Platinum salmon service

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Simon Girling, Director of Food and Beverage, The Ritz London
Simon Girling, Director of Food and Beverage, The Ritz London.

Recently I told you about the Fun Scale. This week I want to tell you about my lunch.

A couple of Tuesdays ago, we filmed a training video at the Ritz. The Food and Beverage Director, Simon, is one of my husband’s “old boys”. In the dim and distant past, he was one of his trainees at the Grosvenor House.

The object of this particular video, one of a library of free educational films, was to demonstrate how to hand carve a side of smoked salmon, served with the appropriate garnishes.

Simon was clearly under a lot of pressure. Leading up to Jubilee weekend, the function rooms and banqueting suites were fully booked. The hotel is undergoing a major renovation, the teams are under the scrutiny of the new owners and the ravages of Covid and the present climate have had a devastating result on staffing levels.

We don’t think of ourselves as a gastronomic nation, but hospitality was, before the pandemic, the third largest employer in the country. For many people, their first experience of work is in a pub or restaurant. It encompasses everything from your local cafe or bar, to Michelin rated establishments and five star hotels.

In 2019 over 40 million tourists visited the UK spending £28 billion. The most recent figures estimate that, even with events like the Jubilee, we are looking at about 21 million visitors this year. That’ll give you an idea of the drop in revenue that that represents to the economy. On the plus side, enforced staycations mean that we are rediscovering the beauty of our own country. This is a double-edged sword depending on who you speak to in Rye.

The UK has long been associated with the highest levels of service. Think of global brands like Claridge’s, Fortnum’s, the splendour of a state banquet; or this week Ascot and shortly after Wimbledon. All of these events have to be organised, catered and run by large amounts of highly trained and professional staff.

So back to Simon. In his complicated and pressurised day, he found time for some type two fun: explaining and demonstrating, thanks to many years of practice, a core Silver Service skill. Even with his experience, he rehearsed his speech, prepared his ingredients and set up his equipment. Fuelled by adrenaline, a strong black coffee and a deep conviction to training the next generation of hospitality stars, he only needed a couple of takes. The smoked salmon master class was in the can. A true professional at the top of his game.

Hospitality is a totally democratic profession open to absolutely everyone. Wherever you start out, it can lead to an outstanding career with unlimited possibilities; for us, a couple of Tuesdays ago, that was an unforgettable lunch at The Ritz.

Image Credits: Natasha Robinson .

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