In this series, we learn more about Coffee In Good Spirits, a competition that challenges baristas to make delicious coffee + alcohol beverages. Here we profile Victor Delpierre, a World CIGS champion.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Victor Delpierre
Since 2005, the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship has challenged competitors to make delicious beverages combining coffee and alcohol. In a new series on Barista Magazine Online, we get to know the competition and talk to some of the organizers, champions, and others who have helped bring it to life. Read more about Coffee in Good Spirits here.
Victor Delpierre has been interested in the culinary arts from as early as he can remember. Born in Calais in Northern France, Victor’s early dreams of being a pastry chef led him to culinary school, which eventually brought him to culinary competitions. It was here that he discovered coffee and its endless flavor possibilities; Victor combined this newfound passion with his existing love of cocktails and decided to take part in the Coffee in Good Spirits Championship. In 2013, he earned the competition’s highest honor by winning the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship. Victor now serves as a consultant focused on coffee and spirits, where he frequently develops creative beverages for brands and restaurants. We talked to Victor about coffee as an ingredient, why CIGS is a challenging competition, and much more.
Chris Ryan: What did you study in school, and what did you think you would do for a job? How did you get interested in coffee?
Victor Delpierre: I was at culinary school for five years—my childhood dream was to become a pastry chef. I discovered coffee in 2007 when I was preparing for the Maître d’Hôtel Championship in France. Barista skills were part of the competition but I didn’t drink coffee at the time, so I decided to take part in a training with former France National Barista Champion Ludovic Loizon. During five days I discovered a new way of life as I fell in love with coffee.
How did you come to compete in CIGS, and how did winning the 2013 championship impact your life?
Before the CIGS championship I was working in fine-dinning gastronomy. I was assistant director of the all-day dinning restaurant at the Ritz Hôtel in Paris when the hotel closed for four years of renovation. I had extra time on my hands, so I was able to prepare myself for the CIGS competition.
After winning, I was thinking I would continue the same life, but in fact coffee changed everything! I started traveling a lot. My first tour as world champion was in Russia on the Red Square with people I saw as big coffee stars. It was an amazing experience of sharing coffee knowledge and how to play with coffee. Step by step my daily life changed, and I was called to be part of great events in different countries.
What is interesting to you about the overlap between barista skills and bartending skills? How does CIGS explore that intersection?
The DNA of the CIGS competition is to combine both barista knowledge and cocktail techniques. For that reason, it’s not an easy competition because you have to be both a barista professional and a bartending/mixology expert. CIGS is a great event because competitors have to execute this difficult task live and in the moment. They have to demonstrate a service ritual around coffee while also demonstrating their creativity in creating memorable drinks.
As a culinary expert, what is exciting to you about coffee as an ingredient?
Coffee is an unlimited source of creativity that gives us great opportunities to come up with new combinations of flavors. At the beginning, it’s so hard to understand how to play with coffee and how to innovate with it: As soon as you mix it, coffee flavors can go away, so it can be so easy to destroy the high-quality coffee you made. Originally, I paired coffee with “safe” ingredients like vanilla, almond, nuts, and chocolate. But soon I discovered that the flavors of coffee can pair with anything—vegetables such as beetroot and celery, but also all kinds of fruit and spices. We are lucky because coffee is not just one flavor, one texture, and one intensity—it’s multifaceted.
For this reason, I think we will see coffee cocktails get more and more popular around the world. I’m already seeing it happen—I was in China late last year and coffee cocktails were everywhere!
Do you have any advice for future CIGS competitors?
First, I’m very excited to hear CIGS is coming to the USA, since it’s such a legendary country for cocktails. For advice, I would tell all the baristas: Be creative, exceed the borders of taste, and have fun! We all like to enjoy and share a moment of conviviality with a good cocktail, so do not hesitate—it will change your way of life!