Cateys 2022: Restaurateur of the Year – Independent: Andreas Antona, Antona Restaurants

05 July 2022 by
Cateys 2022: Restaurateur of the Year – Independent: Andreas Antona, Antona Restaurants

Andreas Antona, of Antona Restaurants, won Restaurateur of the Year – Independent, sponsored by Opentable

Andreas Antona has taken the classical route to running a restaurant business. He began his hospitality career in 1974, working his way up the ladder from a commis at the Ritz London to establishing a name for himself in the West Midlands and beyond.

Described by The Times as "the godfather of modern Birmingham food", Antona has built two of the most respected restaurants in Warwickshire and Birmingham: the Cross and Simpsons. Both can boast a Michelin star, and Simpsons celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. In addition, the ever-creative operator founded the Antona at Home meals delivery service, Soko – an artisan and pâtisserie business – and Eureka, a successful cookery school.

On top of his exemplary operational credentials, Antona has done as much as anyone in the UK to mentor and encourage chef talent. He is one of the key UK figures for Bocuse d'Or and has been passionate about driving interest in the competition and shining the spotlight on UK talent and raising their profiles among their European counterparts.

He has also been an ambassador for University College Birmingham for 35 years, whose alumni includes Glynn Purnell, Adam Bennett, Luke Tipping, Andy Walters, Mark Fry, and Marcus and Jason Eaves. Through his Bocuse d'Or relationships he also actively encouraging chef exchanges between Birmingham and Lyon.

Like every great operator, he values his people and does his utmost to look after them. Having dealt with serious illness himself he puts particular emphasis on looking after employees' mental health and wellbeing, including supporting the critical role of nutrition in health. For example, his team have embraced vegan menus and are one of the few UK restaurants to be recognised by Peta.

Antona has also worked with psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses, who has implemented his course in the psychology of food at Harvard. The pair are now working towards establishing modules at University College Birmingham.

Chef and restaurateur Simon Rogan, himself a winner of the Restaurateur of the Year – Independent Catey in 2013, summed up Antona's commitment to chef development and qualities as a restaurateur: "Andreas Antona has already built a reputation as a talented chef and mentor to many of the Midlands' top chefs. In recent years, he has further demonstrated his passion for hospitality through his commitment to the Bocuse d'Or UK Academy. It was a privilege to be asked to be president in 2018 and since then I have watched Andreas lead a growing team who are all committed to the cause."

What the judges said

"Andreas is a true pro, consistently maintaining his restaurants both at the highest level and as successful businesses. He is a gentleman and has given back enormously to the industry." – Phil Howard

"An exceptional restaurateur whose passion for our sector is inspirational. He has shown pure class, integrity and commitment to the industry, not only through exceptional stewardship of his restaurants but also through charity, the British Culinary Federation and the Bocuse D'Or." – Tom Kerridge

The shortlist

  • Andreas Antona, Antona Restaurants
  • Adam Handling, Adam Handling Restaurant Group
  • Rebecca Mascarenhas, Elystan Street, Church Road, Kitchen W8, Home SW15 and Flour + Water
  • Clare Smyth, Core by Clare Smyth, CS Hospitality
  • James Sommerin, Home, Penarth

The judges

  • Peter Backman, founder, Peter Backman
  • Phil Howard, chef-owner, Elystan Street
  • Tom Kerridge, chef-proprietor, the Tom Kerridge Group
  • Bill Toner, chief executive, CH&Co
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