Jointly organised by the Food & Beverage Managers’ Association (FBMA) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), the third series of the Singapore National Restaurant Skills Competition 2013 has unveiled its winners on 30 April after a gruelling grand finale held at the Conrad Centennial Singapore.
This national competition provides a platform to recognise and award new talents in the field of Food and Beverage (F&B) service. It also aims to raise awareness of the profession’s service experience, and raise service standards by encouraging and motivating creativity amongst individuals to build a more confident workforce.
The contestants were on-site as early as 4am on the morning of 30 April to make their necessary preparations for the finals.
The competition criterion uses the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) framework as a benchmark in the judging criteria. For every team that participates, there is at least one WSQ graduate who is equipped with the competence in industry skills and knowledge.
Spearheaded by the F&B Industry Skills and Training Council (ISTC) together with WDA, the F&B WSQ framework covers the following specialisation tracks:
- Culinary arts
- Pastry and bakery
- F&B service
- Beverage service
9 finalist teams, each comprising 2 non-management service/kitchen personnel and 1 cook/chef, are tasked to serve up a complete lunch dining experience comprising an appetiser, main course with wine pairing, dessert and specialty coffee for guests in a trendy café setting. Each team is given 3 hours of planning and preparation time.
The teams are judged on various aspects such as:
- Hygiene and safety
- Technical skills/service techniques
- Creativity and originality
- Personality and grooming
- End product presentation
- Compliance with selected WSQ competencies
Mise en place (setting up)
Mise en place includes table setting and the preparation and organisation of ingredients required for menu items.
Participants have to ensure that everything is spotless and in precise order for this category.
Napkin folding is an art in itself, which also requires deft skill and lots of practice.
It is essential to learn the proper techniques in the cleaning of glasses. Every piece of glassware is polished to a sparkling finish. Any blemishes would cost the contestants a demerit point.
Each team has its own individual style and setting – some boldly creative while some keeping things minimal and classy.
After the teams have finished setting up, they explain their work to the judges in a cultivated and gracious manner.
The judges – all experts in the F&B field – look at all the different aspects of the mise en place with a meticulous eye.
The teams also explain the reasoning behind their choices of wine pairings – they do an excellent job in answering eloquently.
Grand Mercure Roxy Singapore gave their table setting a modern touch by placing an iPad on the dining table to showcase their menu and wine tasting notes.
The table is dressed in a charming floral printed black tablecloth.
To complete the theme, the chairs are also covered in matching fitted cloths, adorned with floral embellishments.
Hotel Miramar decides to go the unconventional way in the placement of cutlery, which has the judges pondering for a moment if this setting would work.
Will the team score points in creativity?
Hotel InterContinental Singapore‘s elegant black theme is inspired by the hotel’s logo.
The team from Pan Pacific Orchard incorporated the hotel’s iconic blue hues in their table setting.
Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium leaves a deep impression with its majestic red and black setting.
The menu is encased in a gift box resembling a book cover, which is sure to pique one’s curiosity.
Swissotel the Stamford sent two teams to participate in this competition.
Both teams keep things to a minimal in their table settings, while still exuding a ritzy vibe.
Ramada & Days Hotels Singapore literally brings life to the table with the placement of a fish bowl, which is in line with their Mediterranean theme.
Their menu is rolled and slotted in a glass bottle, whereby one can be reminded of a beachfront/by-the-sea setting – the Mediterranean Sea in particular.
After a short break, the final round of competition takes place. Lunch service commences, with each team greeting their guests exactly as they would in an actual restaurant.
To catch the live culinary action, we join the table manned by the team from Hotel InterContinental Singapore.
Murni prepares the mocktail in a swift and concise manner. Safety and hygiene are of utmost importance, and gloves are worn during preparation.
Berry Love mocktail (mixed berry syrup, pomegranate, lime juice and soda)
To accommodate diners’ requests, the amount of ice and level of sweetness are adjusted to our individual preferences.
Bread is one of the mandatory items served during the competition. The cheese spread is an added bonus! The bread served to us wasn’t warm, and upon hearing our feedback, warm toasted buns arrived at our table shortly.
Duo style crustaceans (45 degrees Celsius oil confit sea prawn with spicy tomato salsa terrine of shellfish bouillabaisse)
The prawn appetiser kick-starts our meal on a positive note, with the zesty salsa opening our palate with a refreshing punch.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2012
Murni does an excellent job in introducing the wines. Service is top-notch.
Cream of spinach with broad bean, truffle milk foam, cheese sphere
As captivating as its description sounds, the cream of spinach is a let-down with no distinct aroma of truffle or any visible form of foam. The addition of the ‘cheese sphere’ is a nice touch though, providing crunch to the otherwise textureless soup.
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, New Zealand 2011
Murni explains that the reason for choosing the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir to accompany the main is because this wine is smooth and easy on the palate, complementing the chicken without being too overwhelming.
Coq au vin served with mushroom stuffing, anchovies and pumpkin caponata
We can tell at one glance that much thought have been put into conceptualising the coq au vin main course. Although the chicken breast could have been more tender, it is sufficiently moist and flavourful, and especially so when doused in the rich brown gravy.
For dessert, Joanna takes over the stove and prepares crepe suzette before our very eyes.
She does it with great poise, and remains calm despite the competition stress.
The sauce turns out a little bitter for my liking, probably due to the intensity of alcohol. The home-made ice cream is the highlight of this dish.
For the last part, Murni prepares a coffee, which she names Mr. Hazel.
Jon Jameson Whiskey, Frangelico, double espresso, whipped cream and brown sugar are the ingredients for this beverage.
I find the dosage of alcohol a tad harsh on my palate, but the male counterparts at my table enjoyed it.
The service demonstrated by the team is impressive on the whole. Despite our negative feedback in the taste department, the team members were not discouraged, but instead, were motivated to do better.
Having witnessed the high calibre of the participants who have gone through a systematic training system, we can see how WSQ benefited them in terms of their skills, confidence and poise.
In the end, it was the team from Conrad Centennial Singapore that clinched the top prize of S$3,000. Teams from Swissotel the Stamford (Team 8) and Pan Pacific Orchard emerged the first and second runners-up respectively. All winning teams received their prizes from the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Wong Hong Kuan, Chief Executive of WDA.
Catch our interview with the winning team next week!