The 26th Acorn Awards were marked with a weekend of networking and celebration at Bovey Castle in Devon. Janet Harmer reports on the event, which applauded the achievements of 30 young stars of hospitality
The magnificent 400-acre estate of Bovey Castle within the heart of Devon's Dartmoor National Park proved to be an inspiring setting in which to bring together the winners of the 2012 Acorn Awards - the 26th in the event's history.
As the 30 winners of this year's awards (all aged under 30) gathered within the historical setting of the property - originally developed in the Edwardian era by the son of stationery magnate WH Smith - there was the expectation that this was going to be a special occasion. And indeed it was. From the moment that the winners began to arrive at Bovey on Sunday lunch-time, to the time they left after the formal celebrations the following day, the packed itinerary ensured that this was going to be a couple of days that the participants would remember for many years to come.
The winners represented every sector of the hospitality industry including hotels (budget to five-star properties) and restaurants (both in groups and those with Michelin stars), as well as contract catering companies. Their job titles may have differed, but they were all united by the fact that they had been recognised as being outstanding performers in their chosen area of the industry, with energy, dedication and innovation in abundance.
In being named an Acorn Award winner, they were joining some of the most celebrated names in hospitality to have carried off the award since its launch in 1987, including Gary Rhodes, Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton.
After welcome speeches from Mark Lewis, group editor of Caterer and Hotelkeeper, and John Stevenson, founder and commercial director of sponsor ACT Clean, the 2012 high achievers all set about a challenge of creating and performing a professional television advertisement. With a variety of roles having to be filled - including camera people, sound technicians, lighting designers, script writers and actors - and extensive location opportunities around the Bovey estate at their disposal, teamwork was tested to the extreme.
The various, and often hilarious results, of the filming were showcased that evening during dinner hosted by the managing director of Bovey Castle, Jeremy Rata, at the hotel's Castle Bistro.
Next day, the formal proceedings took place with presentations to the 30 winners. The celebration lunch, at which the winners were joined by their nominators, concluded with an inspiring speech from managing director of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Philip Newman-Hall. As well as sharing his experience of reaching the top of his profession via a vocational route, he told the audience that the hospitality industry is one in which anyone who takes opportunities, uses their mentors and is continually inquisitive can achieve anything they desire.
"Volunteer to do that extra shift in a different department, take a stage in another hotel or restaurant and get out of your comfort zone," he advised.
Omar Allibhoy, 28, Owner, Tapas Revolution, Westfield London
Dimitri Bellos, 29, Restaurant manager, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London
Francesca Brennan, 22, Assistant catering manager, Wilson Vale
Scott Brown, 29, Director of sales, York Marriott Hotel
Katarina Burikova, 25, Front office manager, the Cavendish, London, SW1
James Chapman, 27, Second chef, Harper Adams University College catering department, Newport, Shropshire
Katarzyna Ciblic, 28, Revenue manager, the Cavendish, London
Tara Cruise, 27, Operations manager, Premier Inn Heathrow
Frederic Dallot, 28, Resident manager, Hotel 41, London SW1
Ben Dantzic, 27, Restaurant manager Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Perthshire
Shaun Dickens, 28, Head chef and farm manager, Fallowfields Hotel & Restaurant, Oxford
Joel Fagg, 26, Senior operations manager, Walton Hall & Hotel, Puma Hotels Collection
Sarah Frankland, 24, Head patissier, William Curley
Lucy Gregory, 29, Rooms division manager, Flemings hotel, London W1
Laura Hinson-Yates, 29, Cluster general manager, MK/Banbury & Northampton Clusters, Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants
Simon Houston, 28, Group manager Europe, BaxterStorey
Catherine Lavin, 29, Director of finance, Liverpool City Centre and Preston Marriott
Claire Livingston, 29, General manager, Jurys Inn Edinburgh
Kerry Mabbley, 29, Head of ambassadors, the Springboard Charity
Fritz Müller, 26, Event and group manager, London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square
Ryan Neill, 29, Executive chef, Devere Cameron House, Loch Lomond
Edouard Oger, 27, Head sommelier Gidleigh Park, Chagford
Assia Riccio-Smith, 27, Guest services manager, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Adam Rowledge, 27, Rooms division manager, the Hempel, London SW1
Alan Shaw, 29, Finance director, De Vere Academy of Hospitality, Blackpool
Francesca Skeffington, 25, Senior events manager, Ampersand Events
Steven Smith, 29, Chef-patron, Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe
Charlie Williams, 27, Private dining manager, the Lanesborough
Ben Woodward, 25, Front office manager, Lucknam Park hotel & spa, Calne
Stuart Yeates, 29, Regional revenue manager - UK South, Ireland & Prague, Jurys Inn
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ACORN AWARDSOUR HOST HOTEL BOVEY CASTLE, DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK, DEVON !](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/CGFqbZvVTc6bQPdLhRyy) The 400-acre estate of Bovey Castle was the setting for the 2012 Acorn Awards, held on 23-24 September. All 30 winners of this year's awards gathered at the 64-bedroom hotel (with 14 lodges) for a celebratory lunch, an informal dinner and a host of activities which ensured everyone got to know each other. Located in the middle of the Dartmoor National Park, Bovey Castle is well known as a venue for country pursuits such as falconry, fly fishing and cider-making. !(https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/rLxk48lCTOWXhLeVXZHB)A BIG THANK YOU Our thanks go to event management company Team Spirit, organiser of the team bonding challenge which saw all the Acorn winners swiftly and eagerly throwing themselves into the task of creating a professional television commercial. By the end of four and a half hours of intense concentration - lightened by much laughter - the goal of breaking the ice and creating lasting bonds between all the participants involved had been achieved. If you are looking for similar team building results, call 0870 8550606.[www.team-spirit.co.uk](http://www.team-spirit.co.uk) ![ACT logo](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/O0InaJZBRiqnRGLDYUrj)SPONSOR'S MESSAGE ACT CLEAN We are delighted to have been able to support the 26th annual Acorn Awards and would like to extend our congratulations, not only to each and every winner, but also to those nominated. Each winner joins a very elite band of the highest achievers in our industry and should be very proud. The quality and volume of applicants has been terrific and we have been very proud to play a small part supporting a vital scheme in an industry we are all honoured to belong to; recognising its future leaders and giving them a platform from which to shine still further. At ACT Clean, we know that our business and its success begins and ends with the quality, commitment and aspirations of our team and the job that they do. That is also true of each Acorn. It is a great pleasure and privilege to learn of the achievements of each of the Acorns and to know the future of hospitality continues to be in great hands. We wish you well with your future career and look forward to watching your development and future successes. [ACT Clean](http://www.act-clean.com) - the vital, yet unseen partner in creating the luxury hospitality experience E-mail your comments to [Janet Harmer](mailto:email@example.com) here. [![Tabletalk](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/0hcj0CnkR0aZyARLgtEs)](http://www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/tabletalk)If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at [Table Talk](http://www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/tabletalk) - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to [www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/tabletalk](http://www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/tabletalk)Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs Looking for a new job? Find your [next job here](http://www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/jobs) with Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs