Every year, Caterer and Hotelkeeper presents an Acorn Award to 30 members of our industry aged under 30 who are considered to be stars of today and the leaders of tomorrow. The magazine also organises a weekend away for the winners to receive their awards (which have been sponsored by Unilever Foodsolutions since the inaugural event in 1986), meet one another and forge industry contacts in a relaxed environment.
This year, on 9 and 10 April, we went to Rocco Forte's Lowry hotel in Manchester where we were superbly hosted by general manager John Philipson, himself a former Acorn Award winner, and sales executive Carl D'Arcy.
Situated, as we were, just a hop, skip and a jump from Granada Studios, the Lowry brought in a management company specialising in activities and team planning, to bring the award winners together on the first of the two days with a theme based on TV soap opera Coronation Street.
Having split the award winners and Unilever and Caterer team members into equal groups, management consultancy Team Spirit then gave each team story lines to pursue (such as Fred Elliott and Bev Unwin's wedding, alcohol abuse at Underworlds and Dev Alahan's serial bed-hopping), which meant planning of scenes, script-writing, filming, casting and, of course, lots of dressing up and applying of lipstick (for the boys at least). At a faux awards ceremony staged throughout the evening's dinner, cooked by executive head chef Eyck Zimmer and his brigade, each three-minute story line was aired, with "Oscars" going to the best scene, best cross-dresser, best Manchester accent, best celebratory impression and best transition from European cinema.
The following day saw the official Acorn Awards lunch and presentation ceremony, which took place in one of the hotel's banqueting suites overlooking Manchester's River Irwell, where diners grazed on a four-course meal of minted pea and pear soup with lobster; black pudding-studded sea scallops with cider sabayon; tournedos of Aberdeen Angus with horseradish mash and five-onion sauce; and a dessert of bread and butter pudding with spiced raisin syrup.
At the judging session held back in February, Caterer group editor Mark Lewis chaired the judges, who were: Jonathan Butler, owner, Fosters on the Docks; Frazer Grimbleby, managing director, Out of Town Restaurant Group; Matthew Howe, senior vice-president, chief support officer, McDonald's Restaurants Ltd; Simon Marshall, managing director, Unilever Foodsolutions; John Philipson, general manager, the Lowry Hotel; Martin Shaw, head of catering, Rank Group; Bill Vickers, marketing and food services director, Compass Group; and Sean Wheeler, group director of people development, Malmaison & Hotel du Vin.
We present the six women and 24 men who have won the 2006 Acorn Awards.
And the winners…
Unilever Foodsolutions, on behalf of its well-known brands - including Knorr, Hellmann's, Flora, PG Tips, Scottish Blend, Lipton and Colman's - has sponsored the Acorns throughout their 20-year history, and we have the same enthusiasm for the awards in 2006 as we had in 1986.
Innovation and insight are key words for our company and they resonate with the Acorn Awards - innovation, in terms of young people bringing new ideas and new life to the industry; and insight, representing experience and maturity far beyond their years.
We are delighted to support a programme that recognises and rewards achievement at an early age and promotes the ambitions of the people involved.
This year, as ever, it is truly inspiring to learn about the 30 award winners. They come from many different aspects of hospitality and reflect the diversity of the industry. They show how young people can quickly rise through the ranks, to positions that involve big budgets and management responsibility for large teams.
Our congratulations go to this year's winners, and we hope their stories will encourage employers and industry grandees to nominate other outstanding young people for the 2007 awards.
Simon Marshall, Managing director, Unilever Foodsolutions
With thanksCaterer and Hotelkeeper and the Lowry hotel would like to thank the following for their generous support of the 2006 Acorn Awards: Unilever Foodsolutions; Team Spirit; and Revellers.