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Gold Plate – as good as it gets

THERE is always a certain prestige involved in winning an award, and as far as the restaurant industry is concerned it doesn’t get much more prestigious than the annual Gold Plate Awards.

This years Gold Plate Awards were held on Monday, November 20 at the Burswood International Resort Showroom and exhibited all the glitz, glamour and knotted stomachs of the Academy Awards.

One glance at the judging forms used in deciding winners, and it becomes very clear that taking home a Gold Plate is no mean feat. In fact, it’s probably the closest you’ll ever find to a food based French Inquisition. There are 10 sections by which restaurants are judged and 398 points (in total) within these 10 sections. Winning a Gold Plate is not an easy challenge to achieve; it’s very, very tough.

When the Gold Plates started some 33 years ago, the judging was, to put it mildly, less rigorous.

Initially known as the Gold Goblet, Gold Knife, Gold Fork and the Gold Spoon the four awards (there are now 18) were judged by a simple one page assessment sheet (the judging form is now 12 pages long) along with customer voting and self assessment forms.

The four Gold utensil awards in the late 1960s were given at a low key even run by the Beverage Service Guild, headed by Ray Perry and Kees Kourhard.

Four years later the Beverage Service Guild amalgamated their award with the Catering Institute and the event, run by the Gold Plate Awards Committee headed up by Executive Officer Vicki Mayell, became a part of the WA division of the Catering Institute of Australia’s annual calendar.

What began as an opportunity to reward and encourage excellence in the restaurant industry has evolved into the premier gala event for the WA industry involving a cast and crew of hundreds of players including a team of chefs and wait people, organisers, committee members, judges and entrants.

And while the cast involved in putting the event together may have expanded dramatically the purpose of the awards hasn’t changed – it is still congratulating, encouraging and rewarding the best of the best.

There are currently 18 categories in the Gold Plates, with the most recent addition (from 1999) being The Gold Plate Caterers Award, which was won in it inaugural year by the WA Turf Club.

Forteen of the 18 categories are judged within the restaurants, while three are judged at outside events and one by a written submission.

The one and only event judged by written submission is the Wine List of the Year, which requires restaurants to simply submit both their current food and wine menus. The menus are then judged on “balance and marriage with the menu and venue style” and the winner announced at the Gold Plate Awards, entering this competition is free.

The Houghton’s Sommelier of the Year Award, The Professional Chef of the Year award and the Professional Waiter of the Year Award were all judged at the Hospitality and Catering Expo held at the Burswood Resort (Dome) last August. Again entering these particular categories was free and the winners were also acknowledged at the recent Gold Plate Awards.

The award generally considered the top of the turkey at the Gold Plates would probably have to be Fine and Occasional Dining (includes 5 Star Hotel Restaurants), this year the award was taken out by Windows Restaurant at Burswood International Resort Casino.

This section comes with the most expensive participation fee of $500 and past winners include The Loose Box Restaurant in Mundaring and Louisa’s in Bunbury.

Other awards are less expensive to enter, for example the Hotel and Tavern Dining, won this year by Greenhills Tavern in York, Unlicensed Asia, taken in 200 by Maya Indian Restaurant in Fremantle and the Ray Perry Family Dining Award, scooped by Jetty’s in Sorrento cost entrants only $250.

Other entry fees range from $300 for Unlicensed Dining to $350 for Restaurants with a Winery (added to the list of categories in 1999) to $400 for Seafood.

The fees are well spent, considering every entrant is judged twice by two anonymous judges who announce neither their arrival, nor their presence at the entered restaurant, and pay the bill at the end of the meal, like any other patron.

And Gold Plate finalists are judged on four different occasions (the people at the Catering Institute really don’t muck around) so in reality, the money spent on entering is pretty well re-cycled back into the till.

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