Michel Roux’s Service: so where is the winner now?

 

Back in 2011 the Academy of Food & Wine Service was involved with the making of  a breakthrough programme for the hospitality sector – Michel Roux’s Service.

The idea for the programme was first muted by the Academy and PR company William Murray, who between them managed to find a production company that believed in the idea. The BBC commissioned the series and Michel Roux’s Service was born. The Academy was involved in the making of the programme throughout, providing locations for training sessions, involving many of its senior members in the training, and providing scholarships at the end, for the final three winners. The screening of the programme provided a fantastic opportunity for the Academy to offer advice to people on where to start in the industry, how to get training, who to go to and what a career in the industry can offer. As a result of its marketing and social media activity surrounding the programme, the Academy was awarded a prestigious Catey Award.

The programme did much to raise the profile of the front-of-house profession in the UK, opening viewers’ eyes to what goes into training, how difficult service is to do well, and where a career in front-of-house can lead. With the BBC repeat of the programme now coming to an end, AFWS catches up with the ultimate winner, James Marvin, who was 24 at the time and an unemployed graduate, and finds out where his career has taken him since and what his thoughts are on appearing in the programme.

Michel Roux's Service winner: James Marvin

Michel Roux’s Service winner: James Marvin

“After winning the competition I spent just under a year completing the maitre d’ scholarship at Galvin at Windows with Fred Sirieux. As part of the scholarship I worked both as a waiter and in the cocktail bar at Galvin. I then stayed on after the scholarship, in total for nearly two years.

“It was a fantastic opportunity and taught me masses about service standards, doing things properly and attention to detail. It was great fun, hard work, but a fantastic experience.

“After nearly two years I felt I wanted to do something else, so I got a job with Baxter Storey [the contact catering company] as an assistant manager for one of their contracts in the City, for an insurance company. It was a small step up, and more of a managerial role. I knew I wanted to stay in the hospitality industry, but I wanted to manage a team. Baxter Storey gave me that opportunity and it utilized the fine dining skills and attention to detail that I’d learnt with Fred.

“I was then offered the position of manager for Baxter Storey at another of their sites – a big advertising company, whose group head quarters were in London. It was a huge site, with nearly 600 staff and alongside a staff canteen there were 15 meeting rooms and fine dining for the company’s top executives.

“The position gave me an insight into another side of the business – namely the commercial aspect as it was like running a small business with hiring and firing, costings, menu planning and food control to look after.

“I did this for a just over 18 months and left in February 2014. I now work for event and party planning company By Word of Mouth, based in London. We work for corporate and private clients organising events such as parties, bar mitzvahs, and weddings, in all sorts of venues – including royal palaces. We’ve just done a party for 1,000 at the Natural History Museum and we’ve got another coming up at the Orangery.

“There’s a team of just 15 people, so I’ve come from the large corporate environment of Baxter Storey, to a small company. I have a lot of autonomy and I feel I have more opportunity to do what I wanted in the long term.

“There’s plenty of opportunity in hospitality if you’re prepared to work hard”

“I don’t want to be stuck on site, and I still harbour the dream of doing something on my own at some point. It’s still my goal to get as much experience across a wide range of different business as possible – I’ve been thinking about doing a pop-up restaurant even.

“Taking part in the programme gave me the opportunity to gain an insight into a whole new world, that I wouldn’t otherwise have done. I wouldn’t have considered working in hospitality before the scholarship, but the experience showed me that I could find something fulfilling and enjoyable, rather than just having a job.

“Michel Roux’s Service shaped where I am today. Employment opportunities are so scarce, I feel grateful I’ve had this opportunity, particularly in an industry that has come out of the recession pretty much unscathed. There’s plenty of opportunity in hospitality if you’re prepared to work hard.

“The programme taught me self-respect, attention to detail and being a perfectionist. Perfection was a mantra at Galvin at Windows and that’s made me think about striving for perfection every day. There are so many companies out there doing things well, but if you want to succeed you have to bring excellence into everything you do.”

See story in Harpers Wine & Spirit

 

Fred Sirieux with the Academy's Paul Breach and the three scholarship winners

Fred Sirieux with the Academy’s Paul Breach and the three scholarship winners