What started as a local competition and camaraderie builder for women bartenders concluded its national competition with Yael Vengroff, now of Houston, emerging as the Speed Rack champion, in the course of which more than $68,000 was raised in the fight against breast cancer. The champ talks about the competition this week with Mix.
Mix: What's special to you about the Speed Rack competition?
Yael Vengroff: Speed Rack is special because it challenges today's perception of bartending being a male-dominated industry. Females are just as strong, fast, and talented as males are. And we have a rack. Additionally, all of the proceeds go towards breast cancer research, and the t-shirts are awesome.
Mix: Few competitions emphasize efficient, real-time service the way Speed Rack has - how does that force you to prepare?
Vengroff: To be honest, and I think I speak for most of the other competitors as well when I say that most of our jobs serve as great training for a competition like Speed Rack. On any given night, one could be faced with a bar that's five-deep or a service ticket with eight different time-consuming cocktails to make.
New York City’s Yael Vengroff is crowned the first 2012 Miss Speed Rack USA on May 10.
Photo Courtesy of Cooper Cheatham
Mix: What are your biggest strengths behind the bar?
Vengroff: Speed. Organization. Efficiency. Sense of humor. My rack.
Mix: What was the highpoint of the competition for you?
Vengroff: Being finished! The competition was EXTREMELY nerve wracking.
Mix: Women still face stereotypes in the bar business - have any faded recently, and which still need addressing?
Vengroff: I mean, it's called Speed Rack? Obviously there are some stereotypes that will never die, as they are part of humanity, but I have seen a change in a lot of fellow male bartenders who maybe before were more dismissive of females behind the bar, and now are in awe of what all the ladies accomplished at Speed Rack.
Mix: What's your favorite drink right now?
Vengroff: The one in my hand, which is currently a French 75 at Haven in Houston, Texas.