In the words of judge Robin Hutson, proprietor of Hotel du Vin & Bistro in Tunbridge Wells and Winchester (and a former winner of the Newcomer of the Year title), the Star Inn at Harome in North Yorkshire is "absolutely in keeping with the spirit of the award". The pub is a classic small business, run and wholly owned by Andrew and Jacquie Pern - a couple "taking a big risk, but doing it well".
The Perns borrowed the full £225,000 purchase price to buy the 14th-century property - a run-down inn, which had previously been closed for seven months - and have since spent a further £40,000 installing a new kitchen and refurbishing the property.
"People thought we were mad borrowing so much," Andrew told Caterer earlier this year, "but we were confident that the business would take off." Their confidence has already been rewarded: turnover exceeded £500,000 in its second year - twice the amount originally forecast by the young entrepreneurs.
Andrew and Jacquie, who previously worked as head chef and manageress respectively at the Milburn Arms Hotel at Rosedale Abbey in North Yorkshire, always knew they wanted to run a pub rather than a restaurant, because it would allow them to provide a more relaxed service.
"People love the easy-going ambience of the pub, yet they know they can also enjoy excellent food with us," explained Andrew, whose cooking style was inspired by Paul Heathcote's restaurant at Longridge in Lancashire and Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire.
An average of 100 covers are served daily at the Star, split between the 30-seat restaurant, the 16-seat bar and a recently opened 10-seat private dining room. Average spend is £25 per head.
The Perns offer a printed lunch menu - including home-made soups, sandwiches and lighter dishes such as grilled black pudding with parsley mash and home-baked beans (£4.50) or basil tagliatelle with king scallops, smoked bacon and pesto (£8.95) - a daily changing blackboard menu of eight starters and main courses, and a printed supper menu. All menus display Andrew's talent for combining cheap ingredients with more expensive ones.
Although there are hundreds of pubs in Britain serving good food, there are few doing it as well as the Perns and taking a similar risk. The inn was one of only three pubs in the country to be awarded both a Red M and a pub symbol in the 1998 Michelin Guide and the pub also won the 1997 Menu of the Year Catey.
Collecting their second Catey this year, the Perns join an elite group of just five previous winners to hold two Catey titles. However, the Perns are the first of this group to receive their Catey awards in consecutive years.
Because the Star is situated in a rural setting, it has been necessary for the Perns to buy a cottage in Harome for staff accommodation. They also feel that with so many customers travelling long distances to eat at the pub, the next logical step would be to provide an upmarket bed-and-breakfast operation close by.
Such business acumen is congratulated by judge Richard Power, commercial director for RF Hotels, who summarised the judges' thoughts on this year's winner. "The award should inspire new talent to come into the industry, which is really where there is an element of risk."