The 2017 judging panel includes a number of leading UK chefs and prominent restaurant and foodservice industry experts:
- Alex Aitken, Owner/Chef, The Jetty, Christchurch, Dorset
- José Souto, Chef lecturer in Culinary Arts, Westminster Kingsway College, London
- Callum Richardson, Proprietor, The Bay Fish & Chips, Stonehave, Aberdeenshire
- Amanda Afiya, Editor, The Caterer
- Will Smith, Restaurant Consultant, London
- Giovanna Grossi, Group Area Manager, AA Hotel Services
- Paul Hurren FIH, Managing Director of Lusso Catering and Chairman of the Association of Catering Excellence (ACE)
Owner, Arbutus Restaurants
Will Smith and his business partner Anthony Demetre are the award-winning co-owners of Michelin-starred restaurants Arbutus and Wild Honey in London. Throughout their sites, Smith looks after the front of house and Demetre the food. Demetre's clever use of less-common cuts allows the restaurant to keep down prices, while Smith's accessible wine lists, based on offering superior wines in carafe sizes, and his helpful but unfussy front-of-house teams, help create the affordable quality that has become the restaurants' primary appeal. The duo's shrewd management runs through the heart of all their businesses and is reflected in the prices. They won the Catey for Independent Restaurateurs of the Year in 2008.
"For someone working in the front of house domain, face to face with the guest, clearly knowledge of your product that you are selling is everything. To be able to speak confidently and clearly about a product, have confidence in its provenance and be able to exude enthusiasm for an item that you may not have tried yourself or indeed you may not even be particularly fond of, is one of the skills of a good waiter. This ultimately comes down to effective training and the individuals communication skills, common sense and intelligence. The reward is a guest willing to try something on your recommendation and a satisfied diner. A personal thank you, a shake of the hand: that is the joy and reward for good hospitality. "In the kitchen product knowledge is slightly different. You want to feel you are working with a good supplier who will only pass on the freshest of produce. That they will introduce you to new and interesting produce from sustainable and reliable sources and that you can work with the product with the utmost of confidence. You then have to pass this knowledge on to your floor team to sell to the guest."
Giovanna Grossi FIH
AA Hotel Services group area manager
Giovanna Grossi graduated from Manchester University with a BA in accountancy in 1988 and joined her family restaurant business responsible for day to day management of two successful operations employing approximately 45 staff. One of the family restaurants won Italian Restaurant of the Year twice at the National Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Awards, I Grossi was asked to join the Pizza and Pasta Association committee, where she became involved in judging their annual food awards and debating food standards. In 1999 Grossi joined AA Hotel Services as a Hotel and Restaurant Inspector and has progressed within the organisation to the role of group area manager responsible for overseeing the inspection team, training and development, quality standards within the inspection schemes and liaising with national tourist boards. "No matter how great the chef and how good the food, a really excellent complete restaurant experience also relies on a passionate knowledgeable front of house team. Restaurant diners today are much more savvy about food and wines than they've ever been thanks in no small way to the excellent TV and press coverage and superb availability of quality books. Diners love to discuss dishes and ingredients and talk about food and wine in a lot more depth, rather than just settle for eating and drinking what is put in front of them. It is therefore imperative that the front of house team is knowledgeable and fully briefed on menus and wine lists and is able to engage with diners and answer their questions."
The Bay, Stonehaven
Calum set up The Bay Fish & Chips in 2006 with his wife Lindsay and since then, has taken their takeaway to the very top, serving thousands of portions of fish and chips to many happy customers and winning many accolades along the way. The Bay is based on the idyllic Stonehaven seafront in Aberdeenshire and uses its prime location to showcase the best of Scotland's natural larder with 89% of the businesses ingredients being sourced within a 50-mile radius. Doing so helps The Bay to make the best of their local produce and it dramatically reduces food miles.
The quality and provenance of the ingredients used at The Bay is crucial to their success. The Bay's menu details everything from the nutritional information of each dish to exactly where in the UK it has come from. Customers especially like the fact that the menu tells them the name of the boat that has landed their fish that day, and also the farm that grew their potatoes..
High standards in all areas of The Bay meant that in 2013, they were the overall UK winner of the National Fish & Chip Awards. The Bay is also one of the most highly rated restaurants in the UK by the Sustainable Restaurant Association achieving Three Star Sustainability Champion status.
Chef Lecturer in Culinary Arts, Westminster Kingsway College
After studying at Westminster Kingsway College and completing a period of work in Spain, Jose worked as a chef at the House of Commons for over 11 years. While working at the Commons he has also worked at some of London top establishments during working sabbaticals from the Commons. Following a guest lecture spot at the college where he started his training, Jose took up a full time lecturing post at Westminster Kingsway College one of most highly regarded catering colleges in the UK.
While at the college Jose has also worked with a variety of external organisations. In 2011 Jose organised a dinner for the Governor of Alaska as part of a project that saw students learning about models of sustainable fishing throughout the world - and following this Jose was invited by the Governor of Alaska to see Alaska's sustainability program at first hand. Jose also has first hand experience of Norwegian seafood production and is a strong advocate of chefs seeking to discover more about the provenance of the produce they are working with, and associated ethical and responsible sourcing practices. Jose is a Master of the Craft Guild of Chefs and is a regular contributor of articles to such magazines as Stockpot, Chef, The Shooting Gazette, Countryman's Weekly, The Caterer, The Shooting Times, Pub Chef, Eat Out, and Cost Sector Catering.
Jose chairs and sits on a number of other food industry judging panels including the Quality Food Awards, the Retail Industry Awards and The Great Taste Awards, and has also been a judge for the Salon Culinaire competition as part of Hotelympia.