Well okay, but the title got your attention didn’t it? A while back, around the time of this year’s World Barista Championship, I was laying in bed unable to sleep after yet another late night watching the fun on http://www.zacharyzachary.com thinking about the differences between celebrity chefs and so called rock star baristi.
Years ago when becoming a chef wasn’t considered all that desirable by most and the likes of Gary Rhodes had not yet been invented, the world of cooking was probably not all that far from the place in which coffee finds itself now. People would compliment the chef, but no-one would recognise him/her and fame was not a part of the equation.
What then for coffee? The logical answer would seem to be that in twenty years the likes of James Hoffmann and Sé Gorman could expect to be attending book signings and giving public demonstrations of their artistry. Or is it?
On closer inspection perhaps not. It is clear that people are prepared to travel for miles and pay the earth to eat at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant or to experience one of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen eateries, and the stars of the show are often as not even in attendance, let alone preparing the food themselves. The point being that the whole experience takes a reasonable amount of time and potentially includes a number of courses designed by the maestro in question.
Coffee can never be the star of the show in the same way. It is currently only the sideshow to close the delightful experience of a meal in the likes of Gary, Jamie or Gordon’s places. It is usually not done well in restaurants generally and frequently the component parts are just not up to the task, but that is another blog for a different day.
What of our rock star barista then? Well, the dynamic of coffee does not lend itself well to the concept. People in general are not prepared to travel many miles for a coffee. It’s not an event of many courses; it’s a ten minute drink costing a couple of quid squeezed in between other things in life, and as long as it tastes good, who cares who made it?
Most people have no idea just what world class coffee tastes like. I was the same once. Now, I know what goes into that wonderful little beverage, I have great respect for the artisans who dedicate their lives to the production of the elixir called coffee. For them it is a calling, a profession; not to be confused with the practice of taking an infill job in a chain just pressing buttons on a ‘superauto’ to make twelve ounce behemoth milk laden monstrosities in the name of real coffee. That would be like comparing Gary Rhodes’ best with the local burger joint.
And there we have it, until the public at large can recognise and appreciate the coffee equivalent of the difference between a gourmet meal and a soggy burger, world class coffee will remain the domain of the hardcore enthusiast and the few independant coffee houses that serve truely amazing quality drinks. Meanwhile, coffee demi-gods like our own World Champion James Hoffmann will continue to stroll through the streets of London totally unrecognised by all except his peers, who are working equally as hard to change the face of coffee in Britain and Ireland.
Oh, and please don’t call any of them a rock star barista ….. they are all far too modest and they truely hate that tag.