Eight finalists from some of the UK's most prestigious hospitality establishments have been selected to compete in the Gold Service Scholarship 2015.
The final eight were chosen from a group of 29 entrants during the regional heats, and will now go head-to-head at Mayfair hotel the Connaught on 2 February 2015. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at Claridge's on 9 February 2015.
The shortlist includes staff from establishments including Cliveden House, Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons, Buckingham Palace, and the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow.
The regional heats tested candidates on skills such as service, cocktail making, and recognising errors on table setting, and also asked competitors to complete a written test. Entrants were also interviewed on their work experience and career aspirations.
The final will involve serving a lunch for guests and the judges, alongside tests on skills such as mise en place, decanting, meal and wine service, and customer engagement. Judges will include Edward Griffiths, deputy master of the household at Buckingham Palace; Silvano Giraldin, director at Roux restaurants; and Alastair Storey, chairman of lead sponsor BaxterStorey.
The ultimate prize includes a year of mentoring with leading industry figures including chairman of AB Hotels Willy Bauer, general manager of Le Gavroche Emmanuel Landré, general manager of Galvin at Windows Fred Sirieix, and chief operating officer of the Arts Club, Remy Lyse.
The winner will also receive a tour of French vineyards, and have the chance to serve in some of the world's best restaurants.
Storey wished all the finalists luck, and said: "This scholarship is all about celebrating young people striving to achieve the highest standards of service within the hospitality sector and seeing our regional finalists showcasing their skills reinforced my pride in our industry. The passion, enthusiasm and commitment they all showed to their vocations should act as an inspiration to other young people."
Griffiths added: "The quality of entrants this year has been exceptionally high, from a good cross-section of the hospitality industry. With the help of so many dedicated professionals who have given up their time to judge the skills of the 29 regional finalists, we are delighted with the result to take forward eight candidates to the finals and I congratulate them on their achievement".
Last year's winner was James Fleming, chef de rang at Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire.
The full list of finalists
- LukÁ¡Å¡ Andr - the Seafood restaurant, Padstow
- Karen Weisheit - Cliveden House hotel, Taplow
- Matthew Balman - Buckingham Palace, London
- Ronald Rosario - the Capital hotel, London
- Nicholas Winfield - Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Oxford
- George Oates - Buckingham Palace, London
- Daniele Quattromini - Club Lounge 39, Canary Wharf, London