As a sponsor of competitions such as the One&Only Reaching for Young Stars competition, S.Pellegrino investigated what the judges are looking for in beverage service – and it applies not just to competitions, but real-world service as well.
Eating a memorable meal isn’t only about how good the food tastes. Although that is of course essential, many more factors come into play.
A successful restaurant is about the whole team: kitchen and front of house, serving great food and drinks and creating a warm and welcoming ambience.
Thus the annual One&Only Reaching for Young Stars event, put together by Showcook and sponsored by a number of top culinary brands including S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, has many different categories and prizes to cover all aspects of the food and drink experience.
The Art of water service
At the launch workshop on 26th May, Neil Tabraham of Sommeliers Academy gave students a deeper understanding of S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna mineral waters. “People speak of terroir in wine, in water it’s very much the same case, as it’s the rocks and earth that the water travels through, where minerals are absorbed,“ he says. “It’s that kind of approach, identifying what the key mineral compounds are, and then the effect of those on the palate.”
He led students in a water tasting session, discussing the differences of each water category with food and wine pairings for each mineral water.
“It’s important for the guest experience that they have a water that really meets their needs. There’s no point serving a sparkling water with a light salad, it would mask all the delicate flavours, same as drinking red wine with fish.” He adds that with wine tastings, sparkling water isn’t a great choice either, “Acqua Panna is the water of the ASI, the International Sommelier Association, we use that when we’re tasting because it’s a neutral, palate-cleansing water.” Water pairing is as important as a wine pairing, he continues, “S.Pellegrino water is at its best when you have heartier, maybe fattier foods, beef, lamb, something to help break down the fattiness, to keep refreshing the palate, something a still water wouldn’t do.”
What the judges are looking for
Luvo Ntezo, Head Sommelier at One&Only Cape Town, is judging the beverage students at the Cook Off on 3rd July and will be considering knowledgeable candidates with great people skills, “We are looking for someone who is presentable for a guest to engage with, who is friendly and accessible. I may be in a very bad mood, but they arrive with a smile and change the dynamics of the dining experience into something extraordinary.”
Tips for the beverage service
Each beverage student is tasked with making and presenting two creative cocktails, one based on KWV Brandy and the other on Cruxland Gin, both using their choice of Sanpellegrino Italian Sparkling Drinks as mixers. They must also present their team’s three wines that inspired the menu and serve alongside S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna mineral waters.
On the wine presentation, Luvo has a wealth of advice, “I’m looking for someone who respects the space of a guest, so not someone who’s talking on top of me.” He emphasises the importance of sharing stories rather than too much knowledge. “If someone is out for dinner they are not out for an academic masterclass.” He says stories can be used to fill awkward moments, like when you are pouring wine for the guest to taste and the table falls into silence. “I’m looking for someone who uses that awkward moment to create a wow moment. They’ve been to the wine farm, they know something that I don’t know, Share the story. It’s the stories that as a guest I will remember and take home with me.”
On the cocktail side of the beverage service, Luvo says “Every ingredient used in a cocktail is edible, your working area has got to be clean, everything has got to be immaculate.” He emphasises balance in the recipe, not overwhelming the cocktail with too much alcohol. And he’s looking for creativity, “if you’re making a Bloody Mary, make it with your own twist.
Share delightful information as you make the cocktail, it’s the wow factor.”
This could be the origin of one of your ingredients, or what inspired your twist on a classic. Last but not least, Luvo says, “Share a little bit of interesting information of what you’ve learned about the brands with the guest. Acknowledge the sponsors.”