James Fleming, chef de rang at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire, has been named as the 2014 winner of the Gold Service Scholarship.
He was presented with the accolade at a ceremony at London's Claridge's hotel on Monday night.
The announcement of Fleming's success was made a week after seven finalists battled it out for the coveted award, which was won for the first time last year by Rebecca Dibbens, restaurant supervisor at Gleneagles in Auchterarder.
Fleming, 24, and his six fellow contenders demonstrated their skills, during a lunch service at the Connaught hotel, in mise en place, decanting, reception service, meal service, wine and beverage service and customer engagement, under the beady eye of judges including Edward Griffiths, deputy master of the household at Buckingham Palace; Sergio Rebecchi, director at Incognico and Quirinale restaurants; and Alastair Storey, chairman of lead sponsor BaxterStorey.
Fleming's reward for his success will be a year of mentoring to include the opportunity to work side by side with industry luminaries such as Diego Masciaga at the Waterside Inn and Emmanuel Landre and Silvano Giraldin at Le Gavroche. He will also have the chance to take part in high profile culinary events, tour French vineyards and serve in some of the world's best restaurants.
Fleming joined Le Manoir three years ago after graduating from the University of West England, where he had studied quantity surveying. "I decided I didn't want to sit in front of a computer all day and was better suited to interacting with people," he said. "I can't quite believe I've won. I'm only just starting to think about the year ahead, but one of the things I would like to do is help change people's perceptions about the service industry and show that it is a career that you can really succeed in."
Amongst the other finalists, Devid Isabella, 30, assistant restaurant manager, the Ritz, London, was highly commended by the judges, while Adam Hersey, 25, assistant restaurant and bar manager, Brocket Hall Golf Club, Hertfordshire, was named as the competitor with the greatest outstanding potential. Both will receive (in addition to the stages being offered to all the finalists) a further one week stage and a personal programme of mentoring.
The judges also praised the aspects of performance in which the other four finalists did particularly well: Daniele Quattromini, 23, trainee hospitality manager, Lusso Catering, London, who achieved the highest marks in wine service; George Oates, 24, footman, the Royal Household, Buckingham Palace, who came top in matching foods with wine; Julien Gardin, 29, junior assistant restaurant manager, the Fat Duck, Berkshire, who came top in the food and wine matching test; and Joana Maria Pons Gari, 28, head waitress, Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles, Perthshire, who achieved an impressive score in the written paper.