With a competition circuit that usually focusses on chefs and service separately, and more often the former way more than the latter – it was a joy to be part of a competition that judged the output of both teams as a whole. I was honoured to be asked to lead the front of house judging at the UK Young Restaurant of the Year 2022 – 4 teams, 1 service, real guests.
Prior to the competition starting, I was offered the chance to address the competitors and took the opportunity to highlight how absolutely critical the front of house role was to the success of any hospitality business.
For many years now, the majority of the success of a restaurant has been placed purely at the feet of the chef who created the dishes. Without question, chefs can deliver exceptional food and deliver memorable dishes. They can take the humblest of ingredients and transform them into show-stopping plates. They can wow your palate; they can evoke memories and emotions through food. Our pastry chefs are ingenious wizards, and I think the UK boasts some of the world finest pâtissiers – a quick look at Instagram showcases some of the most stunning plated desserts imaginable.
But what keeps customers returning to a restaurant is how they are made to feel when they are there. In many restaurants, the chefs job ends at the pass and the rest of the event is taken over by the front of house. How the customer is made to feel when they are there is 100% down to the efforts and skills of the front of house. Yet, still to this day, few front of house professionals receive the same amount of attention in the public eye as their culinary counterparts.
There can be no great restaurant without great front of house. Fact.
Four teams made it to the finals. After months of regional heats, representing teams from Loughborough College, Sheffield College, City of Glasgow College and Eastleigh College competed on 29th June 2022 at the 23rd Skills for Chefs Conference.
Each team comprised 2 chefs and 1 front of house. The front of house teams were responsible for the dressing of their individual tables and stations, all service including wine, menu writing, design and description, guest interaction and communication back to their chefs in the kitchen. They were also entered into a Barista competition.
Inside the kitchen and the chefs were tasked to create a 3-course menu. A team of judges led by Pierre Koffmann and Vicky Endersen of MSK Ingredients, stood by to observe the chefs in action, monitoring their disciplines, skills and performance, in particular with food waste and sustainability, before tasting the completed dishes as service was underway.
The entire competition was an enormous success and the judges deliberated a good long while to come to a final winners’ conclusion. Highlighted by Pierre Koffmann was the ‘superb cooking of the Lamb main course’ from City of Glasgow College; ‘A dessert that could grace any restaurant menu’ was how Vicky Endersen described Eastleigh Colleges creation and ‘a simply stunning starter dish, with fantastic use of ingredients and an outstanding delivery of the brief from Sheffield College’ were Leigh Myers of Wellocks comments.
All being said and done, the judges both front and back were looking for consistency across the board. Taking the title of UK Young Restaurant Team for 2022 was Loughborough College, led by Chef Lecturer Darren Creed who himself took the Andrew Bennett Memorial Mentor Award on the same evening.
Congratulations to all at Skills for Chefs, led by the unstoppable David McKown MBE for a truly exciting, positive celebration of our young hospitality superstars, huge thankyous to all the sponsors and supporters and a massive well done to everyone who took part. For those who did not manage to enter this year, please look out for the announcements of UK Young Restaurant 2023 entry dates.
A full round up of the whole Skills for Chefs conference will be available online next week.