Words by Hoe Ziqian
While it is not wrong to assume that a discerning palate is the key criteria to becoming a Certified F&B Mystery Judge under Wine & Dine, there is actually more than meets the eye.
On 3 Dec 2020, a carefully curated group of local F&B industry players and food enthusiasts gathered at the Crystal Jade Palace restaurant in Ngee Ann City for the inaugural Certified F&B Mystery Judge training session conducted by Wine & Dine, with support from NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
Since then, there has been another two sessions conducted as Wine & Dine look to improve its offering based on the feedback gathered in the initial session.
Having been the definitive guide for local foodies for the past 32 years, Wine & Dine magazine’s experience in judging the top dining spots in Singapore is second to none. Its annual publication – Singapore’s Top Restaurants Guide, is compiled based on the results of a series of extensive mystery judging for participating restaurants. In a bid to uphold the standard of judging and raise the overall standard of F&B in Singapore, Wine & Dine has set its sights on training more budding F&B mystery judges and elevating their skills to become competent and discerning food critics.
The objectives of the full-day course are simple. The fundamental aim is to equip a mystery judge with the relevant knowledge and build his or her confidence on the use of that knowledge. The course also seeks to hone a mystery judge’s judging, scoring, and comparison skills to improve the quality of judging so that participating restaurants can have the assurance that they are being evaluated objectively and professionally. Lastly, but arguably the most important objective, is to foster a community spirit to uplift the local F&B standard as a whole.
While it may sound like a lofty goal, Wine & Dine and e2i are confident that the baby steps taken through this initiative would eventually yield the desired outcome with the appropriate level of passion and persistence. By providing constructive feedback and ratings during the mystery tastings, certified F&B mystery judges are helping to improve the restaurant’s qualities as they convey the observations from the perspective of the discerning mystery judge.
Ronald Tan, co-founder of Kings Cart Coffee felt that the ambition of improving the F&B standards resonated with him. “I feel more well-equipped with valuable knowledge of the evaluation process on the F&B industry. This will help me pinpoint areas to improve on my own business in a holistic manner.”
His business partner, Maggie Chen echoed the same sentiments by adding, “Not only do I have greater knowledge in judging others, I also gained better insights on how to improve our own business.”
Mr Benjamin Yang, managing director of Novitee, set the stage with his thought-provoking take on the impact of heuristics and biases on the judging process. For many participants, it was an eye-opening experience as they would never have considered the influence of a correct mindset on the outcome of the judging. By raising this awareness, the graduating mystery judges would then be able to apply the conscious effort to assess each restaurant with the correct frame of mind, which would invariably lead to a more objective and hence more accurate evaluation.