The winner of the 2016 Gold Service Scholarship was unveiled last night to a crowd of top hospitality faces at Claridge’s, with guest of honour, Her Majesty The Queen in attendance.
Following a nationwide search that saw budding service stars compete from across the UK in a series of challenges, Jennifer Santner, restaurant manager at Fenchurch Restaurant at the Sky Garden, was announced as the overall winner.
She was then awarded her prize by The Queen, who is Patron of The Gold Service Scholarship and Boutique Hotelier was lucky enough to be there to witness it.
The Queen wrote in the ceremony programme’s foreword: “As Patron of the Gold Service Scholarship I am pleased to note the success of the Trust’s work and to see that, in a relatively short space of time, it has raised the profile of hospitality and service skills in the United Kingdom.”
As part of her prize, Santner will now receive a year of expert mentoring from some of the industry greats, such as Diego Masciaga at The Waterside Inn and Silvano Giraldin, director of Le Gavroche.
She will also have the opportunity to work with the Royal Household at a state occasion, visit the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in Europe, attend the Mondriaan HotelSchool at The Hague, Netherlands and visit the vineyards of Champagne to enhance her skills in all aspects of front of house service and customer experience.
Commenting on her win, she said: “I am thrilled to have been chosen as the Scholar for 2016. I have enjoyed every moment of this competition and cannot wait to start planning my Scholarship programme. I am sure that the next year will be a fantastic learning experience. I am looking forward to working alongside senior industry professionals in so many renowned venues and establishments and making the most of this opportunity.”
Santner beat off stiff competition from seven other finalists working at some of the best establishments in the country, such as Buckingham Palace and Sexy Fish, to be crowned the winner, after the final that took place last week at The Connaught.
Her skills were put to the test in a number of service challenges, which saw each finalist plan, prep and serve a three-course lunch, including Champagne and wines, to a table of four industry professionals.
For the first time in the four-year history of the competition, the standard was so incredibly high that the judges gave special recognition to three other finalists. They were:
THE ONE TO WATCH: Stephanie Beresforde, Scott’s Restaurant, London
THE ONE WHO HAS DEVELOPED MOST THROUGH THE COMPETITION: James Parums, Buckingham Palace
IN RECOGNITION OF HIS DEVELOPING SERVICE SKILLS: Christoph Schrottenbaum, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Each will receive a structured development programme with mentoring, in addition to the development programme being extended to all this year’s national finalists.
Romain Pottier, director of Restaurants at Rhubarb, the employer of this year’s winner Jennifer Santner, said: “I am really proud of Jennifer and her success in this year’s Gold Service Scholarship competition. At Fenchurch Restaurant, we prioritise front of house service skills to ensure that the guest’s experience of the food and our restaurant is excellent. We have been excited to support Jennifer throughout her Gold Service Scholarship experience and look forward to seeing her develop and have some amazing experiences with her Scholarship prize.”
Thomas Kochs, Gold Service Scholarship Trustee said: “It has been exciting to see this year’s finalists progress through the competition and to see the high level of service excellence that exists in the hospitality industry. It was a tough decision but we are delighted to present Jennifer Santner with the Scholarship this evening and I look forward to seeing how she makes the most of her Scholarship experience.”