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OUT caught up with Chiara Fung from H Tasting Lounge - the recently named Vancouver Champion in the 5th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic - fresh off her win. The Cocktail Classic is Stoli's annual competition recognizing North America's brightest Bar Stars. LGBT bartenders and allies across the U.S. and Canada compete to represent their home city during the Key West Pride Week Finale, June 5-11th, 2018. Here's what Chiara had to say about the competition.
OUT: Congrats on being named the Vancouver Champion in the 2018 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel to win in the 5th Annual Competition in your hometown?
Chiara Fung: I am incredibly honored to be representing Vancouver in the SKWCC. It's been a while since I've competed in a cocktail competition, so to have my girlfriend, friends and family come to support me in Vancouver was absolutely amazing.
You were truly #RaisingTheBar with a super creative cocktail, "True Lies". Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?
Not only is True Lies one of my favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, as well as being filmed in beautiful Key West, the name speaks a lot about the LGBT community.
Key West is a safe haven for people in the community and people travel from all over the world to feel safe and more importantly be themselves. Sometimes back at home they are living a lie. I met an adorable lesbian couple at Dinah Shore in Palm Springs a few years back, and they told me they've been coming to this event for the past few years because that was the only place they felt they could be themselves. Back at home, they had to hide who they were.
It makes me feel incredibly lucky to live in Vancouver where I can be my true self. This cocktail is dedicated to those having to live a lie and hopefully one day their city can "raise their bar" and embrace inclusiveness.
The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic honors the unique legacy of gay bars as original safe spaces and community centers and the role our bartenders have played as hosts and caretakers throughout history. Tell us about what your role as a nightlife professional means to you.
As bartenders, we are ambassadors to the city. My role is to make visitors or locals feel safe where they are and offer great tips to the amazing city that I am proud to live in. Not only do I provide a service to my guests, its my job - one that I am very proud of - to make every person know that they matter to me. This role has not only increased my creativity and knowledge of the cocktail world, but I have also met some amazing people along the way.
As you know, part of your prize for winning the Vancouver competition is an all-expense-paid trip to Key West, FL this June. Have you ever been to Key West before? What are you most looking forward to as part of this trip?
I have been to Florida before, but this will be my first time in Key West. I'm definitely looking forward to being surrounded by the LGBT community in Key West and partaking in Pride festivities. I've been to Pride in Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver, so this will be another one to add to my list. I'm also looking forward to meeting all the other competitors.
And if you take home the title, you'll be named Grand Marshall of the Key West Pride Parade. Have you ever been the Grand Marshall of a parade before?
I have never been the Grand Marshall of a parade before, but if I do, I will feel like I've accomplished everything in life!
What importance have Pride celebrations had on your life?
Pride is so important to me that I will work Christmas and other holidays, but I always book off Pride in Vancouver. It's a week-long celebration, and the vibe in the city is so lively. I've been partaking in Pride celebrations for as long as I can remember. The sense of community and belonging is strongly felt. I am proud to live in Vancouver where diversity and inclusion is embraced every single day.
In Key West, you'll be competing for a chance to win a portion of $20,000 for your hand-picked charity, Vancouver Pride Society. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?
I picked the Vancouver Pride Society because they have worked hard to provide celebratory events for the community while advocating for LGBT rights. It would be such an honor if I could potentially win a portion of the $20,000 to benefit them.
Is there anything you want to say to your competitors as you head into the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Finale - June 5th - 11th in Key West, FL?
Best of luck and I can't wait to meet you all!
Amazing. Well we can't wait to see what innovative cocktails you stir up this June. Good luck, and know that all of Vancouver will be rooting for you to keep #RaisingTheBar!
To keep up with Chiara and the rest of the action in the 5th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, visit OUT.com/KeyWestCocktailClassic.