NZMA graduate Suchit Chhetri has been named New Zealand’s Cocktail Champion of the Year.
The 22 year old from Dehradun, India scooped the prestigious award at the recent NZChefs National Salon following an intense knockout round in the Cocktail Smackdown. Up against many of the country’s top bartenders, Suchit was the youngest in the competition – and having only graduated from NZMA three months ago, quite possibly the least experienced.
“I was so surprised I won! There were bartenders from Hilton Hotels, Sofitel, Skyline Rotorua and Mercure, who were all more experienced than me, so I really wasn’t expecting it,” he said.
After competing in the Innovative and Classic Cocktail Open classes Suchit moved onto the Cocktail Smackdown, which featured a giant spinning wheel with ten classic cocktails on it. A spin of the wheel determined which cocktail each contestant had to make. After three high-pressure rounds, with just five minutes to make each drink, Suchit emerged the victor.
“It was very intense! But it was an awesome experience and I think winning this title will help me grow my career within the hospitality industry.”
This is not the first time Suchit has gained industry recognition. Last year when he was studying towards his Diploma in Advanced Hospitality Management Level 6 at NZMA, he competed in the NZChefs National Salon and took home both gold and silver medals.
“We did so much practice for last year’s competition and it helped me a lot. The knowledge those NZMA tutors have is amazing! Actually I think competing last year really marked the start of my bartending career.”
Since then his career has come on in leaps and bounds. During his NZMA studies Suchit landed a job at the Rendezvous Grand Auckland as a Food & Beverage Attendant. He was quick to impress, and is now Head Bartender there.
“I love it. I look after the bar, create new cocktails, and make sure the service is up to standard. It’s about a lot more than just customer service. I make people happy by making them new and classic cocktails. My customers are demanding and that is what challenges me. I create, I discover new drinks, meet and greet new people…and most of all, I always keep mixing!”
Suchit came to New Zealand in 2014 to further his studies and gain international hospitality exposure. He already had a degree in Hospitality under his belt and had worked for Hyatt hotels in India. The skills, experience - and awards - he has accumulated since moving here will undoubtedly stand him in great stead as he works towards his goal of becoming a top Food & Beverage Manager.