The ones to watch

04 May 2001
The ones to watch

Robin Austin - Production and development manager Sodexho Prestige, Edinburgh, Scotland

Guy Beardsmore- Senior development chef, Whitbread, Dunstable

Rachel Begbie- Training manager, Four Seasons hotel, London

Judith Bissert- Assistant brand manager, Hilton Group

Sandro Bohrmann- Food and beverage manager, Park Lane hotel, Piccadilly, London

Oliver Brown- General manager, Blooms Townhouse hotel, London

Hannah Burton- Director, Chess Partnership

Suzanne Chaplin- Association sales, Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Michael Currie- General manager, Simply Heathcotes, Preston, Lancashire

Rowan Denton- Operations support manager, Whitbread Hotel Company, Luton

Paul Edwards- Managing director, Dunalastair hotel, Kinloch Rannoch, Perthshire

Angelo Gabrilatsou- Area manager, Frankie & Benny's, North-west region

Rachel George- Senior catering officer, Royal Logistic Corps, HQ London district

Francesca Hale- Operations manager, Little Chef, Toddington, Bedfordshire

Dan Hall- Group executive chef, Compass Group Scotland & Northern Ireland

Jo Hayward- Brand manager, Select Service Partner - UK Rail, London

Nick Logue- General manager, Selsdon Park Hotel, Croydon, Surrey

Yvonne Marie Lomas- Manager, the Globe hotel, Morecambe, Lancashire

Andy Marshall- Financial director, Eurest Sutcliffe (South), Bristol

Joëlle Marti- Wine manager, Great Eastern hotel, London

Steven McLeod- General manager, Inchyra Grange, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

David Monson- Director of catering, Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf, London

Anwen Parry- E-commerce marketing manager, RF Hotels, London

Jenny Price- Area manager, Scolarest, London

Claire Rankin- Executive chef, Fish!, London

Trevor Stagg- Head chef, Baxter & Platts, London

Lucy Taylor- Restaurant supervisor, The Vine hotel, Skegness, Lincolnshire

Matthew Thomas- Corporate business development manager, Compass Group, London

Carl Tiffin- Marketing manager, Papa John's/Perfect Pizza, Chertsey, Surrey

Nicholas Turner- Director of sales, Heritage Hotels, London

Robin Austin

- Aged 28, production and development manager Sodexho Prestige, Scotland, Edinburgh
Nominated by James Thomson, proprietor, The Witchery by the Castle Group, Edinburgh

There can be no higher praise than being credited with making a company an industry leader, but this is what Robin Austin has been recognised for. According to his nominator, James Thomson, the success of Sodexho Prestige's operation in Scotland in winning high-profile venues and creating a "vastly improved" product is down to Austin's "skills, infectious enthusiasm and dedication".

Over the past three years the company has increased its turnover from £2.5m to £14m and has expanded the range of venues from which it operates while raising the gross profit from each to between 70% and 75%.

Austin is more modest about his achievement, preferring to attribute the success of the company to his entire team. He says he wanted to win his Acorn award because they have all worked hard in turning round what had been the poor reputation of the operation.

"Getting the award is great timing, because we have done so much over the last couple of years to turn round the company," says Austin. The main changes made were to the style of service, which was switched from silver service to plated, reducing staff costs. The changes were instrumental in securing the company a contract at the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield, last month.

Austin says his ambition is to own his own hotel. "Maybe just a small one," he adds.

Guy Beardsmore

- Aged 29, senior development chef, Whitbread, Dunstable
Nominated by Jay Nartowicz, director of food innovation and development, Whitbread, Dunstable

Guy Beardsmore was "pleased and amazed" when he heard he had become an Acorn, but although he regards it as a stepping stone to a great future, he doesn't have any plans to change his career at the moment. "I've always aimed quite high and as a chef I think I have one of the best jobs in the world," he says.

Beardsmore has already had plenty of experience of catering in the USA. In 1994, at 23, Beardsmore was recruited by US chefs Rick Taramonto and Gale Gand as sous chef for their four-star fusion restaurants of French, Italian and Asian cuisine.

Within a year Beardsmore was promoted to executive chef of Brasserie T in Chicago, where he headed a team of 26 chefs and 10 porters. The restaurant averaged 400 daily covers with an annual turnover of $4m (£2.8m).

Just two years later he joined Darden Restaurants, one of the world's largest casual dining restaurant groups, based in Orlando, Florida. He took over as executive development chef for the Olive Garden brand - an Italian dining concept with 478 sites and an annual turnover of $1.4b (£974m).

This experience made Beardsmore the perfect candidate for Whitbread's Shared Services Division, which is responsible for food development across all divisions, spread over 2,500 sites with combined annual turnover of £600m.

One of his key responsibilities is to translate best business practice from the USA to the UK to achieve the best food development, using both internal and external supply processes.

So far in his career with Whitbread, Beardsmore, who leads a team of seven, has launched 23 core menus and 20 key event promotions.

Rachel Begbie

- Aged 29, training manager, Four Seasons hotel, London
Nominated by John Stauss, general manager and regional vice-president, Four Seasons hotel, London

Rachel Begbie is constantly being thanked by employees whose careers she has helped while working at the Four Seasons hotel. She helped one person with their English, aiding the employee's progression from stewarding to room service.

It was Begbie's personality and warmth that helped her get her job at the Four Seasons hotel, London, as training manager in 1999. Modestly, she says that the hotel, which she joined after spending a year at the Stakis Dartford Bridge hotel, took a great gamble in employing her.

"I hadn't had the training background ideally required for the role, but I soon discovered my forte in training," says Begbie. Now she says: "Being involved in people's development and watching them progress is something I find extremely rewarding."

As training manager, Begbie has overall responsibility for the training and development of 360 employees. She conducts the induction programme for new recruits and runs legislative training, product knowledge, supervisory and management development training programmes.

Begbie also looks after the training of other training managers within the company, and assists them with training at their own properties.

For the future, Begbie wants to develop her role so the whole concept of training and its benefits are more widely acknowledged both inside and outside the industry.

Judith Bissert

- Aged 26, assistant brand manager, Hilton Group
Nominated by Grant Hearn, managing director, Hilton UK & Ireland

Doing an impromptu rendition of the Bee Gees' song, Tragedy, in front of a 150-strong audience was one of the more unusual events of Judith Bissert's career with Hilton.

The assistant brand manager was at the start of a UK-wide series of 10 roadshows for the internal launch of Hilton Meetings when she and her colleagues thought a song would be a good idea to liven up the audience. "The reaction was so great it became part of the rest of our roadshows," she says.

Bissert joined Hilton in 1997 after finishing university. At 23 she became the conference and banqueting sales manager at the London Heathrow Hilton, where she helped to increase revenue by 15% year-on-year to £15m in 1998 despite the pressures of a new computer roll-out, staff shortages and an otherwise difficult year for the hotel.

As conference and banqueting brand manager for the group, she played a key role in the launch of Hilton Meetings. According to her nominator Grant Hearn, Bissert showed "commitment and enthusiasm throughout a challenging and complex project".

In her career so far, Bissert says the main thing she has learnt is that the personal touch and a smile really do make a difference.

Sandro Bohrmann

- Aged 29, food and beverage manager, Park Lane hotel, Piccadilly, London
Nominated by Michael Wale, senior vice-president, area director - northern Europe, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

There are two things Sandro Bohrmann considers essential for working in the hospitality industry: attitude and aptitude. Both, says Bohrmann, should be applied in equal measure in dealing with both internal and external customers.

These attributes are evident in Bohrmann's own performance, as human resources manager Rachel Misslebrook points out: "In all situations whilst working with Sandro I have seen an exceptionally quick demonstration of change-management skills in achieving goals and objectives. Clearly, the key to his success has been his well-balanced approach to guests, staff and the business alike."

Bohrmann started his career at the Sheraton Frankfurt hotel in 1991 before moving to England to be food and beverage operations manager at the Sheraton Belgravia hotel, London. In his current position, Bohrmann heads up a team of 120 full-time employees and 100 casual staff, generating revenues of £7.4m.

The main focuses of his job have been the successful reintroduction of kosher catering, the implementation of a new Mediterranean restaurant concept, Citrus, and creating concepts for all food and beverage outlets.

It is, perhaps, a credit to Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Park Lane hotel, that Bohrmann says he would like to stay with the company for the next 10 to 20 years.

Oliver Brown

- Aged 28, general manager, Blooms Townhouse hotel, London
Nominated by Nick Scade, managing director, the Restaurant Factory, Hampshire

Nobody should ever consider messing with Oliver Brown. He may seem like a regular general manager who has achieved a lot in his 28 years, but appearances can be deceptive - for Brown was once a bodyguard for Hollywood strong man Sylvester Stallone. Well, if standing outside the star's hotel door and not letting anyone in counts.

Brown is proud of the moment, although he admits it hasn't been the highlight of his career - that was winning an Acorn. "I feel great about winning. I have worked hard over the past eight years and after leaving college I feel I have reached one of the goals of my career," he says.

His career started in one of London's top hotels, the Ritz, in 1993, when he was on a food and beverage training scheme. From there, he progressed to another of the capital's top hotels, this time the Dorchester, where he was front office manager until 1999.

A short stint as reception manager of the Stoke Park Club, Buckinghamshire, followed before he joined the Restaurant Factory in 1999, taking over as general manager of the Blooms Townhouse, London.

Since starting there, Brown has turned around the poor performance of the hotel. Last year turnover was increased by 8% with an operating profit improvement of 27%.

Hannah Burton

- Aged 30, director, Chess Partnership
Nominated by Chris Sheppardson, managing director, Chess Partnership, London

Hannah Burton didn't know what her boss Chris Sheppardson was going to say when he rang and asked if she was sitting down, but the news was good. She had won an Acorn, something she says she feels honoured in achieving.

Burton joined the London-based recruitment company in January last year to become a director of its Nottingham operation, which was launched in October 1999.

At the end of its first 12 months it delivered a net profit of £30,000, which Sheppardson calls "an impressive achievement". Burton has also built a team that is increasing business by 30% quarter-on-quarter, while her ambition for 2001 is to double the size of the business.

"I have no doubt she will do it, through developing and building a well-motivated team," says Sheppardson.

Burton's career in recruitment began when she joined Sherwoods Personnel in 1995 from Forte Hotels, London, where she worked as a restaurant manager after college. During her time with Sherwoods she rose from being a consultant to operations manager.

Ultimately, Burton would like to be given carte blanche at Chess to build up the company's reputation in the North of England. "Getting to understand the marketplace is a challenge. There's still a lot of scope to continue to build market awareness," she says.

Suzanne Chaplin -

Aged 29, association sales, Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Nominated by Hans Rissmann, chief executive, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh

Modest Suzanne Chaplin immediately passed the credit for winning an Acorn to her colleagues at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC). "It's something we can all be proud of. It's a chance for [the staff] to think about what they have done for the EICC," she says.

Chaplin adds that she is delighted that her efforts since joining the company in 1997 have been recognised as being worthwhile. And rightly so. It was Chaplin's successful leadership of various teams that led to her delivering a number of initiatives which have helped bring in almost £4m for the company.

She has generated £2.4m of sales revenue through confirmed business until 2004 and has secured £1.3m of possible future business until 2010.

Her main areas of responsibility include generating business from the national and international associations market, co-ordinating and conducting site inspections and working with industry partners, such as the Edinburgh Convention Bureau, to undertake joint sales activities.

Michael Currie

- Aged 27, general manager, Simply Heathcotes, Preston, Lancashire
Nominated by Paul Heathcote, proprietor, Paul Heathcote Restaurants, Preston, Lancashire

Michael Currie says he finds it difficult to pick out one specific highlight of his career so far. "I don't rate any particular one over the other," he says. "All my achievements are my highlights."

There are quite a few peaks from his career to focus on. Currie worked at Chewton Glen, New Milton, Hampshire, before joining Paul Heathcote's Longbridge restaurant, where he spent five years working his way up to head waiter and eventually restaurant manager.

During this time he became the American Express Young Waiter of the Year 1997 and was runner-up in the Savoy Educational Trust Waiter of the Year 1997.

Last August, after spending several months as a restaurant manager in Toronto, Canada, Currie rejoined Paul Heathcote's Simply Heathcotes as general manager.

Since then, he has overseen the refurbishment of the premises and has made his mark by pulling together a management team that had seen two previous managers come and go in short succession.

After almost a year in charge, Currie has retained all his personnel and has a motivated management team which consistently produces gross profit, staff percentage and turnover according to budget on a monthly basis.

"I wanted to make sure I made time for my 20 staff," says Currie, "to make sure they knew they were valuable members of the team."

Rowan Denton

- Aged 26, operations support manager, Whitbread Hotel Company, Luton
Nominated by Robert Gaymer-Jones, vice-president, Marriott (UK)

It is a sure sign that someone is good at their job when they are promoted three times in two-and-a-half years.

Rowan Denton is one person who has achieved this feat, and each promotion was "the result of exceptional performance within the remit of her responsibilities, and her dedication to her team", according to Denton's nominator, Robert Gaymer-Jones.

After spending a year as a trainer for Allied Domecq Inns, Denton became senior executive meetings manager at the London Heathrow Marriott. She was responsible for a team of three sales agents targeted to hit £1m in room hire revenue for the hotel's 13 meeting rooms. The budget targets were exceeded by at least 10% each month under Denton's direction.

Since joining the operations department at head office, Denton has driven standards of consistency for the branded conference product, Meeting Edge, across all 45 Marriott hotels, as well as the remaining Swallow hotels that are being converted.

Among Denton's many contributions to the industry was co-ordinating the Whitbread Hotel Company's millennium appeal in June 1999. Working with 57 other hotels, alongside her normal responsibilities, Denton raised more than £100,000, doubling the informal target declared at the outset.

Denton has also proved she will put her life on the line for her job. She took part in a sponsored tandem skydive as part of the head office fund-raising effort - and survived to win her Acorn.

So how does winning an Acorn feel? "It was fantastic to meet 29 mini-oaks and recognise that there are lots of opportunities out there. Often you get engrossed in your own area so it was good to get the extra perspective."

Paul Edwards

- Aged 26, managing director, Dunalastair hotel, Kinloch Rannoch, Perthshire
Nominated by Robert Gilmour, managing director, Innfinite Hospitality, Ayr

Even though Paul Edwards's family owned a three-star, 25-bedroom Highlands hotel with a 70-cover restaurant, it was never his intention to become part of the business. After graduating from St Andrew's University in 1997 with an arts degree, Edwards went to work at the hotel, but only temporarily. Four years on he is managing director and loving every minute of it. "I never thought I'd find such an enjoyable career," he says.

Edwards turned around the fortunes of the hotel, which was described by his nominator, Robert Gilmour, as "languishing to the point where the family had considered selling".

By applying radical, innovative Internet marketing and e-commerce techniques, combined with establishing an IT culture across the business, he was successful in making the hotel work.

A £200,000 turnover in 1997 has been increased to £640,000 last year. Net profit on sales has jumped from 10% to 20% and gross profit is up from 65% to 70%, while the number of staff has risen from five to 25.

Edwards says his biggest learning curve has been in his relationship with his staff. "I have learnt how important people are in this industry and that you have to develop yourself to develop your business."

Angelo Gabrilatsou

- Aged 28, area manager, Frankie & Benny's, North-west region
Nominated by James Horler, managing director, Frankie & Benny's

Angelo Gabrilatsou knows what makes an outlet belonging to a large chain work: letting the outlet's manager treat the business as if it were his own.

That way, believes Gabrilatsou, the manager will put his heart into it to make it succeed. "I allow the managers and general managers to run their own operations. I set the parameters on how they should work. It creates a level of freedom, so essentially I am here to give direction," he says.

Following this philosophy, Gabrilatsou has a very low management turnover, and this stability has led to a high level of staff loyalty.

Gabrilatsou's career at Frankie & Benny's started in 1996 when he was recruited as assistant manager of the group's Huddersfield premises. With the outlet quickly becoming a success, he was promoted to general manager of the Leeds Frankie & Benny's. In its first year it exceeded a 70% return on capital and served more than 125,000 covers.

In February 1999 Gabrilatsou was again promoted, to area manager for the North-west region, and was put in charge of 11 restaurants with a combined annual turnover of £9m.

On top of all his management skill, for the past two years Gabrilatsou has been involved in running an "adopt a college" campaign that has secured graduate staff for the business.

Rachel George

- Aged 26, senior catering officer, Royal Logistic Corps, HQ London district
Nominated by Lieutenant Colonel John Miller, Commander Logistic Support, HQ London

It is not often an Acorn winner talks about being deployed in Bosnia or commanding a troop of soldiers in a supply regiment, but for Captain Rachel George this is part of her life.

George has been in the Army since leaving university and joining the Royal Logistic Corps in 1995. In January last year she began working at Headquarters London District as the area catering officer for all Army units based within the M25 and in Windsor.

She was only a few months into her new position when, at the age of 25 and with very little experience, George took on sole responsibility for the whole food service function for the London district. This included the career management of 111 full-time military chefs and 180 Territorial Army chefs within 74 diverse and prestigious units.

More than 2,300 personnel are catered for on a daily basis, either by military chefs or contractors. George manages annual budgets of £4.5m for contracted-out catering services and £1m for feeding troops on exercise.

Her academic record is as impressive as her management skills: she has a first-class honours degree in management from the University of London, and a postgraduate diploma, with distinction, in food and hospitality management from Bournemouth University.

As for her future, George says she's going to stay in the Army, and her immediate aim is to progress to the next rank - that of major.

Francesca Hale

- Aged 26, operations manager, Little Chef, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Nominated by Bobby McGhee, managing director, Little Chef, Toddington, Bedfordshire

Francesca Hale's father wasn't pleased when she gave up her dream of being a solicitor to work in a Little Chef outlet. In fact, he was so upset that he didn't speak to her for six months. Although he also worked in catering, he considered the roadside café industry to be a less-than-glamorous side of the business.

Her father's attitude soon changed when Hale rose up the ladder from supervisor in her first restaurant in 1993 to her present position as operations manager with 22 sites to look after. Her achievements were topped off by winning an Acorn. "Winning this is really good for Compass Roadside [the parent company of Little Chef]. It will definitely be a benefit, because it does show that we are a company that develops people," she says.

As well as developing people, Hale's duties include delivery of budgeted and targeted sales and profit through efficient and effective application of brand standards, manpower planning, margin/cost management and delivery of customer standards.

For someone who, at 26, has climbed so far so fast, Hale is relaxed about her future prospects. "I don't know what my future ambition is. To stay employed would be quite good," she says.

Dan Hall

- Aged 26, group executive chef, Compass Group Scotland & Northern Ireland
Nominated by Alan Aitken, managing director, Compass Group Scotland & Ireland

"Dan's progression since joining the organisation just over a year ago has been incredible," says Alan Aitken, who nominated Dan Hall. Among his many duties, the chef oversees the development of Nairns Anywhere, a new outside catering concept, developing craft training programmes for current Compass chefs, and updating menu specifications and ideas to bring a modern approach to contract catering.

Given Hall's vast CV and penchant for chef competitions, it is not surprising he has progressed quickly.

Having started as a sous chef at the Airds hotel, Argyllshire, in 1993, he went on to work at various Michelin-starred restaurants. These included Gidleigh Park, Devon; Braeval restaurant, Stirlingshire; and Roscoff (now Cayenne), Belfast. He went on to become head chef for one of Scotland's most famous chefs, Nick Nairn.

Among his many competition wins is Scottish Young Chef of the Year (1996), and he was a regional finalist in both the Roux Scholarship (1999 and 2000) and Wedgwood Chef & Potter competition (1999 and 2000).

Hall now competes with the Compass/Granada Culinary Team. Even with all his competition experience, Hall says: "Competitions are not really the thing that gets me going. No, it's more working with the best ingredients." And he adds: "It's not enough just to be a chef. At Compass I'm also learning to understand how big business works."

Jo Hayward

- Aged 25, brand manager, Select Service Partner - UK Rail, London
Nominated by Tony Keating, managing director, Select Service Partner - UK Rail, London

Jo Hayward has not had an easy year. The recent rail crisis proved difficult for the three brands she looks after - 117 Quicksnacks, 35 Lemon Trees and two Pumpkins.

"The crisis affected us badly," she says. "We were looking at what we could do at a local level to get the people who were still on the stations into the outlets," adds Hayward.

It was business that Hayward didn't want to lose, as the combined brands have a total revenue of £35m.

In her two years with Select Service Partner, where she began as a marketing executive, Hayward has increased the volume and spend at existing estate units by 15% year-on-year. Lemon Tree was the second strongest brand year-on-year within the group, beating Upper Crust with 7.8% cumulative growth.

Looking to the future, Hayward has developed the Pumpkin café and shop concept to replace Quicksnack. Two test sites at Sheffield and Coventry showed sales growth of more than 30% after the conversion. "The development of Pumpkin and what we are doing with it has been one of the highlights of my career," says Hayward.

Nick Logue

- Aged 29, general manager, Selsdon Park Hotel, Croydon, Surrey
Nominated by Suzanne Hall, marketing manager, Principal Hotels Group, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

By many people's standards, Nick Logue was young to be a general manager. He was just 25 when he was promoted to joint general manager of the four-star, 122-bedroom Palace hotel, in Buxton, Derbyshire. The position, he says, gave him the chance to concentrate on running a hotel while the other GM looked after sales and marketing.

This move set a precedent in Logue's career. In 1997 he became general manager of another four-star hotel, the 154-bedroom Cheltenham Park in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. During his time there his achievements included reducing staff turnover by introducing individual development and training programmes.

In his current role as general manager of the four-star Selsdon Park Hotel and Golf Club, in Croydon, Surrey, which he took over two years ago, he plans to grow turnover by 20% to £12.5m in the next two years.

Logue's dedication to the hotel industry is not surprising, as his father owns two small family-run hotels in Ireland. Logue wants to eventually own his own hotel, but unfortunately he can't call it Logue's. "No, the Logue hotel chain already exists in Ireland," he laughs.

Yvonne Marie Lomas

- Aged 28, manager, the Globe hotel, Morecambe, Lancashire
Nominated by John and Sue Hughes, proprietors, the Hest Bank hotel, Lancaster

February 2001 was a good month for Yvonne Marie Lomas. Not only did she win an Acorn - for which she had also been nominated last year - but she was given her own pub to manage.

John and Sue Hughes, who nominated Lomas, appointed her as manager of the six-bedroom Globe hotel, which has 14 staff and a turnover of £450,000 gross, split between food, drink and accommodation. Her responsibilities include motivating her team, maintaining high quality standards, sales growth and bottom-line profit.

"Yvonne was extremely successful as manager of the Hest Bank [part of Nearly Waterside Inns], when she was reporting directly to us," says Sue Hughes, who along with her husband subsequently promoted her.

Lomas started her career at the Hest Bank in 1997 and, having trained as a chef, she was able to undertake all craft jobs.

She has specific responsibility for training and team development, starting from the initial interviews, through induction and individual reviews. Sue Hughes says that this personal attention has resulted in a staff turnover level of just 25%.

Lomas is also something of a local media personality. As a result of a press article on one of the pub's achievements, she secured TV coverage from BBC North West for the Hest Bank.

Andy Marshall

- Aged 30, financial director, Eurest Sutcliffe (South), Bristol
Nominated by Alan Morgan-George, managing director, Eurest Sutcliffe (South), Bristol

Andy Marshall's Acorn award couldn't have come at a better time. Restructuring within the company last October meant he didn't have a team below him and was handling the majority of the work himself.

"I was trying to keep on top of everything and at the same time recruit my team," he says. "It's all come together now, as the people I've hired have just finished their induction, and I've won an Acorn. It couldn't be better."

Marshall says the highlight of his career to date was being promoted last September to his current position as financial director for Eurest Sutcliffe (South).

Having a good working relationship with his team is one of the attributes Marshall is noted for. "Andy has consistently developed the operators under his control, working with the teams and developing their skills," says his managing director, Alan Morgan-George.

Marshall needs to have a good team, for he is in charge of an area that has 475 contracts, producing a turnover of more than £100m and a profit of £11.3m.

He is used to dealing with large numbers: since joining the company in 1998 as a commercial manager, Marshall has increased his responsibility from looking after 100 contracts with a turnover of £25m, first to 140 contracts turning over £37m and then to 240 contracts with a turnover of £55m.

Joëlle Marti

- Aged 28, wine manager, Great Eastern hotel, London
Nominated by Nicholas Rettie, managing director, Great Eastern hotel, London

Joëlle Marti's success in winning an Acorn is a double triumph for the staff at Sir Terence Conran's Great Eastern hotel. Last year assistant food and beverage manager Paul Goodale was also a recipient.

"We are all thrilled at the hotel to get another award," says Marti. "It shows continuity and consistency in the hotel." On a personal level, Marti says she feels it is a great reward for her.

In her role as wine manager, French-born Marti is responsible for a team of five sommeliers. She creates all the wine lists for the hotel's four restaurants, three bars and a large private dining and events department.

Marti also looks after the wine-buying budget for the hotel, which in the first year of trading was more than £800,000 for wine purchases alone.

Beginning her career in France, Marti moved to the UK in 1993 to Gravetye Manor, in East Grinstead, West Sussex, where she was chef de rang before being promoted to sommelier. After spending some time in Australia, Marti returned to London, working for London restaurants Le Pont de la Tour and Les Ambassadeurs before joining the Great Eastern in 1999.

Such is Marti's love of wine that she arranges wine tutoring for her waiting staff, and also for the kitchen brigade, so they can match food with wine.

Steven McLeod

- Aged 26, general manager, Inchyra Grange, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
Nominated by Jan Hampton, personnel development director, Macdonald Hotels

Steven McLeod's Acorn entry form proudly bore the legend "10 years in the hospitality industry". It is a career that started at the age of 17 when he became part-time supervisor at the four-star, 214-bedroom Dunblane Hydro hotel in Dunblane, Perthshire. He worked his way up to general manager of Macdonald Hotels' Inchyra hotel, becoming the youngest in the company to reach that position.

The 109-roomed Inchyra hotel is one of the company's top five centres, turning over £5m, of which £2m is profit. McLeod is in charge of 220 staff, who work in the building's three restaurants, eight bars, banqueting for 1,000 and a leisure and sports complex that has about 1,400 members.

McLeod wasn't content with being the youngest general manager, he also broke the mould by moving from deputy to the top position of the same unit.

McLeod says that the highlight of his career has been how quickly he has progressed. He has every intention of continuing his climb. "Long-term I want to be chief executive of a large company," he says.

David Monson

- Aged 29, director of catering, Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf, London
Nominated by Karen Earp, general manager, Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf, London

David Monson's Acorn is really the icing on his career cake. Two weeks before being told he was a winner he heard he was being promoted and going to his company's biggest hotel, in Dallas, Texas.

It is a challenge he is relishing. He is set to be assistant director of catering of a hotel that has more than 32,000sq ft of conferencing and banqueting space. "I have never worked in anything that size before," he says. He currently looks after 5,500sq ft of private conference and banqueting space accommodating any number from 10 to 150 delegates for conferences or 200 guests for receptions and dinners.

Monson, who joined the Four Seasons hotel, London, from Claridge's in 1996, says the move to the USA is one of the highlights of his career. But others have been more regal. While he was at Claridge's, Monson worked on the catering for two European royal weddings.

The first was for a Greek prince at Hampton Court Palace in East Molesey, Surrey, where the guests numbered 1,500, while the second was the marriage of a Spanish prince. "It's one of those events that you can't really turn down. I thought that doing it once was amazing, but to be asked to do it again is brilliant," he says.

Monson intends to stay in the USA for three years to learn all aspects of catering there, and then "become as senior as I can within the company".

Anwen Parry

- Aged 25, e-commerce marketing manager, RF Hotels, London
Nominated by Richard Power, commercial director, RF Hotels, London

The way Anwen Parry found out she had won an Acorn was like a scene from a film. First, she had no idea she had been nominated, having been kept in the dark by her colleagues. Then, on a business trip to an RF hotel in Florence, she went to her room and found the letter saying she had won. Beside it was a bottle of congratulatory Champagne. "It was a fantastic way to find out," says Perry.

Richard Power, RF Hotels' commercial director, nominated Parry because she had "significantly developed the company's Web site to one that clearly positions RF Hotels on an international stage." So important has the site become to the group that Parry's budget has been increased from £7,000 three years ago to £50,000 this year. The site is receiving about 750,000 hits a month.

"We are concentrating a lot of our efforts on the system, not only for the public but in developing an internal intranet site," says Parry. With the creation of the company's intranet, RF Hotels' employees can now access company information anywhere in the world.

Parry says she would eventually like to move into management, and she is considering adding to her qualifications by doing an MBA.

Jenny Price

- Aged 25, area manager, Scolarest, London
Nominated by Steven Watts, managing director, Scolarest

"I had seen the awards in the Caterer for years, and I always thought that one day it was going to be me, simply because I don't think women get recognised enough," says Jenny Price, who finally realised her dream of winning this year.

Price started her career in hospitality as deputy catering manager with Sutcliffe Catering at the Esso refinery in Fawley, Southampton, in 1995.

She moved to being catering manager at Ford Motor Company, also based in Southampton. In August 1999 she took over as catering manager of Scolarest (previously Fairfield) at Farnborough Sixth Form College, looking after a £300,000 budget and 10 staff.

In her current position of area manager, which she reached last year, Price looks after 16 schools in Dorset. Each had new facility upgrades and services to develop with new branding.

Claire Rankin

- Aged 29, executive chef, Fish!, London
Nominated by Eric Garnier, front of house director, Fish!, London

In becoming executive chef of a top chain of restaurants, Claire Rankin has had to succeed in a male-dominated world.

"I have had problems being a female head chef," says Rankin. But most people have accepted that she can do her job. It was only Rankin who had doubts about her abilities.

Having come to London in 1996 from Norfolk, where she worked as a chef de partie, she got a job at Bank restaurant and bar in Aldwych. Within three years she had worked her way up to become head chef of the first Fish!, where she was responsible for a brigade of 17 serving up to 350 covers per day.

"When I took over as head chef of Fish! in Borough Market, London, I said I could not do it, but Christian [Delteil, non-executive director of Bank Group Restaurants] told me I could." Rankin has now proved she is more than capable of handling the job. Her ambition for the future? "Maybe director of the company," she says.

Trevor Stagg

- Aged 28, head chef, Baxter & Platts, London
Nominated by Caroline Gardiner, managing director, Baxter & Platts, London

"An accomplished chef and an equally accomplished manager," is how Caroline Gardiner, nominator of Trevor Stagg, describes his attributes.

Although Stagg moved last month to the London office of investment banker Paribas, it was his achievements at his previous place of work - when he was head chef at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Greenford, Middlesex - that he is particularly praised for.

In just three years Stagg went from senior sous chef to taking over the top kitchen position of the world headquarters of GSK. In gaining the responsibility, he headed a team of nine working an all-day service for up to 600 covers and managing an annual catering budget of £500,000.

As well as looking after staff training and development, Stagg helped various junior chefs to achieve successes and medals in competitions.

Gardiner says: "His commitment to Baxter & Platts, and the food service industry generally through the Craft Guild of Chefs, is demonstrated not only by his ongoing training and development of colleagues and up-and-coming chefs, but also by his success in regional and national culinary competitions."

Granada Chef of the Year 1999 is one of his many awards.

Lucy Tay

lor - Aged 21, restaurant supervisor, The Vine hotel, Skegness, Lincolnshire
Nominated by Robert Smith, food and beverage co-ordinator, Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies

At 21, Lucy Taylor is this year's youngest Acorn winner - a fact that surprises her: "I've been reading about the awards in the Caterer for several years, and they never seem to give it to anyone as young as me. I thought I'd have to apply again in five years."

It was Taylor's achievements at such a young age that helped her win the accolade. At the Vine hotel, where she heads a team of four full-time and seven part-time staff, she is responsible for restaurant service and banqueting operations.

Taylor is also responsible for training staff in all aspects of restaurant service, from laying a table to guéridon service.

These responsibilities come only two months after she was made head waitress at the hotel in 1999 - a decision that still shocks her. "I really expected that they would bring somebody in over me," says Taylor, "but they thought I was ready for the job."

Not only is Taylor dedicated to her job in the hotel, but she is keen to gain outside recognition for herself and the hotel. She was the Academy of Food & Wine Service Student of the Year 1999 and an award winner at the 2000 Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence and the Savoy Educational Trust's Food Service Awards 2000.

Taylor has also become a member of some the UK's leading hospitality organisations. She is an associate member of the Academy of Food & Wine Service and the HCIMA.

Matthew Thomas

- Aged 27, corporate business development manager, Compass Group, London
Nominated by Peter Aldrich, managing director, Compass Group - Corporate Accounts, London

"It's great to be recognised, and I'm truly delighted," says Matthew Thomas, when asked how he felt about winning his award.

Thomas joined Granada Restaurants from New Hampshire College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, in 1995 as corporate hospitality manager and regional support trainer. Having spent just over three years in that position, he moved on to become the company's projects and training manager, where he was responsible for employee training and development and increasing sales and productivity.

He progressed to the position of operations manager, food services, before he found himself in a new company in July 2000.

With the merger between Compass and Granada, which created the Compass Group, Thomas became the national account/business development manager for the new group. In this position he was working for corporate accounts as a national manager looking after the ICL contract, which is a 24-site operation with an annual turnover of £5m.

Last December Thomas became corporate business development manager for Compass Group. His responsibilities now include achieving new-business targets while still working closely with the operational team to achieve organic growth.

Of his new job, Thomas says: "The move to corporate has been the highlight of my career. I had wanted it for a long time after I had a meeting with my current boss three years ago and asked him what I had to do to get where I am today. He told me, and here I am."

Carl Tiffin -

Aged 29, marketing manager, Papa John's/Perfect Pizza, Chertsey, Surrey
Nominated by Peter Saunders, marketing director, Papa John's/Perfect Pizza, Chertsey, Surrey

Carl Tiffin's career is already marked out for him. "I think he is a future marketing director," states Peter Saunders, marketing director of Papa John's/Perfect Pizza.

For his part, Tiffin says he is happy concentrating on "doing the best I can as marketing manager and doing the brand conversion. I've still got loads to learn, but I aim to keep climbing the career ladder."

Tiffin spent seven years with Burger King franchisee Genesis Fast Food. Starting as development and planning executive, his responsibilities included site location and the effective launch and opening of each store. Later, as marketing manager, Tiffin looked after local store marketing for all restaurants, developing specific marketing strategies.

In 1998 he joined Perfect Pizza, and a year later faced one of the biggest challenges of his working life: to introduce the previously unknown Papa John's brand into the UK, after it bought Perfect Pizza in 1999.

"It was up to me to change the fact that Papa John's was not known here. I was responsible for all marketing activity, for the major pre-publicity campaign through to the VIP opening [in Grays, Essex, last year]," he says.

Nicholas Turner

- Aged 29, director of sales, Heritage Hotels, London
Nominated by David Guile, regional director, Heritage Hotels, London

When Nick Turner won an Acorn, it came as a great surprise to his colleagues - they did not realise he was under 30. Turner, however, can take the surprise as a compliment over how much he's achieved in his career to date.

Turner started in the hotel business in 1993 when he was sales and marketing manager at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza hotel, Birmingham.

After two years there he moved on to Arcadian International Hotels, Surrey, where he was regional sales and marketing manager, bringing in £1m in incremental sales to the group during 1995 and receiving the company's award for salesperson of the year.

His life with Forte and Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts began in 1996. During that time Turner developed the FIT/group business from £39m to £51m in room sales through new products and operator partners. In 1998 he also created new Forte products, such as Forte FlyDrive UK and Forte Offers, in conjunction with global tour operators.

Personally, Turner counts relaunching the new brand of Heritage as a major triumph of his career as well as a sales success. "It was all down to building a Heritage sales team," he says. The team's ability to sell the relaunched brand abroad turned its awareness around internationally. "We used to be 95% UK and 5% overseas," says Turner. "Now we are nearer 25% overseas and breaking into markets such as Japan."

Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 3-9 May 2001

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