Wednesday, November 15, 2006

9/25/06: 2nd World Kikisakeshi Contest, NY Regionals

On September 25th, I competed in the 2nd World Kikisake-shi (saké sommelier) Competition sponsored by Saké Service Institute. Shortly after applying, each applicant was e-mailed open book written test. Of all the entrants, 17 applicants including 5 no-shows were selected to participate in the second phase of the Contest, a closed book written test. The test was very technical and comprehensive, and would require knowledge of a brew master to receive a perfect score. After scoring, six contestants were selected to proceed to the finals. To my surprise and relief, I was one of the six finalists, competing with the rights to represent New York/East Coast Region in Japan.

Four of the finalists were sommeliers or beverage managers from some of the very best Japanese or fusion restaurants in the City. Megu Midtown, Sakagura, Sushi Hana, and Sushi Samba were all represented in the finals. Another finalist is a daughter of Tenranzan brewery. Needless to say, the competition was fierce.

The finals began with tasting test, followed by service performance presentation in front of a three-person panel. Although I was confident in the tasting and technical knowledge of the sakés, I must admit I had very little idea regarding service performance.

Approximately four hours after the testing began, the winners were announced. The announcement was preceded by proclamation that the scoring was very competitive, and that level of knowledge was far greater than they had expected. The third place went to Ms. Chizuko Niikawa from Sakagura Restaurant. The second place was awarded to Mr. Masatoshi Omichi of Megu Midtown. By a very small margin, Mr. Paul Tanguay of Sushi Samba bested the field, crowned as the champion of New York/East Coast Region.

While it is extremely disappointing to come up short at the final stage, all the finalists were worthy contestants. I am confident that Mr. Tanguay, as a Beverage Director/Saké Sommelier of Sushi Samba as well as four-time judge of the US National Saké Appraisal, will make New York proud. In the end, having witnessed first hand the quality of efforts put forth by these individuals and their establishments, I realized that ultimately, the New Yorkers are the biggest winners of all.

No comments: