Gold Service Scholarship 2019: Le Manoir's Karen Gruet wins front of house award

The Staff Canteen

Two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons assistant restaurant manager Karen Gruet was crowned the winner of this year's Gold Service Scholarship Award at the annual ceremony held at Claridge's Hotel

The announcement,  hosted at the five-star luxury hotel in Mayfair, was the culmination of five months of assessments, testing candidates’ knowledge of food, wine, service and social skills. 

Gruet, who has been working at Le Manoir for six years,  joined the company as a commis de rang and climbed her way up to the top. She said that despite the process being long and involving a lot of hard work, "there was quite a lot of time to prepare" for each step, and the tasks were varied. "It was really great," she said. "I'm really, really grateful for all the support I received there [at The Quat'Saisons].

"Karen deserves the most," said Raymond Blanc, chef owner of the Oxfordshire restaurant. "Her mentor, Mourad [Ben Tekfa] - there's  a story behind it - monsieur Alain [Descenclos] was thirty years with me, he trained Mourad; and Mourad trained this young girl. It's wonderful that this is how it goes." 

The Gold Service competition was founded in 2012, and is widely regarded as the country’s most prestigious award for young front of house staff, receiving patronage from Her Majesty the Queen.

Just over 100 candidates were pre-selected by the board of trustees – comprised of chairman and CEO of WSH Alastair Storey OBE, Gold Service Scholarship founder and industry veteran Willy Bauer OBE, Edward Griffiths, John Davey, Silvano Giraldin, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts chief executive Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, Korinthia Hotel managing director Thomas Kochs, Lord Forte protégé, Sergio Rebecchi and David Battersby OBE.

The finalists included George Austin, maître d’hôtel at Annabel’s in Mayfair;Lauren Chappell, assistant restaurant manager at Cromlix hotel in Kinbuck, Perthshire;James Dainton, assistant restaurant manager at The Northall at the Corinthia Hotel in London; Tiziano de Mattia, assistant restaurant manager at Hide, in London; Eleanor Dimes, junior head waitress at Lucknam Park in Chippenham, Wiltshire and Laura Schlegel, head waitress at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London and Alexander Sumerauer,first head waiter at The Ritz in London.

Michael Staub 2
Gold Service Scholar 2018 Michael Staub

Karen will receive ongoing mentoring from trustees, she will be offered a placement at a choice of either an international hotel or a high-end UK restaurant and either at a Buckingham Palace state banquet or a placement at Windsor Castle. 

Gruet said that even though she worked very hard to become this year's Gold Scholar, it was "hard to believe" that she had won the award."    

Last year’s winner, Michael Staub, was present at the event, and congratulated the finalists for reaching such a high level in the competition.  When Michael won the award in 2018, he was a  floor manager of the Holborn Dining Room at Rosewood in London, but has since been promoted to in-room dining manager at Rosewood in Sandhill, California.

The 2018 award also saw the launch of ‘Team Gold,’ a networking platform for finalist alumni, which Gruet said she was excited to be a part of. "Obviously it's going to be amazing, hopefully it will open a lot of doors for me."

By Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th February 2019

Gold Service Scholarship 2019: Le Manoir's Karen Gruet wins front of house award