Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The emcee cheat sheet and the watchful eye of World Barista Champion Stephen Morrissey.
My cover story for heading to Montreal was to judge the Canadian Barista Championship. However, since I do have a company to run, I wasn't able to attend the judges workshop on Sunday. Instead, I took an enjoyable drive up the East Coast yesterday and now have been pressed into service as a co-emcee with Leon from Cafe de la Presse here in Montreal.
I realise that it may seem odd and surprising for me to say this, but I really hate doing the emcee thing. It's excruciatingly painful and feels unnatural - especially when you have to read cold from a script and don't know anything about anyone. For me, it feels painful and contrived. I'd rather hide backstage. I'd prefer to leave it to other people whose egos really need the attention and adulation.
Plus, giving me the microphone can lead to risque banter that is unfit for a "G-Rated" audience.
All is well and good when the audience is limited to the forty-five people sitting in front of you. It's a whole different world when it's being broadcast live on the Internet to a worldwide audience. Somewhere, out there, I'm sure there's a secret group of Catholics meeting to decide if they should have an outcry because of my joke about a Muslim God crushing an ungrateful Catholic. It's a funny joke - if you get it. Next time I'll have to tell the one about the Filipino guy and the coconut.
The competition itself went well. Some of Canada's finest barista competitors battling it out for the spot to go to that most exotic of cities: Atlanta. Boring.
That's just the worst: bust your butt all year long to prepare for a competition that will, hopefully, land you a spot in the world championships and then you find out you're going to Atlanta. What a buzzkill. Atlanta is such a lame city that I don't even care about winning the USBC because winning means that you're going nowhere - just to Atlanta, which is pretty much nowhere.
Now, now, now, I know there's a lot of Atlanta supporters out there. Yes, Coca-Cola is from Atlanta and I do love me some Coke. But I just don't vibe with the city. I've been there twice: in 1987 and 2004 - and really, that's enough. And within four years, the SCAA holds their conference twice there? Talk about a lame organization.
The competition on a roll.
Anyway, enough about Atlanta. See, it just gets me so riled up. The Canadian Barista Championship went well. Lots of great competitors with some good ideas. Lots of good talent up there.
To be honest, I barely saw any of the competition. As emcee, I'm trying to read up on the notes they gave me and check on things backstage. There's really no time to watch. Plus, watching barista competitions is still quite excruciating for me. Maybe I'm just stuck in 2004 but as a spectator sport, it's really quite droll. How many competitors can you hear say: "I'm really excited to be here." Then, how come you don't look or act excited, buddy?
But maybe it's not that bad. This time, I only heard one competitor state that he/she was going to dose from the grinder. Back in 2004, everyone and their mother took us step-by-step as they did every little thing. THAT was excruciating.
Most of the competitors seem calm, smooth, relaxed. I like it here. In fact, I'm enjoying barista competitions outside of the United States where politics, cronyism and a general state of Taking Ourselves Too Seriously dominates the field. In other countries, I'm an outsider, a visitor, a guest. More importantly, I'm someone not enmeshed in their world of politics - which is a general recipe for a good time.
Four time Canadian Barista Champion Sammy Piccolo and his handlers.
The competition itself is improving. Vita and Les have really gotten their stuff together and things are flowing more smoothly than ever. The P.A. system is sounding good. They've got video. They're streaming it over the Internet. My image is being broadcasted on a global scale. Nice.
In the end, it all comes down to the scores and for the fourth time, continuing the unbroken Caffe Artigiano Dynasty, Sammy Piccolo has once again taken the Canadian Crown. Perhaps they'll put his face on the Looney.
Hmm. Dynasty. Hmmm. Let's review:
2008 - Sammy Piccolo - Caffe Artigiano, Vancouver, BC
2007 - Mike Yung - Caffe Artigiano, Vancouver, BC
2006 - Colter Jones - Caffe Artigiano, Vancouver, BC
2005 - Sammy Piccolo - Caffe Artigiano, Vancouver, BC
2004 - Sammy Piccolo - Caffe Artigiano, Vancouver, BC
2003 - Sammy Piccolo - Caffe Artigiano, Vancouver, BC
Who will dare to topple the Reign of Artigiano?
Maybe it's time to open a Spro in Toronto...