Salon Culinaire is back at the Hospitality show due to popular demand after a six-year absence. Salon director Peter Griffiths talks to Emily Manson
Some critics say these competitions have had their day. Why do you think they are still relevant? Competitions help build confidence, are a great motivator and are good for CVs. They provide a huge learning curve for everyone involved. I know judges who learn tips from competitors that they take back to their own kitchens.
How and when did you get involved? In 1987 the opportunity arose out of the blue, and I've just kept going. I'm lucky enough to have seen so many good chefs. Several are now well established in the industry and bring their own young staff to compete.
What do you hope aspiring chefs learn from it? I hope it builds their confidence and there's so much to gain from seeing other people's work - what trends are coming up, what innovative ideas are around - it's not just about competing.
Do you have a top tip for the chefs competing this year? Practise, and make sure you can finish in the time allowed. You will always be quicker in your own workplace, where you're used to the surroundings, but when the pressure is on it will take a bit longer.
What's the best dish you've ever seen created at Salon? I've seen hundreds over the years, but one I remember standing out was from the 1990s: seared foie gras with caramelised apple, brioche and a little balsamic drizzle. It was so simple, yet it really sticks in my mind.
Do you have a favourite Live Theatre class? All the classes are exciting, but the team grand prix is great. The teams get a box of surprise ingredients from which they have to create a four-course dinner for two, and it really requires the chefs to put their thinking caps on, remain calm under pressure, and judge the timing correctly. It's very exciting.
Do you think the raised profile of celebrity chefs inspires or deters others? I don't think it deters chefs, as they feel they belong to what is becoming a more recognised industry and it drives them forward.
What is the biggest benefit to people attending the show? The show offers so much, from features like Salon Culinaire and La Parade des Chefs, to seeing the latest equipment, tableware and food products, and the chance to catch up with contacts. It's a great way of keeping up to speed with what's happening in the industry.
• Hospitality is at the NEC, Birmingham, on 22-24 January. For more information visit www.hospitalityshow.co.uk