How could I not go watch Matt Riddle perform at the USBC?
I am spending most of my time on the show floor this year, but I did make it over to the competition area when Matt was up, because, well, Matt's a friend, and he's also the reigning 2006 USBC Champion, and 3rd best barista in the world. He just finished a few minutes ago as I write this.
I particularly liked (lol!) his uniform choice in the semis. People were shouting out from the audience "love the sweater, Matt!"; but you know what? It shows you don't have to wear a starched shirt and tie to look good and professional while doing this. And you don't have to wear torn t-shirts and ratty jeans either just to have a style. But I digress into a very touchy subject.
Back to the performance. If anything, Matt was like 3x more subdued this time around compared to his WBC performance in Bern last year. Very quiet, serious, focused on the coffee. His Signature Drink, a carbonated candied ginger beverage needed a lot of build time, but he timed it into the performance very well, and was just amazing to watch as a barista.
By my eye, the shots were pouring well, and his milk and latte art were absolutely spot on visually.
Here's how his signature drink happened.
Early on, he chopped candied ginger, and infused it in hot water. It ended up steeping during the entire espresso and cappuccino round. When his sig round came up, he prepped water in a seltzer bottle, carbonating it up, and pulled his shots. He combined the water and shots, and finished off with a lime garnish. Simple, but enticing!
I caught up with Matt after and asked him how his performance went.
"I was more nervous than usual out there this time..." he said. "I thought the coffee was pouring amazing."
Matt also mentioned that he actually decided which milk to use while onstage! "I brought out two milks and steamed a pitcher of each - one was the provided (by the show), the other was Broguere's, and I ended up going with the provided milk because it felt more comfortable." Wow.
Matt's a rock star of the highest calibre. But he's more like the refined star - think Eric Clapton, acoustic Layla, not drug induced Layla. A pure joy to watch and photograph. Here's his photo series on Flickr.