This year is the 25th anniversary of Caterer's Acorn Awards, which was marked in style at Coworth Park, where 30 of the industry's brightest young prospects spent a weekend of celebration and networking
The gathering of hospitality's brightest young stars at Coworth Park in Ascot marked a significant moment in the history of the Acorn Awards. Not only were we celebrating 30 high achievers under the age of 30 but also marking a quarter of a century of Acorns successes.
Since the launch of the awards in 1987, some of the most celebrated names in catering - such as Gary Rhodes, Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton - have proudly collected an Acorn. Following this year's presentation at Coworth Park, there are now 750 Acorn winners. All stand shoulder-to-shoulder in being outstanding performers in their chosen areas of the industry. Each one has energy, dedication and innovation in abundance - attributes that soon became apparent on their arrival for a celebratory weekend at Coworth Park.
Before the formal part of the proceedings got under way, the award participants took part in an afternoon of fun and networking. After a welcome from Caterer and Hotelkeeper editor Mark Lewis and managing director of sponsor Unilever Food Solutions, Tracey Rogers, the 30 winners took part in a host of activities, aimed at emphasising the importance of teamwork.
Despite what seemed to be a gale-force wind blowing through the Coworth Park estate, everyone swiftly got involved in the events, led by event organiser Team Spirit. Duck herding, clay pigeon shooting, archery, cricket, croquet and human table football all tested the winners' sporting and camaraderie skills.
The Acorns' silver anniversary was then marked with the cutting of an impressive chocolate cake and the planting by Lewis and Zoe Jenkins, general manager of Coworth Park, of an oak tree in the grounds.
After a drinks reception and dinner in the John Campbell restaurant, it was time for the winners to enjoy a last drink (or two) before retiring for the night.
Next day the formal proceedings went ahead with presentations to the 30 winners. The celebration lunch, at which the winners were joined by their nominators, was concluded with a heart-warming and inspiring speech by Simon Hulstone, chef-proprietor of the Michelin-starred Elephant restaurant in Torquay, and a former Acorn winner in 1996 when he was 21 years old.
Mike Auld General manager, Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells
Mark Bevan Food and beverage manager, the Chester Grosvenor and Spa
George Blogg Sous chef, Le Champignon Sauvage
Neil Braude Director of revenue, the Cavendish London
Denis Broci Bar manager, Claridge's
Marianne Brown Operations manager, Thistle Hotels
Scott Catling Sales manager, London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale
Matthew Drinkwater Deputy general manager, Hand Picked Hotels - Audleys Wood Phil Fanning Head chef at Paris House, 10 in 8 Fine Dining Company
Sarah Gibbs General manager, the Swan Hotel & Spa
Vidur Kapur Hotel manager, Guoman Hotels - Charing Cross
Grant Lang Founder and managing director, Mozzo Coffee
Josh Light Learning & development manager, CH&Co
Lauren Long General manager, Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants
David Macdonald General manager, Hotel du Vin York
Natalie Mainwaring Business development manager, It's The Agency
Jordan Marr General manager, Peach Pubs
Megan McIntyre PR & marketing manager, Renaissance London Chancery Court
Sam Moody Head chef, the Bath Priory hotel
Daniel Moon Head chef, Homewood Park Hotel
David Morison HR advisor, Sheraton Park Tower
Neil Morris Group executive chef, Ego Restaurants
Laura Murphy Operations manager, Abode Exeter
Adam Peirson - Sous chef, Claridge's
Laura Prentice Director of event management, the London Marriott Grosvenor Square
Olly Rouse Head chef, John Campbell Restaurant, Coworth Park
Ben Seager Front office manager, the Chesterfield Mayfair
Adam Smith Premier sous chef, the Ritz hotel
Robin Vermeire Assistant executive housekeeper, the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square
OUR HOST HOTEL COWORTH PARK The 25th birthday of the Acorn Awards gave the 30 winners the opportunity to celebrate their success in style as the event was held at Coworth Park - one of the most talked-about hotel openings of the past year.
Set in 240 acres of lush parkland, Coworth Park includes an original mansion house that has been refurbished to create a stylish, cosy interior. Thirty of the bedrooms are located here, while the other 40 are in the nearby stables and cottages. The grounds include a polo field, stables, tennis court and spa.
It was the ideal setting for the Acorns, with the grounds providing plenty of space for the team events, Restaurant John Campbell the setting for an informal dinner and the Oval Room the location for the presentation lunch.
Coworth Park is the Dorchester Collection's second hotel in the UK alongside the Dorchester in London. The group's third property, 45 Park Lane, opens in September.
A BIG THANK YOU
Our thanks go to Team Spirit, organiser of the weekend's outdoor pursuits, which helped break the ice and create lasting bonds. Every Acorn and Caterer and Hotelkeeper team member thoroughly enjoyed the duck herding, clay pigeon shooting, and human table football that started the weekend off in such style.
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SPONSOR'S MESSAGE AN EXTRA SPECIAL AWARD This year's Acorn Awards were extra special as not only did we recognise 30 high-flyers, we also celebrated the Awards' 25th anniversary. I was privileged to share in the success of this year's remarkable winners. The Acorn Awards are a fantastic opportunity to reward the achievements of young individuals whose passion and enthusiasm are an inspiration to us all.
This is why Unilever Food Solutions has been committed to the initiative since the beginning. As a company encompassing some of the world's best-known brands and professional ingredients, we pride ourselves on using our knowledge and consumer insight to invest in our customers at all stages of their careers.
During these challenging times it is more important than ever to recognise the dedication and innovation of those individuals who are not only making a significant difference to their business now, but who are set to make a big impact on the industry as a whole. By highlighting the accomplishments and celebrating the hard work of exceptional young talent, we continue to add value to the industry through practical and powerful examples.
Our congratulations go to this year's winners and we wish them every success in their careers - no doubt we'll see these names again.
Tracey Rogers, managing director, Unilever Food Solutions