The culinary action at Hotelympia always draws the crowds, with world-class cooking alongside mind-blowing food sculptures. Rosalind Mullen rounds up what to expect from Salon Culinaire, La Parade des Chefs and Salon Display
Hotelympia just gets better and better. This year's event at London's ExCel exhibition centre from Monday 5 to Thursday 8 March offers perennial favourites plus a cornucopia of surprises. To help you plan your visit, here are some of the highlights.
As with any world-class event, Hotelympia has so much to offer it can seem daunting. Should you, for example, browse the stands of the hundreds of exhibitors, head to the Launchpad to hear high-flyers from, say, Compass UK debate food trends, hang out at the Hospitality Tech Show, or reserve a table for Parade des Chefs?
Obviously, if you've got a day or two, you can dip into everything, but most visitors will be heading to the chef competition programme of the International Salon Culinaire, where much of the culinary action takes place. Student and professional chefs will demonstrate their skills in no fewer than 100 competitions over the four days of the show.
"Hotelympia has so much history about it, and Salon is a big part of that," says Salon Culinaire chef-director Steve Munkley. "Chefs are the second-largest number of visitors to the show, and the features they are involved in generate the most interest. As chefs we love to compete, show off and do our best, but it's also about learning, perfecting dishes, seeing what others do and encouraging young people to follow in our footsteps - and that's what makes Salon a part of the show not to miss."
To keep things exciting, this year sees the introduction of a new competition, the Craft Guild of Chefs National Team of the Year. This will see teams of three - a head chef, a pastry chef and a commis chef - produce a three-course meal, including a vegan starter, venison main course and a dessert offering a twist on a British classic.
"With the Craft Guild of Chefs hosting both the national senior and young chef of the year competitions, this is just the next step in the story, putting three of the best chefs together to compete as one," says Munkley.
"The winning team will be required not only to cook some outstanding dishes, but also to work together as a tight unit. The preparation and service space provided is quite small, so good foresight and organisational skills will be required. They have a tight timeline to work to, too, and penalties will be incurred for running over. Chef-consultant Andrew Bennett will be heading up the judges for this event and he and his judges will be looking for the team with all the above skills to walk away with gold."
Without doubt, the Parade des Chefs competition will be a crowd-puller. As ever, culinary teams will vie to produce the best three-course menus, which will be served to those diners savvy enough to have reserved a table in one of two newly designed restaurants - the Terrace and the Dining Room. This year teams from Compass Group, Celtic Manor Resort, the Craft Guild of Chefs, Sodexo and the Combined Services Culinary Arts Team will be firing up the stoves. Word has it that they will be whipping up dishes such as sea scallop cabbage, burnt apple, sorrel, coastal leaves and wild rice; Lake District Farmers Herdwick aged lamb, yeasted cauliflower and foraged mushrooms; and citrus panna cotta, kalamansi meringue, blood orange jelly and bergamot sorbet.
To add to the excitement, this year will also see the English, Welsh and Scottish National Culinary Teams compete. They will be given six hours to prepare a three-course meal for 110 people, which will provide an exciting warm-up before the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg in November.
Munkley says: "I am most excited this year about the inclusion of the national teams in the Parade kitchens. It has been many years since they have competed at Hotelympia, and we have organised for them to compete under World Association of Chefs rules and with World Association of Chefs judges. This gives them an all-important run-through before their next international competition."
Munkley also advises making a beeline for the sugarcraft display area, which this year sees the launch of the Professional Cake Decorator of the Year award. "It has been a bumper year for entries in the sugarcraft display area, so head over there to have a look around at some of the amazing work these chefs can produce," he says.
And for those on the hunt for talent, he adds: "Also, the new Skills Theatre for students is where you'll see the stars of the future start to show their colours."
Munkley gives an insider's view of the atmosphere among competitors: "It's very competitive, but also they are very supportive of each other. Team members will be seen watching over live sessions, willing their colleagues on, while competitors will always share produce and equipment if someone is missing something. In display classes, colleagues will get up at the crack of dawn to help get their mates' display pieces to the show on time and in one piece, and be there to help with the final display. You can always tell when someone's piece has been displayed because they just look exhaustedâ¦ then there's the wait for the results."
What else is new? The Foodservice Show will be back to present the best products and services in the industry. But look out for four new shows that will be showcasing the best equipment and concepts to some of Hotelympia's 30,000 visitors:
- Take a peek at the latest catering equipment and kitchen design at the Professional Kitchen Show. With 150 exhibitors, it's the largest gathering of its kind in the UK.
- Designers will be strutting their stuff, from lighting to tableware, menu design and music, at the Interiors and Tableware Show. In addition, restaurant guide SquareMeal will unveil its survey of modern diners to pinpoint emerging consumer trends.
- At Café Commerce, innovative suppliers and operators will be on-hand to guide you into this highly profitable market. Seminars include an exciting line-up of speakers, such as Tom Molnar, co-founder of Gail's Bakery, who will air views on the growing juice trend, the looming latte levy, upskilling staff, crowdfunding and much more.
Who knew that hospitality could be fun for geeks? Make sure you're still in the game by staying abreast of the ever-evolving advances in technology at the Tech Innovation Stage (in partnership with Hospa), where there will be seminars, panel discussions and talks to keep you up to date and able to short-circuit the competition. Among the speakers will be Reputation.com director Anthony Gaskell and Yfood founder Nadia El Hadery.
Women in Hospitality Day
The challenges faced by talented women across all industries are back in the headlines, so it's timely that this event on 8 March - International Women's Day and the final day of Hotelympia 2018 - is set to celebrate inspirational female talent as well as further the conversation on women in hospitality.
The impending skills shortage means there will be plenty to discuss. British Hospitality Association figures reveal that about 60% of employees in the tourism and hospitality industries are women, yet only 15% are in senior management positions. Today, there are about 24,000 fewer women in management positions in hospitality than in 2010, and women working in the hospitality and catering sector in 2015 were on average paid 18% less than their male co-workers.
Hotelympia portfolio director Ross Carter says that more needs to be done to promote female talent through the ranks. "It's not just about progressing younger candidates," he says. "We need further thinking around how we welcome women back into the workforce following maternity."
He points out that some 11,000 additional chefs will be needed over the next five years to ward off a potential skills crisis. "This is precisely the type of situation where, with the right talent management, accomplished female chefs can help tip the balance. There are already signs of green shoots, with the number of female chefs in the UK reportedly growing by 34% over the past 12 months - the biggest single rise in the past five years. But more needs to be done."
The day will celebrate successes and look at the opportunities for women in the industry. Top industry leaders will share their experiences and showcase female entrepreneurs and up-and-coming stars at the helm of some of the UK's most exciting start-ups. The vast range of speakers include Jon Terry, HR consulting partner at PwC, and Marlies Hoogeboom, director of Sodexo's sports and leisure division.
Hospitality Futures is a new stage designed to air ideas and find solutions to today's burning questions. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, these include Brexit, staff retention, the guest experience, sustainability, the sugar tax, women in the industry and allergens. Among the leading lights debating these knotty questions will be Guillaume Marly, incoming managing director of London's Hotel Café Royal, Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel CIC, and London's Night Czar Amy Lamé.
The Launchpad As well as showcasing some of the industry's most innovative start-ups and concepts, the Launchpad will offer a platform for speakers such as Emily Roux, who will talk about what it is like to be part of one of the world's most famous cooking dynasties and how her profession is developing savvy new revenue streams.
The Big Event
Party animals might want to throw a few shapes, entertain a few potential clients and support a good cause by buying tickets to Springboard's Big Event on Monday 5 March. The event, which will have a 1930s London theme, is being held in the Platinum suite in association with Fresh Montgomery and Hotelympia. Tickets cost £160 each and all proceeds will go towards Springboard's work, supporting some of society's most vulnerable and providing them with training and job opportunities within the hospitality industry.
World Food Innovation Awards
The winners will be announced on 7 March and some of the innovations will be showcased at Hotelympia.
Don't forget to register
Go to www.hotelympia.com to register and get ahead of the crowd
Videos from The Caterer archives