This page is about a TV series leading to scholarships for hospitality trainees. A brief index can be found at the end of the page here. The details of the award winners can be found here.
The eight trainees at the start with Michel Roux. Fred Serieix
Tom and Nikita are first. The next trainee did not complete. Nicki
is on Michel Roux's right. James and Brook are next. Finally,
there's Ashley and Danielle. Awards won are here.
"According to some little-known but tacitly-agreed law, the British don’t see service (ie waiting on) as a career in itself. It’s long been acknowledged ... that practically every other country in the world serves better than we do because it is seen as a valued job, rather than a drop-out pastime for disaffected youth.
"So it is incredibly heartening to hear that thousands applied to take part in Michel Roux Jr’s new BBC2 series Service. He’s chosen eight 17-24 year-olds from diverse backgrounds to be trained in the arts of front of house in establishments ranging from high-street chains to Le Gavroche, the two winners going on to be trained as professional maitre d’ and sommelier. And these young people, ranging from graduates to teen single mothers, all see the value and longevity in a career in front-of-house. It makes you proud – and even optimistic – that these young people, many of whom have never even set foot in a restaurant and frankly didn’t know the difference between a starter and a main course, chose this profession to turn their life around. " source
Ricochet is the company which made the series for BBC2, on restaurant service in the summer of 2010. It was in May that the International Wine & Food Society here was asked for members 'who were knowledgeable in food and wine', to attend a lunch to be filmed as part of a TV series. It was to offer eight young people the opportunity to train as front-of-house staff in the restaurant industry under the care of Michelin star chef Michel Roux Jnr. During eight weeks of intensive training and also with the General Manager of Galvins, Fred Sirieix, the potential waiters and sommeliers would work with a range of the worlds' finest front-of-house staff.
As a member of the Society, I was asked by Pam Brunning, our journal editor if I'd like to attend. As it turned out, the Capital, London and St James's IWFS branches, in the main, came along. [I live near Hereford.] We occupied two tables for the event on June 10th. Anyone who had thoughts about bringing a camera was told otherwise. We all signed a form agreeing to no photos and no notes. I have asked Michel Roux for a copy of the menu.
We were to be involved in Episode 5 of the series which focused on presentation at table. The lunch was held in a 'pop-up restaurant' within the Kensington Roof Gardens. The trainees had previously practised their skills at Simpsons-in-the-Strand, carving meat and filleting fish at the table. They had also been to the Ritz to learn the preparation of Crepes Suzette.
Our table was finally called after a long wait and we were led into the dining room where the trainees looked as if they were on stage at Custer's Last Stand. Trolleys bulging with with joints of beef and lamb seemed to be circulating everywhere. The flaming Crepes Suzette wagons confirmed the impression.
Tom welcomed us and made us comfortable. St Tola goat cheese mousse, beetroot purée and ginger-bread crisp adorned our first-course plates. A Blanc de Noir, Richmond Plains 2008, from Nelson, New Zealand arrived soon after ably served by Nikita. With considerable ease, she described the fermentation process and explained why it went so well with the starter.
The shoulder of lamb and a forerib of beef were not items trainees with just five weeks experience might be expected to be fluent with. However, their use of carving knives demonstrated that they had been ably shown how to tackle the joints.
Dover Sole was the other main course item and it was filleted by Tom with confidence and competence. He coped well with comments about cold plates. I could see from the situation that this was outside his control and made the comment loud enough to keep him at ease. There was no provision made to keep plates hot after leaving the kitchen. Nikita, once again, used her recently-acquired wine knowledge to show how the wines complemented the meat. A soft Pinot Noir from Chile was destined for the lamb and a Ribera Del Duero 2008 went with the beef.
Brook and trolley were next on the scene for the Crepes Suzette and it was clear that she had practised by the way she chatted as she controlled the flames. Beaumes de Venise was in our glasses as Nikita had returned just at the right time.
The reader may imagine the atmosphere. Michel Roux and Fred Sirieux were dancing around in the background giving praise and encouragement while trying not to over-react to events such as trolley-domes clattering to the floor. Most of the time, it was clear that they were pleased with progress.
The last word on the event goes to Pam Brunning: "I have received many comments about the show but the two that stood out were, 'Oh why didn't they send them to theatre school for a few hours to teach them how to communicate clearly', and, on a lighter note, 'it's a pity Michel couldn't afford a razor!'. As for the winners, to me they were all winners. Thanks to Michel and all their mentors they have had a fantastic grounding upon which to build a wonderful career. Let us hope it inspires many more youngsters to enter the industry and appreciate that the art of 'Service' is an honourable profession."
IWFS members can read more of Pam's account of the event in the March 2011 edition of Food & Wine, p 16. Those who are not members can read back-issues of the journalhere.
A brief index for those searching for a specific person or topic:
This comment by Michel Roux pinpoints the reason for the training programme he devised:
In my opinion, it shouldn't matter whether a customer is paying five pounds or five hundred - good service should be everywhere. The customer's expectations remain the same and they should never be disappointed. You have to know what the customer wants before he even realises it himself. That takes time to learn, but of course a lot of it is instinctive, and the truly great waiters and maitre d's have strong emotional intelligence as well as impeccable manners. source
Michel Roux announced in the first week of the project that there would be two scholarship awards. At decision time, that stretched to three. Danielle won the sommelier award, James and Ashley won front-of-house awards.
The waiter at our table of IWFS members was Tom. We all hoped he would earn one of the two awards as he did very well indeed. The same sentiment applied to Nikita who was sommelier. To achieve the level all the trainees rose to in such a short time is truly commendable
Michel Introduces His Trainees Final Dishes heresource