The Lancashire mother and daughter working at two of the country's finest dining locations
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 April 2018
When Stosie Madi and her daughter Laudy Gibba-Smith get together there are usually gales of laughter. But there is one thing they both take seriously - good service. Roger Borrell reports
Why are the men and women who serve food in restaurants treated with great respect in many European countries, while here it is looked down on as the preserve of hard-up students and serial under-achievers?
Being a great waiter or waitress requires so many different skills – you need to be a diplomat, an advisor and a connoisseur ready to dispense an almost Jeeves-like wisdom. And juggling skills don’t go amiss. Good service can make a restaurant, bad staff will break it.
Take Lancashire lass Laudy Gibba-Smith as a prime example. She is a former pupil of the illustrious Stonyhurst College and two minutes into a conversation with this articulate young woman you realise she has more the enough brain power to see her through the finest university. Yet people might be surprised to discover she is a waitress, albeit head waitress at L’Enclume, the Cartmel restaurant with two Michelin stars.
You might think it helps that her mum is award-winning chef Stosie Madi, a doyenne of the dining pub scene. Her kitchen at the Parkers Arms in Newton in Bowland has received national acclaim and was recently awarded the Number 8 slot in the league of Britain’s best gastro-pubs.
But Stosie confesses: ‘I can’t say I was delighted when Laudy first told me what she wanted to do. I have great respect for people who wait on tables but it’s terribly hard work and I tried to persuade her that opening her own tea shop would be a better option. But she was determined.’
Laudy spent time at Northcote and came under the spell there of director Craig Bancroft, a passionate advocate of great service. She was initiated into the dark arts of the sommelier and that secured her a similar post at L’Enclume before she tried her hand at waiting on tables.
It soon became clear that she was a natural and aged 21 she gained an award of excellence from the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and reached the finals of the Gold Service Scholarship, the premier awards to find the best front of house talent, where she competed against many older and more experienced waiters. You wouldn’t bet against her being a future winner.
‘Some people do see the job as being servile but there is much more to it than simply putting plates on tables,’ says Laudy, now 24. ‘I’m there to listen, to help lighten the mood if necessary and generally add to the experience. I like talking to guests and describing the food and wine but you also know when people want to be left alone. You learn to work out how often they want you to go to their table.’
The hospitality industry is in the blood. ‘It is really all down to my mum. I’ve been watching her at work from a very young age so I knew it was hard and I’d have to work my way from the bottom up.
‘But as soon as I went to L’Enclume I fell in love with the place. It’s not as formal as some Michelin starred restaurants and they allow you to be yourself. It’s a very male dominated world so you have to be quite hard. There is sexism everywhere but you develop a rapport with colleagues and that way you create friendships.
‘The hours are long but we work four days on and have three days off and that gives us a chance to socialise. We are like a family in many ways. As for the future, one day I’d like to be a manager.’
The long hours worry her mother. ‘Having a child driving back home from work at 2am would concern any mum,’ says Stosie. ‘It’s not something I wanted her to do but she has proved me wrong and I’m supremely proud of her.’
And does Laudy ever refer to her customers as ‘guys’? ‘Oh no,’ she laughs. ‘It’s always sir and madam.’ n