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The Acorn Awards 2020: celebrating hospitality's best 30 under 30

07 January 2020 by

Nominations are now open for the awards that recognise 30 of hospitality's brightest stars under 30

Reward and recognition will become increasingly important to individuals working in hospitality as we begin a new decade.

The Acorn Awards, entering their 34th year, are organised by The Caterer in partnership with headline sponsor CH&Co and training partner the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. The awards are the perfect vehicle to identify, acknowledge and recognise high-flying staff, providing them with an accolade that is set to propel their career.

Last year, The Caterer's Insight report, in partnership with CGA, stated: "Staffing remains an undisputedly significant issue for the hospitality sector, which has traditionally suffered with high turnover rates."

Engaged and motivated staff are important to the operational success of any business and the Acorn Awards are a barometer of that talent – a showcase of the best 30 under 30 in hospitality.

Also in the Insight report, we revealed how new gender pay gap reporting rules had helped to highlight the acute shortage of women at board level and senior management in hospitality. However, half of the leaders surveyed for the report said that they had a plan in place to recruit or develop women into senior roles in their business, with another fifth looking at future plans.

Acorns 2019
Acorns 2019

We will see if this is reflected in the 2020 Acorn winners' list. In 2019 and 2018, we announced 11 female Acorn winners, two more than in 2017.

There are only three criteria to entering the Acorn Awards: you must work in the hospitality industry; be under the age of 30 on 30 May 2020; and be available for the winners' weekend, which will take place at South Lodge hotel and spa in Horsham, West Sussex, from 31 May to 1 June 2020.


Our training partner

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust is an awarding body and registered charity devoted to the development and delivery of qualifications and courses in wines, spirits and sake. Established in 1969 and celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, WSET is now the global industry leader.

WSET offers qualifications across four levels, from one-day beginner courses through to an expert level diploma. Qualification levels one to three (with the exception of the Level 3 Award in Spirits) are recognised by the UK government (Ofqual).

WSET qualifications are globally recognised as the international standard in wine and spirit knowledge. They are designed to inspire and empower those who are just starting out in their careers, as well as established professionals, and the many enthusiasts who have a passion for wine, spirits and sake.

WSET qualifications are available through a network of more than 700 Approved Programme Providers (APPs), working in more than 70 countries and in more than 15 languages. In the last academic year (2018/19), more than 100,000 candidates sat for a WSET qualification and, since 1969, WSET has awarded more than a million individuals a WSET qualification.

WSET also has its own flagship school, WSET School London, based at its headquarters in Bermondsey, London. The school offers the full suite of WSET qualifications alongside tasting sessions, career talks and bespoke programmes.

Graham Cox, business development director for WSET UK, says: "We are delighted to be supporting the Acorn Awards 2020. Our mission at WSET is to inspire and empower professionals in the trade at every level, so working with these awards to recognise the hospitality industry's up-and-coming young talent is a natural fit for us."

The venue: South Lodge

South Lodge
South Lodge

South Lodge is an Exclusive Collection hotel in West Sussex with breathtaking views of the South Downs. The hotel offers three restaurants: Tom Kemble at the Pass, Camellia and Botanica, as well as the Cellar and the Billiard Bar.

There are 93 acres of grounds in which guests can play croquet or relax in deckchairs. The 44,000 sq ft Spa at South Lodge has a state-of-the-art gym and spin studio, indoor pool, outdoor hydrotherapy pool and wild swimming pool, a thermal suite and treatment rooms.

David Connell, general manager of the hotel, says: "We are delighted to host this year's Acorn Awards and cannot wait to welcome the deserving winners. We have a couple of team members who have won Acorns in recent years, so we fully appreciate the importance of the awards in providing a platform for the next generation of hospitality leaders.

"The opening of our new £14m spa in March 2019 gives us an opportunity to showcase the wonderful facilities we have created and, by working with some of our local partners, provide an experience the winners will remember. With health and wellbeing being a hot topic, we will focus on incorporating this into the weekend, but, of course, leave time to celebrate in style!"

South Lodge pool
South Lodge pool

Our sponsor

Celebrating emerging talent and brilliant minds

CH&Co creates exciting and uplifting food and hospitality experiences across many locations, including workplaces, destinations, venues, events, livery, education and healthcare.

People are at the heart of hospitality. Our inclusive culture focuses on developing and supporting all our people, from apprentices to the boardroom. They are our greatest asset; from the chefs and on-site teams serving our customers to our people in offices supporting our operations and clients.

Inspiring emerging talent is very important to us and we support our people with the right opportunities to grow professionally and personally. We also work with partners to raise awareness of the fantastic career pathways hospitality offers young people.

We're proud to sponsor the Acorn Awards and help lead the way in championing, inspiring and celebrating young, brilliant talent and the next generation of hospitality leaders.

Terry Waldron, chief operating officer, explains: "Last year's Acorn Awards weekend was an energy-fuelled celebration of the winners and their fantastic achievements. I really enjoyed getting to know the individuals and watching the different characters bond and approach the challenges the activities posed.

"Their competitive nature was definitely there, but also their supportive teamwork, which was great to see. As an Acorn alumnus myself, I know the opportunities that an Acorn Award can create, so I am already watching last year's winners with interest. There's no doubt they have bright futures in hospitality ahead."

The Acorn effect

Acorns past winners
Acorns past winners

Katie Mulliss

Acorn win 2019 at Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire

Role as winner Restaurant manager, the Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Role now Restaurant manager, the Hand & Flowers

The Acorn impact "The award was a huge personal achievement for me but, more importantly, it has provided a platform from which to encourage my peers and colleagues to push themselves along their own paths, with the necessary support and nurturing that I feel helped me in my early days. The recognition of personal and professional achievements is paramount in cementing our industry's values, and to receive an Acorn is surely the ultimate accolade for a young member of this exciting field of work."

Chris Tod

Acorn win 2019 at Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire

Role as winner Group learning and development officer, Exclusive Collection

Role now Group learning and development manager, Exclusive Collection

The Acorn impact "Being part of a group of people that are all at a similar stage in their careers, all sharing ideas and experiences, has really helped to broaden my thinking. The award has also helped me build new relationships, which I'm sure will help me later in my career.

"I will always remember the weekend itself. It was an amazing way to meet new people, have fun and celebrate. However, for me, the most special moment of the day was when I was told I had won. It really hadn't crossed my mind that I was in with a shot, so it was such an incredible surprise to be told that I'd done it. Since the award weekend I've already met up with my fellow winners, so I'm sure there will be many more great times ahead."

Alexander Wilson

Acorn win 2019 at Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire

Role as winner Reception manager, Brown's hotel, London

Role now Front of house manager, Brown's hotel, London

The Acorn impact "Winning the Acorn Award was certainly a career highlight that was a combination of 10 years of hard work, determination and passion for working in luxury hotels. I absolutely love what I do, and I have been supported by so many industry friends, colleagues and family. Winning an Acorn has put my name on the map, but more so it has given me the drive and motivation to do more for our industry.

"I was presented with my Acorn Award on 17 June last year – which happened to be my 29th birthday. On the first evening, we had a barbecue on the terrace and then moved up to the main house of the hotel for drinks and music, which included singing around the piano. The amazing thing was at midnight, all the team from the hotel, the team from The Caterer and my fellow Acorn winners sang happy birthday to me around the piano. It was magical –what a way to spend a birthday! "I'm hoping to put someone forward for the Acorns myself this year and I have recommended the awards to others in the wider industry."

Simon Houston

Acorn win 2012 at Bovey Castle, Newton Abbot, Devon

Role as winner Group manager, BaxterStorey Role now Founding director, Houston & Hawkes

The Acorn impact "The Acorn Award has absolutely helped me develop my career, especially in terms of my network and the opportunities that it's given me. I have so many special memories from my Acorn weekend, but making our Harry Potter-themed video was probably the highlight. Great people also."

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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