IT student moves

by Jeremy Taff

Like the majority of students who have been at the University for more than four years, 11th-year mechanical engineering student Ted Ciganik has learned how to pour a good drink.
But unlike most students, Ciganik will compete nationally against the top bartenders from the East, West and South at TGIF’s Bartender Championships in October.
After winning the midwest competition Monday, Ciganik will represent the region at nationals in Dallas. If he places first there, Ciganik will go on to compete internationally against bartenders from four of the 32 countries where TGIF’s is located.
“I practice in my backyard,” Ciganik said. “If you drop a bottle on the grass they don’t break. My neighbors think I’m a weirdo.”
But aside from what his neighbors think, Ciganik said his talent has paid off through the years. And although bartending has lured him away from the schoolbooks a time or two, Ciganik plans to graduate this winter. He’s been in and out of the University since 1987.
“When you’re working 40 hours per week, it’s not easy to stay debt free, take a bunch of classes and keep going,” Ciganik said.
A cheesehead at heart, Ciganik grew up living east of Green Bay near Lake Michigan. Although he says he’d rather be in Wisconsin, he enjoys working in Minnesota and stays here for his wife, who is expecting a child in three and a half weeks. After graduation Ciganik said he’ll find a job in engineering and bartend at TGIF’s once or twice per week.
Joe Causse, director of operations for midwest TGIF’s, said bartenders are tested on how to make and pour different drinks and questioned on the entire menu. They must know every ingredient that goes into every dish and drink. Then bartenders move on to the freestyle competition.
“That’s where all the bottle flipping comes in,” Causse said. “And this kid can go, let me tell you.”
Since the competition among the franchise’s more than 500 restaurants began five years ago, TGIF’s midwest division has had two world champs and a runner-up at nationals.
“Now Teddy’s going on to see how he can do,” Causse said. “I’m very proud of him.”
If he wins nationals, Ciganik would receive $8,000 and premiere in a new TGIF’s commercial.
“He’s a real good people person,” Lynda Ciganik, Ted’s mom said. “And he’s worked awful hard for this. It’s more than just throwing bottles, it’s hard.”