Interview with Diageo World Class Reserve marketing director Walter Celli Junior

Diageo World Class Reserve marketing director talks about World Class and the future of mixology.

19 Nov 2013

Walter Celli Junior is the marketing director of the world’s largest drinks company, Diageo's, Reserve World Class portfolio. So he is no stranger to the glamorous arena of World Class events, experiences and drinks.

Johnnie Walker, Ron Zacapa and Don Julio are just some of the guys he hangs out with around the world.

He is also involved with the Diageo Reserve’s World Class progamme which the world’s largest bartender training programme, aimed at the art of elevating the art of mixology.

Diageo Reserve World Class Programme

What began as a bartending training programme is now an internationally recognized annual event transforming fine drinking experiences and cocktail culture around the world. Launched in 2009, World Class is an international platform that has nutured and trained over 15 000 of the most talented bartenders from around the world.  

Diageo has converted that investment into luxury drinking experiences with premium brands at World Class outlets all over the world.

World Class Regional Finals

World Class Regional Finals kicked off this month in Joburg and continues this week in KZN, with SA’s top bartenders vying for the coveted top spot. This means that whoever comes out top will represent SA at the 2014 World Class Global Finals

In 2012 the World Class TV Show was launched, a TV special putting a spotlight on the World Class bartenders and elevating a new generation of mixologists to celebrity status.

This week, the 4-episode series will be broadcast by 20 major TV networks in 110 countries with an opportunity to reach 25 million consumers. Watch a taster here.

For Walter Celli Junior the pivotal part that Diageo plays in the liquor industry is bringing the  World Class experiences to consumers.

Food24 chatted to him at the 2013 World Class Global Finals held in the Mediterranean:

Q 1: What invest so much in World Class and the Global Finals event? 
One of Diageo’s missions is to transform the drinking culture worldwide and elevate consumer experiences with our premium brands.

The drinking experience starts with the bartender and ends with the drink. To begin your cocktail journey with a World Class bartender is key to the enjoyment and the “experience”.

World Class Global Finals is where the best bartenders from 44 different countries and cultures get together to share their passion. During a week of fierce competition new talent is discovered, new techniques unfold and new trends emerge. It is a very exciting experience, one that should be shared via digital channels, you tube,  social media, the TV show etc.

Q2: How does the TV series covering this event going to affect World Class?
Well it will bring a level of fame, excitement and anticipation that  TV generates. Reality TV is popular and what could be more exciting than the world of top bartenders, classic cocktails and the hot Mediterranean summer.

Q3: Two women have made the final 8 in this year’s competition – what does this mean for the mostly male-dominated world of bartending.
The women competitors have really excelled in this year’s competition from the regional finals all the way to the last eight. Laura and Monica have performed sensationally and it would be awesome for World Class to have a women win this competition.

With the TV series going out to over 25 million viewers in over 100 countries we hope that the talent and determination that the 2 women finalists have shown global finals will generate a lot of interest amongst future potential bartenders.

It opens up the competition and has a set a new standard of skill and innovation. Women are definitely holding their own in this tough competition.

Q4: Is mixology the new gastronomy?
It is going in that direction. People have become so much more interested food and its provenance. I can only see it heading the same way with liquor and particularly cocktails. There is so much potential for new flavor and innovation.

If you attended the Johnnie Walker Blue Label workshop on board ythis week you would be amazed at the original ingredients that inspired whisky at its conception. The original Johnnie Walker owned a grovery store.

People are really starting to appreciate quality ingredients and what they can bring to a cocktail. It’s all about knowledge and innovation. It’s going to catch on. Definitely.

Q5: Where to next for World Class?
It will hard to top a celebrity packed summer in the Med. But I expect bigger and better things. The TV series will generate a lot of interest. So next year will be bigger, and obviously we always strive for better.

Q6: Does South Africa Feature anywhere in your plans for World Class Global Finals?
Of course! In the next couple of years I'd say.

World Class Regional Finals are happening in SA as we speak. Follow the World Class Facebook Page for all the latest updates on this amazing programme culminating in the Global Finals once a year.


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