Stephanie Beresforde, assistant restaurant manager at the Seafood restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, has been named winner of the Gold Service Scholarship.
She was presented with the title and a host of prizes at a glittering gala reception at Claridge's hotel, London, this evening, a year after she was named in last year's final as "one to watch".
A special commendation was also awarded to fellow finalist Ashley Best, food and beverage trainee at the Ritz Hotel, London. Best, 22, who moved from the kitchen to front-of-house two years ago, was praised for his "positive attitude, strong skill set and huge potential".
The judges of the scholarship, now in its fifth year, were impressed by Beresforde's "self-assurance, astute knowledge and professional poise" throughout all three practical stages of the competition.
Eight contestants, whittled down from an original 100 candidates, battled it out in the final at London's Connaught hotel, during which they each served a three course lunch to four guests. Beresforde, aged 25, was said to have had "a very special appreciation of the hospitality role that is so vital in the success of a restaurant" throughout the process.
Edward Griffiths, trustee and chair of the judges, said: "Stephanie's detailed product knowledge and service skills, along with her positive approach to her role at the Seafood Restaurant, identified her as a confident winner and an ideal scholar."
Beresforde is due to move shortly from her current role in Padstow to Rick and Jill Stein's new restaurant on the former site of the Depot, in Barnes, southwest London, where she will lead the training of front-of-house staff.
A graduate in English from the University of Birmingham, she joined the Seafood restaurant as assistant restaurant manager in summer 2016, having previously worked at the business for six months in 2014. In between, she spent 18 months as chef de rang at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair, London.
During her scholarship year, Beresford, will undertake a wide selection of educational wine and food travel work placements and mentoring sessions, the details of which will be decided during a private lunch at Coutts bank.
They will include a trip to Champagne Laurent-Perrier, a three-day placement at Buckingham Palace during a state visit, and a two-week Wine and Spirit Trust course wine course, alongside work experience at the Waterside Inn and/or Le Gavroche restaurants, and at a Mandarin Oriental hotel in the UK or abroad.
The other six finalists in 2016 competition were: Alexandra-Iulia Caciuc of 45 Jermyn Street, London; Manuel Marchetti, the Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire; Tom Noller, Merchants Tavern, London; Luis Oliveira Santos, Rosewood London; Alexandra Spatar, the Woodspeen Restaurant & Cookery School, near Newbury, Berkshire; and Nina Thomsen, L'Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria.
The Gold Service Scholarship was founded by retired hotelier Willy Bauer, along with scholarship chairman Alastair Storey, chairman, Westbury Street Holdings and BaxterStorey, which are the principal sponsors of the award.
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