Phoebe Benta is a member of the QHotels' Events Prof Panel
and an experienced event professional with her own boutique agency,
Eureka Events. This year, Phoebe was invited onto the final judging
panel of the third annual QHotels Chef Competition, employing the
Event Profs Panel's knowledge and experience to help shape QHotels'
future conference menus. Here she shares her experience as a judge
and her thoughts on the future of conference and event
Being a judge in the QHotels Chef Competition, and getting to
see behind-the-scenes of how new menus are created, was a real
eye-opener. It was a nerve-wracking process as 20 talented chefs
from across the QHotels group were invited to design the new summer
picnic hampers and autumn/winter conference menus. Junior chefs
were competing to create the picnic hamper, whilst senior chefs
were challenged with constructing a three-course conference menu
with two dishes per course.
The entries were whittled down to just four seniors and three
juniors in the heats, with the finals held at the stunning Crewe
It felt like a 'MasterChef' final as I sat on the final judging
panel alongside managing director Michael Purtill and group
director of food and beverage Chris Eigelaar. Having the
opportunity to represent the Event Profs panel as a judge was
fantastic; it's great that QHotels values our collective
experiences and customer insight and is keen to include our
perspective. It was also incredible to see up-and-coming talent as
well as seasoned chefs being given a real opportunity to be
creative and innovative.
There was a real competitive spirit throughout the competition
but it was also very collaborative, and most importantly, lots of
fun. The junior chefs had 90 minutes to prepare their picnic
hampers while senior chefs had to prepare and present one dish from
each course of their conference menu in just 60 minutes.
I didn't realise just how difficult (and delicious) judging
would be - the standard was so high! The dishes were all
mouth-watering and beautifully presented; fish was a popular theme
throughout the competition, from grilled seabream to soused
mackerel, and it was great to see the chefs so committed to
creating healthy and tasty options for event attendees.
Campbell Mclean, senior sous chef at The Midland in Manchester,
was announced as the worthy winner of the autumn/winter conference
menu. I whole-heartedly agree; his pork fillet with parsley and
pink peppercorn was my absolute favourite dish of the day. His
delicious menu was inspired by seasonal produce, whilst also being
simple enough to reproduce for large banqueting numbers.
Conference and event delegates are also set to be treated to
incredible soused fillet of mackerel, cumin and coriander pollock
fillet and mango and passion fruit panacotta as part of Campbell's
new menu, which will be appearing at conferences later in the
The winning hamper was designed by Maged Mandour, a junior chef
at The Stratford Manor, and will be available from June. I think
they'll be a great option for the summer, especially at the venues
with lovely grounds and gardens.
The competition makes me so excited for the future of catering
and I applaud the approach QHotels takes to involve and harness the
talent of its chefs across the group. Food is such an important
part of conference and events, and menus must be updated and
refreshed regularly, so it's great to see how receptive QHotels is
to new ideas.
I think generally we are seeing a much-needed improvement in
conference food, but in my opinion more venues should bear in mind
how much delegates really look forward to being fed - they are
always excited to experience dishes that give them a break from
their standard office lunch.
As an event's organiser, it's equally as exciting to receive
information on new menus so to have had this opportunity to see how
menus are designed and developed, and to be able to share my
experience with other event professionals was a real privilege.
It's fantastic to know that I played a part in selecting the dishes
that so many people will be enjoying over the coming months.
You can find out more about Phoebe Benta
For more information on booking a conference or event at
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