Cliff Hotel, West End, Negril.

Johnson has worked for 20 years as a bartending professional. He began his career in 1999 as a bar porter, and has developed a passion for his job, honing his skills through training and coaching. Johnson has consulted on many a bartending project, cocktail and bar menu. He has won bartender of the year for Jamaica in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 and 2015, Johnson represented Jamaica in the annual Taste of the Caribbean competition held in Miami where he copped silver medals in both years. Overall, he has amassed over 15 medals, certificates and trophies.


Randeen Thomas — Lead bartender/mixologist at the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience, Siloah, St Elizabeth. Thomas is an ambitious bartender/mixologist who has been in the field for eight years. Thomas's first job was at Café Eurasia, then he moved on to several other bars and cafés where he has further moulded his craft. Thomas's participation in several competitions has also facilitated the enhancement of his skills. Thomas can be found on Instagram showcasing his cocktail skills using in-season local herbs and fruits.


Milton Wisdom — Bar supervisor at Cellar 8 Wine Bar & Bistro, Manor Park, St Andrew. Wisdom, bartender extraordinaire, is known for his sense of style. Wisdom attended Seaforth High School, the Caribbean Maritime Institute, Boys' Town Vocational Training Centre and JWN Academy. He has copped awards such as most outstanding student in Food and Beverage Level 2 and Dining Room Supervision Level 3 (NCTVET, NVQJ standards). Wisdom has been a bartender since 2014 and works with brands such as Appleton Estate and Campari. He is vice-chair of the Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists Bartender Council and is a double silver and bronze medallist at the 2018 Taste of Jamaica Bartender Competition.


Trevor Luke — Bartender at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, New Kingston.

Luke, also known by his Instagram pseudonym Cocktailblaque, has worked as a bartending professional since 2013. Luke credits his love for bartending from experiences gained working at the VClub, Struan Castle, the Spanish Court Hotel and now, the Marriott Courtyard. Luke sees mixology/bartending as his canvas and uses this for creating beautiful masterpieces highlighting levels of bartending gastronomy such as molecular cocktails and the use of smoke. Luke is a graduate of The Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines where he copped the Bartender Excellence Award and Senior Mixologist designation. He is determined to further excel in his career by building his talent through education and travel, taking his Jamaican style with international flair to the world.


Renee Watt — Mixologist at Chillin, Murray's Fish & Jerk Hut, Porus Clarendon

Watt's initial entry into the world of bars and bar service was in 2007 at Nan's Bar. Watt describes this experience as challenging as she knew nothing about alcohol and alcohol service, with the exception of seeing her dad, a rum lover, enjoy this libation with his friends. In 2013, she decided to focus on her career and began to research as well as engage in short courses. In 2017, Watt was employed by Kaluga Café as a bartender. During her time at Kaluga Café she further honed her skills. Watt explained that even though, at first, she found the role challenging, after a while she was dominating the bar. Watt felt very accomplished and more so as a woman dominating what is considered a man's profession. Watt furthered her skills at the JWN Academy in 2017. In 2018, Watt entered the Taste of Jamaica competition and walked away with numerous medals, winning overall second place/silver in the Bartender of the Year competition.


Melisa Fletcher — Bartender, The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Montego Bay, St James.

Born and raised in Lucea, Hanover, Fletcher attended Clapham All-Age School, Black River High School, and the Kenilworth HEART Academy. At HEART, Fletcher was trained as a garde manger chef and later proceeded to work at the Wyndham Hotel in 2006. Fletcher was further trained as a banquet server and bartender. Fletcher excelled in the bartender training provided and became very passionate about it as a career. In 2011, Fletcher was selected as a candidate to compete with other food and beverage specialists across Jamaica in the Taste of Jamaica competition. In 2012 and 2013, Fletcher shone bright and earned two trophies, six gold medals, seven silver medals, and four bronze medals. In 2014, the management of the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa asked Fletcher to assist in the preparation of the new coffee and juice bars, which also were successful. In 2015, Fletcher was selected for the general manager Merit Award at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa.


Vernon Johnson — Senior bartender, Island Entertainment (Margaritaville & Coral Cliff), Montego Bay, St James

Johnson has been a bartending professional for over 18 years and credits this longevity to his love for the profession. He acquired training and experience having worked at Sandals, The Ritz-Carlton and Secrets hotels. He also worked as bar manager for four years for VIP Attractions — Sangster International Airport. Service is the core of his professional expression. Johnson believes that to be a successful bartender the personality must reflect the profession. He considers himself as an all-rounder who learns something new each day and his style of creativity, customer engagement, and high service levels are reflected in his style of cocktails. Johnson has been nominated and copped a number of awards such as employee of the month and year.


St Aublyn Kidd — Head mixologist/bar supervisor, Grand Palladium Hotel & Resorts, Hanover

St Aublyn Kidd is an eclectic mixologist who goes by the moniker Captain Kidd, a name developed after being the captain/leader of each sport team he joined, and for his display of leadership. A St George's College and JWN Academy graduate, Kidd gained his formative bartending experience working as a storeroom clerk at Top Shelf Professional Food & Beverage service between 2007 and 2012. At that time, Kidd recounts that the management of Top Shelf wanted him to be a cook behind the bar. Kidd began researching topics like flips, brix ratios and slings and soon was enamoured of the possibilities presented by unusual spirits, classic mixes and new flavour profiles.

Kidd grew up in Seaview Gardens, a community in close proximity to J Wray & Nephew Limited, Select Brands and Red Stripe, and used his location advantage to successfully approach each entity for freelance opportunities. In 2010, Kidd was awarded the Jamaican Champion of The Appleton Estate International Bartenders' Showcase and in the following years competed in competitions such as Hennessy 250th Cocktail Competition and Bacardi Mojito Competition. Time spent at “689 by Brian Lumley” propelled Kidd towards celebrity mixologist status, allowing him to make several media appearances.


Maurice Tensang Chung — Lead mixologist at Cheers 39, Kingston.

Chung grew up in the Old Harbour and Portmore communities of St Catherine. He is a graduate of St Catherine High School and also completed studies at HEART Runaway Bay, Diageo Learning for Life and JWN Academy. At the end of the Learning for Life programme, Chung copped the Trailblazer Award for Bartending and Mixology. Chung's food and beverage career spans assignments at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, MV Regal Empress Cruise Lines, Long Horn Steak House, Bars To Go Party Service, and The Alibi Restaurant & Bar. Chung has represented globally renowned brands such as Appleton Estate and Campari. Chung's cocktail the Colbeck Negroni, was featured in Campari's Global Compendium Book of Cocktails. In addition, Chung is an adjunct trainer in mixology at The Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines and a member of the Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists Bartender Council.


Jermaine Wray – Lead bartender, Canoe Cove Villa, Mammee Bay, St Ann.

Wray has been employed as a bartending professional since 2007. Wray's journey began in the hotel industry where he worked within the concierge department for three years, then transitioned to the bar. He worked at Riu Club Hotel for 11 years and a little over a year at the Beaches Resorts. Wray believes that the professional bartender must be excited about his or her career, be creative, and a quick thinker. Wray describes himself as an ambitious, motivated and passionate bartending professional who is highly organised and results oriented. Wray's philosophy is that working hard towards a goal is the key to success. Wray is certified in supervisory management.



Continue to follow @jamaicaobserver and @bartendingacademyja for more information about this very prestigious and exciting designation.


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