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FROM MOVIE STAR DREAM TO STAR BARTENDER REALITY

Devender Kumar is Bar Manager at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Hong Kong. The only Italian restaurant outside Italy in the world honoured with three Michelin stars. Growing up in a small village in India, he dreamt of being a star in the Bollywood film industry. Today he is the star in one of the best bars in the world.

Home for me is in New Delhi, India. I grew up with three sisters, a brother and my parents in a small locality called Nangal Raya. Just like every second kid in India I dreamt of a career in the Bollywood film industry, tells Devender.
But life had another way staked out for him. He left school early and took up odd jobs to support his family. When his cousin who had a beverage catering business in Delhi asked him to work as a barback at an event, it opened the doors to the bar world and a passion that has brought Devender to where he is today.
– Today I have completed my college and succeeded a graduation program in business that gives me the right prerequisites in my career, says Devender.

PASSION MAKES US GO FORWARD

Having seen both very difficult times and good times together with his family, Devender has learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life.
– My family and I have learnt not to take things for granted, persevere through bad times and soak in the good ones. Nothing is possible without passion and perseverance, believes Devender.
With the people he’s working with, many colleagues that have become good friends, and guests from different cultures as driving forces, Devender pushes his limits and contributes to the development of the bar.

THE STRENGTH IN MEETING PEOPLE

Every day at work offers Devender the opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world, all of them with different stories. He genuinely enjoy hosting people. That’s one of his biggest strengths.
– Waking up every morning and knowing nothing about what is going to happen, who you are going to meet and if you are going to make new friends for life… That is just an amazing feeling, smiles Devender.

TRAVELLING FOR NEW PERSPECTIVES

As the only Italian restaurant outside Italy in the world honoured with three Michelin stars, 8 ½ Otto et Mezzo Bombana has a huge reputation to live up to. Innovation and new experiences for the guests are key factors.
– In this reality travelling is very important for me. Travelling teaches us to see things from multiple perspectives. ”If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”, Devender continues, quoting Wayne Dyer.

CAREFUL STUDIES BEFORE GOING TO SWEDEN

When Devender was invited to the High Coast of Sweden to participate in Hernö Gin Cocktail Award 2017, he started to prepare for what he was going to encounter.
– I read about the flora and fauna of the country, its food habits, traditions and its people as much as I could. I also studied the recipes of the previous winners and other participants to see what they have used in their cocktails in order to try to understand individual ingredients, remembers Devender.

THE FIRST TIME IN A FOREST

Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards gave Devender his very first experience of being in a forest and foraging.
– I had never been to a forest before. And foraging was an experience that I shall cherish for a long time. This experience was surreal. Being up close to nature and borrowing from her bag of goodies was incredible, remembers Devender.

A UNIQUE COMPETITION PUSHING LIMITS

Several of the ingredients Devender used for his winning cocktail, he tried for the first time that very day in the woods. He had to trust his sense of smell, taste and ability to assume what the ingredient could do visually for the drink.
– Seeing the herbs and botanicals that I had only read about before, and learning how to pick them, was really something extra. I was also surprised of the results of using berries instead of lemon or lime to add acidity to a cocktail, says Devender.
– It’s true that you don’t know your limits until you experience something that you never did before. Hernö Gin Cocktail Award was one of the best learnings I have had in a long time, Devender sums up.

SHORT MEETING MAKING STRONG IMPRESSION

On his way back to Stockholm from Sundsvall by train, Devender sat next to a lady and they started talking. She shared pictures of her and her husband, talked about the marriage she was going to attend in Stockholm and shared personal stories from her life.
– I was astonished of how open minded and trusting she was. And she was also kind enough to share a bit of her food with me when I was hungry, remembers Devender.

ADVICE FROM THE WINNER OF HERNÖ GIN COCKTAIL AWARD 2017

Devenders advice to this years competitors at Hernö Gin Cocktail Award is to use the ingredients that gives you flavour quickly.
– Bear in mind that you have only a couple of hours to come up with a mind blowing and exceptional cocktail, advices Devender.
– Don’t be afraid of using unknown flavours or plants as it only gets exciting from there. If you have time go in a day before and visit bars who use local ingredients in their cocktail and that perhaps will give you an idea of what to look for when you are up on the mountain of Skuleberget. More importantly, when you are there, soak it all in, ends Devender.

DEVENDERS MUST DO’S BEFORE GOING TO SWEDEN

• Study the country, the people and the food and beverage scene.
• Try to get hold of Hernö High Coast Terroir Gin from previous years and taste it, just to get a slight idea of how this years new limited bottling might be.
• Research about what this competition is all about and how the previous editions have been.
• Connect with other competitors through Facebook, or any other way. Competitions are organized to build the community stronger and when you get there you already have friends waiting for you.

 

IN & ON THE FOREST

Blueberries, a handful.
Lingon berries, a handful.
30 ml honey water infused with Rölleka, Harsyra, Juniper Leaves and Heather.
45 ml water infused with Juniper berries and Meadowsweet.
30 ml Hernö High Coast Terroir Gin 2017.

Cocktail creator: Devender Kumar. Winning Cocktail at Hernö Gin Cocktail Award 2017.

Written 5 April 2018