CREATE, the new advocacy programme by Edrington UK in support of the UK trade, is a competition like no other. Partnering with six of Manchester’s finest bars and restaurants, CREATE aims to highlight the strength in collaboration between the kitchen, front of house, and the bartending teams.
This one-of-a-kind competition will engage each account with an expert in their field before coming together for a competition day on Wednesday 20th October in Manchester to showcase their creations to an industry-leading judging panel.
The participants will be masters of their own craft, whilst expertly pairing their creations with brands such as The Macallan, Maker’s Mark, Laphroaig, Highland Park, Toki Whisky and Roku Gin.
CLASS spoke to each of the experts - Michael Green, senior whisky specialist and all round FOH guru; Brad Price, drinks development specialist; and Danny Brown, consultant and food expert - tasked with mentoring the competitors.
1/ Tell us about the CREATE project concept. What sets it apart and why did you get involved?
Michael: The CREATE project was born out of a team meeting one day, where we found there was a universal desire from the team to engage, inspire and excite our customers with a project that would bring collaboration and a sense of purpose whilst also being able to offer education and support after such a tough time – we want to showcase the diverse talent and skills we have around us in the industry, and how all three elements are just as important as the other.
Brad: It was created with one thing in mind – to showcase the incredible teamwork that happens within the hospitality sector. It can often be a misconception that there is a divide between front of house, back of house and kitchen teams, and that it’s usually one that creates a great experience. We disagree! It’s combining all three elements that really make that visit to your favourite bar or restaurant special.
Danny: It’s a fantastic initiative that brings food, drink and service together in a more comprehensive fashion. The programme is unique and a fantastic opportunity for our patrons in hospitality to up-skill after such a challenging time – this is the main reason I was so eager to get involved!
2/ What do you aim to achieve through this programme?
Brad: To show that ‘one team’ approach in hospitality. I want to see the front of house, bar and kitchen bring the passion, creativity and flavour that they do every day in their venues and bring it to life using our fantastic brands. It’s also a great opportunity to celebrate our industry and take inspiration from each other.
Danny: To me, CREATE is step one of what is a strategic plan to encourage new ways of menu development. I envision this programme rolling out across other key cities, helping pave the way to creating a unique way of showcasing talent across all elements of service.
Michael: I echo what these gents have said, it really is about highlighting the fact that everyone in hospitality is ‘one team’ and when working collaboratively, can create greatness together. If the chefs can make a two-course menu incorporating the spirit in some way, and the bartenders can create some delicious drinks that not only elevates the brand but pairs beautifully with the food then we’re on to a winner. Pair this with delivering the best in guest service, then we will know our job has been done!
4/ Danny, what will be your advice to competitors looking to successfully integrate food into their offering - are there guiding principles?
Food and drink are clearly subjective, and everyone has different tastes and palettes so there isn’t an algorithm or process we can follow here. For me, the chefs should think big and experiment during the creative stages of the food development – no idea is wrong or silly in the beginning!
The chefs should remember that we’re not judging on their ability to cook as we know how great they already are, but how they integrate the spirit and food together, and how it is then executed in the overall dish. That’s why the one-on-one mentorship we’re offering as part of this programme is important, as we can give them critical advice and guidance on how to nail this.
I would also encourage them all to really get lost in the history and heritage of the brand. Understanding the way the spirit tastes and smells is key, but there is so much more that can bring the spirit to life. The maturation process, ingredients, and the time it takes to make the spirit is all important aspects to give a fair chance to pair food and drink effectively. The chefs should consider what unique ingredients are found near the distillery of the spirit, and how they can be employed to support and complement the liquid.
5/ Brad, what will be your advice to competitors? How are drinks programmes best designed to work in harmony with the food and venue layout/mood/concept?
My advice to the bartenders would be to bring your venue and style to us. The judges want to see and feel the personal touches from each participant. I would also say to the participants to take an interest in where the spirit is from and how they can bring this theme and concept to the cocktails and serves.
One thing to add, is that every element; the drink, food, and front of house, should complement each other and never overpower.
6/ Michael, how does the FOH organisation and style inform the product - what comes first? How do you go about finding balance and seamlessness between FOH and BOH?
First impressions are often made within the first three seconds, and with there being so much choice of where to dine and drink, your service can be the unique point of difference that your venue has against the competitive set. Finding a seamless balance between FOH and BOH is akin to finding the Holy Grail. It is no easy task! However, with great communication skills between both whilst being organised and prepared really can make a difference. FOH and BOH need to work well together, helping and supporting each other throughout whilst being transparent, genuine, and trustworthy. When done right, the consumer experience really will be the best it can be.
CREATE will take place just outside of Manchester on Wednesday 20 October – keep an eye out for more information on the winners soon.