Ive just got back from London where Ive been judging the finals of the young waiter young chef competition. It was quite an amazing experience really, and I was only judging!! I cant imagine the feeling of the contestants, who, judging by the number of shaking hands, were quite nervous at the start of the event.
Organised by Jeremy Rata, ex Devonshire Arms and now ensconsed at the DeVere Brighton Grand, and Stephen Mannock from Darlington College, the event comprised of a whole days testing, split into two parts. Part one took place in the morning and consisted of a series of interviews and tasks such as correcting mistakes on a menu, and a wine list, an interview with Peter Birnie, Chief Inspector for the AA and Joe Durrant the last winner of the event. The afternoon portion of the competition was a practical event. The competitors had been paired with a chef, who had compiled a menu based on a basket of known ingredients, and then a mystery basket to be given on the day. So by liaising with the chef, the waiters had to get an understanding of the menu they would be serving to their table. They had to lay up their table using their choice of materials to hand and including their own floral centre-piece. Then their guests arrived and they had the task of serving them pre-lunch drinks and canapes then bringing them through to their tables and serving their lunch and wines. We were to judge them on a variety of tasks and criteria and award them a score of 1 to 4, one being poor, two being the average, three being a bit beyond average and four being excellent.
As we did this, I can to think about how I am judged by customers on a daily basis. What criteria do they measure me by? I find it especially pertinent just now, as Im up for a Hotel Catey for Food and Wine Service. Now Im not sure how they determine who will win, and by what criteria it is assessed. Now the assessments have probably already taken place, I find out at the award ceremony on the 13th November if I win (fingers crossed!!).
In an effort to ensure impartiality and to try and create and even scoring system, each judge was allocated one waiter. They were then paired up with the idea being that each judge would cross-reference their scoring with their partner and try to reach concensus. Then each pair would cross-reference with their neighbouring pair and so on. The eventual result was that we were pretty much all scoring in the same way. So at the end of the event we all sat down and discussed out scoring and three winners emerged. The eventual winner was pretty much clear winner - his score was a good few points ahead of the rest. The number two scoring candidate was felt, while they were technically good, there was just something missing from their service, it was clinical and lacking in personality, whereas the third scoring candidate had a much more personable style of service and we all felt we would much rather be served by number three than number two, so we switched their positions around.
So it was an enjoyable day, and I think i was quite surprised to look back on it and think that I actually learnt a few things that day myself, besides which it was a great networking experience.