On September 21st 2006 I was one of three judges for the Second World Kikisake-Shi Competition US Tournament held in Los Angeles. There was a second competition held in NYC on the 25th and winners from both of these competitions fly to Japan to compete in the final in Tokyo on October 20th. The hosts of the competition are a group called the Sake Service Institute based in Tokyo.The first competition took place over 5 years ago, and this year’s effort is a strong attempt to get the event back on the radar screen each and every year. The structure of the event for those who would like to take a crack at it next year is based on three “Screenings.” The first screening is a written test that is sent to you by mail. It is an open book written test on sake and Kikisake-shi (sake sommelier). If you read this newsletter, and perhaps a book or two on sake you will have enough knowledge to pass this first Screening.
The Second Screening takes place at the actual competition and is based on two parts - A) a closed book written test on fundamental knowledge of sake and B) tasting sake for classification of sake types. Applicants who pass the Second Screening then qualify for the Third Screening, which consists of an oral exam followed by a “Presentation” based upon a demonstration of service technique and communication skills.
As one of three judges I was charged with the Third Screening session and quite frankly I was a bear. Obviously sake is very important to me, and the education process is one that I hold very dear to my heart. So if I am charged with releasing folks out into the world to preach the gospel of sake, they better know their stuff. And most of the contestants did!
The LA Competition actually produced two winners, who will go to Japan to compete in the finals. The first was a food caterer from Chicago and the second was a fellow who works for a sake importing company. Both were very solid.
The good thing about this event is that you DO NOT need to be a Kikisake-Shi (sake sommelier) to compete. It is a great venue for those who love sake to take their passion to another level. I highly recommend that you participate next year. If you would be interested in competing next year for the Third World Kikisake-Shi Competition please send me an email with the words “Sake Competition” in the subject line and send to email@example.com. (I will bundle these names and send them to the organizers to add weight to next year’s event.)
Lastly, my motives were double when I accepted the title of judge for this event. The Sake Service Institute is also the body that at one time produced the American Sake Sommelier Association, which has been put on ice for a while. I am desperately trying to get them to reengage and reengineer the program for the betterment of sake in the US and the West. The more sake sommeliers the more education for the sake consuming public! I get lots of emails from folks who like to participate in a sake sommelier program, and again I would like to start collecting names to use as ammo for the SSI guys. The more names, means the more interest, the more interest means all the more reason to have a credible and open Kikisake-Shi program in the US. If you would like to add your name to the list of people who want a chance to become an accredited sake sommelier (program in English) please send me an email that has the words “Sake Sommelier” in the subject line and please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.