After 23 years of recognising "30 under-30", the Acorn Awards return for 2009, with a stunning location secured for the awards weekend. Tom Vaughan reports
The awards that spotted Marco Pierre White, Gary Rhodes, Marcus Wareing and countless other leading hospitality figures as industry stars of the future are back for another year. Started in 1986 to recognise the 30 hospitality figures under the age of 30 that represent tomorrow's leading lights, the Acorn Awards are now calling for nominations for 2009.
After a successful lock-down in Oxford Malmaison's converted jail last year, the Acorn Award winners weekend is taking place at von Essen's stunning sister hotels Lower Slaughter Manor and Washbourne Court on Sunday 7 June and Monday 8 June. Regardless of the prestigious awards lunch on the Monday and the sumptuous accomodation, the weekend is unfailingly a highlight, with a day of activity organised by event management company Team Spirit followed by a meal at Washbourne Court in the evening.
The event not only promises to be a high point in winners' fledgling careers, but will be a fantastic opportunity to make friends and contacts among a peer group.
The closing date for nominations is 27 February 2009, with judging taking place on 3 April. So if you fancy being one of the "30 under 30" and joining the ranks of the 670 former Acorns, visit www.caterersearch.com/acorns for information and nomination forms.
Not convinced yet? Just see what some former winners have to say about their Acorns:
1992: Sean Wheeler, nominated when general manager of TGI Friday's in Reading, now director of people, Malmaison & Hotel du Vin
"My Acorn Award was the first thing I ever won and it was great that my efforts were recognised. The awards were the first time I had been exposed to like-minded people and I'm still in contact with a lot of the winners from my year. It opened my eyes to parts of the industry I'd never seen before. It helped me to network and opened a lot of doors for me later on in my career."
1996: Michael Caines, nominated when head chef at the one-Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park, has now gained the restaurant a subsequent star and co-owns Adobe Hotels
"The Acorns have two advantages. First, they looks to the next generation, so is vital for the industry. These are the people we are pinning our hopes on for the future. Second, it is great for an employee to be rewarded within the industry structure. It rewards people who go above and beyond the call of duty. There is nothing more fantastic for someone than to be rewarded for excellence."
2004: Nicola Monks, nominated in when private dining manager at Gordon Ramsay Holdings. Monks has since taken the step up to private dining and website director
"The award was a huge boost to my confidence and to what I was doing and it made me feel really valued because they had put me forward for the award. When I won it opened my eyes to the industry as a whole because it can be so easy to focus on your job and not see the wider picture, so it made me aware that there were other people out there doing same thing as you. It motivates your colleagues as well because they see what can be achieved and it gives them something to work towards."
2006: Craig James, nominated when head chef of Butlers Wharf Chop House in London, now chef proprietor of Brasserie James in Clapham, London
"It can be hard as a young person fighting against your age but awards like this remind you that not only are you not alone in that fight but you are winning it as well. Even to be nominated is evidence that the people you work for are delighted with you."
According to Andrew Davis founder and chairman of von Essen hotels:
"We're delighted to be hosting the Acorn Awards this year at two of our stunning Cotswold properties, Lower Slaughter Manor and Washbourne Court, both of which have undergone multimillion-pound refurbishments over the past year-and-a half. We are hugely supportive of this prestigious event and feel it is vital to recognise the achievements of the future stars of our profession to ensure that they continue striving to raise the bar in the hospitality industry. We're proud to have among our team, a winner of the 2008 awards, Oliver Smith, general manager of Amberley Castle. He is von Essen's youngest general manager - and one of the youngest in Relais & Châteaux - so this was a great accomplishment for him and for von Essen. His dedication helps to ensure that Amberley Castle continues to meet and surpass the standards of an award-winning hotel."
2008 Acorn Nominations
To make the entry procedure as fair as possible, this year we're asking all entrants to submit their nominations online.
For the nomination form, go to www.caterersearch.com/acorns.
If you have any queries, please contact Lisa Goold on 020 8652 3656 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Von Essen's Lower Slaughter Manor and Washbourne Court (above), sited in close proximity, are to be used for the Acorn Awards this year. An imposing Grade II-listed 17th-century country house, the Relais & Châteaux Lower Slaughter Manor is located in the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire, considered one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. As well as walks through five-acre gardens, the hotel offers log fires at the hotel in winter, period furnishings and paintings, and David Kelman's modern French food.
Washbourne Court, a 17th-century building, reopened in December 2007 following a major refurbishment programme. It offers a twist on the classic country house hotel. The boutique decor blends traditional and metropolitan elements in its four acres of gardens. In addition to its 30 exquisitely decorated bedrooms and bathrooms, there are four acres of gardens, and the hotel's Eton's Restaurant.
2009 Acorn Awards Sponsor Message
Simon Marshall, managing director, Unilever Foodsolutions says:
"At Unilever Foodsolutions, we believe in the importance of nurturing young talent. It is rare for a company such as ours to sponsor an awards programme throughout its entire history and it says a lot about the calibre and integrity of the Acorns that we have remained a firm supporter since its inception.
The Acorn Awards come at a time when optimism has never been more crucial. During challenging times it's important to remain positive and what better way to do this than by rewarding the young individuals who are showing extra strength of character and effort in all that they do. These rising stars should be recognised and celebrated so that they can continue to perform and lead the industry forward. At Unilever Foodsolutions, we are helping our customers to perform by providing products and services that will help them to better address the challenges they face. We continue to work closely with our customers to find solutions to the difficulties that they encounter and identify the opportunities open to them. By using a consultancy-based approach, we hope to offer an invaluable service that will help our customers to be in the best possible position to survive the difficult months ahead.
If you know people who lead and inspire teams, who work hard, don't take short cuts and approach every task positively, then nominate them for an Acorn Award so they too can place their names among other greats such as Michael Caines, Gary Rhodes, Marco Pierre White and James Horler.
I wish this year's entries the very best of luck and look forward to meeting the winners at the awards weekend."