Essex bartender wins thanks to flair with a touch of magic

TGI Fridays Rob Stephens flair cocktail bartender

A bartender from Essex is to represent the UK in TGI Fridays’ competition that seeks the company’s best cocktail-maker in the world based on the quality of their drinks serves and flair technique.

Rob Stephens, who has worked behind bars at the restaurant group for over 20 years, was one of seven bartenders who took part in the UK final at TGI Fridays in Covent Garden in London.

In front of six expert judges, they started with the Best Bartender Challenge which assessed them for overall service, the quality of their cocktails and their flair technique. Four of them went on to the second challenge, called The Greatest Showman, focused on just their flair technique.

Rob’s routine included a multitude of stalls, balancing acts, signature moves including “The Crucifixion” and even some magic tricks. He was praised for his flair technique coupled with the great taste of his Long Island Iced Tea and other cocktails served up under pressure.

Rob Stephens TGI Fridays Basildon cocktail flair

Rob, who works at TGI Fridays in Basildon, won the top prize of £2,000 and will represent the UK in the World Bartender Championships in Nashville, Tennessee, in March, competing against people from TGI Fridays restaurants across the globe.

Hundreds of bartenders from around the UK entered the competition for 2020. The road to the final began in May last year when they were put through two challenges. The first was a 90-minute written exam that quizzed them on all aspects of being a TGI Fridays bartender, from their knowledge of more than 100 cocktail recipes to intricate details on the history of the company.

Only about 20 reached round two which was a bootcamp where they underwent rigorous testing for higher-level cocktail making and saw their routines, pour measuring, speed and knowledge all put to the test. This led to the selection of the bartenders to compete at the UK final.

Dawn Cheetham, head of culture for TGI Fridays, said: “We’re so proud of all our bartenders from start to finish who took part in the UK Bartender Challenge this year. We think this year has been up with one of the best we’ve had, and it shows that it’s growing year on year. I wish our winner Robert the very best of luck at the world championships and I know they will do the United Kingdom proud.”

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