An Acorn Award, according to past winners, is a badge of honour that will open doors throughout a long career in hospitality. Janet Harmer introduces the 2017 Acorn Awards and profiles some of the past winners
Just a few weeks after past winners celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Acorn Awards at London's Dorchester hotel, the search has been launched for 30 of the UK's current brightest and most promising talents under the age of 30.
HR directors frequently highlight the huge value of the awards, saying that an Acorn winner generally indicates a person who is eager to work hard, to move forward in their career and make a real impact on the wider hospitality industry. In essence, being named an Acorn winner is a mark of future potential and will help open prestigious doors.
Many of today's leading hospitality operators were recognised with an Acorn, including restaurateur James Horler; 2016 Hotelier of the Year Craig Bancroft of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire; Gareth Banner, managing director of new London hotel the Ned; and chefs Jason Atherton, Marcus Wareing and the two-Michelin-starred David Everitt-Matthias, who this year celebrates 30 years at Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. Daniele Quattromini, who last year was
appointed restaurant manager at Cliveden House, the host of this year's Acorn Award celebrations (see panel), was honoured with an Acorn Award in 2015, the same year he won the Gold Service Scholarship.
Entrants from all sections of hospitality - from pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, foodservice and contract catering - are welcome. All will be judged by a panel of experts from their sector.
Andrew Stembridge, managing director of Cliveden House and long-time supporter of the event, says the Acorn Awards have been firmly established as a significant means of singling out the future leaders of the industry.
"Unlike any other awards, the Acorns cover all sectors of the industry," he says. "They show that if you are prepared to work hard, you will progress and be recognised in your career."
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. Creating great experiences and partnerships, demonstrating excellence and making impressions is all about people. The Acorn Awards have long recognised,
rewarded and celebrated these attributes and the exceptional talent within our fantastic and dynamic industry that enhances its reputation. That's why at ACT Clean we're proud and delighted to continue our support of the Acorn Awards.
We see our support as playing a very small role in a vital scheme in an industry we can all be proud to belong to; recognising its future leaders and giving them a
platform from which to shine still further.
John Stevenson, founder and director, ACT Clean
Acorn winner in 1990
Age now 53
Position then Hotel manager, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Position now Shareholder and chief executive, Congham Hall, Grimston, Norfolk
"Receiving an Acorn Award was a badge of recognition that allowed me to stand out from the crowd as an individual, rather than rely entirely on the reflected glory gained from my association with hotels such as Le Manoir and Chewton Glen.
"Since 2012 I have been evolving Congham Hall from a 26-bedroom hotel and spa into a larger, luxury resort, providing accommodation ranging from individual bedrooms through to holiday homes that cater for larger groups, as well as an appropriate range of leisure activities, all without losing the personal touch that has been at the root of Congham Hall's success over the past five years."
Acorn winner in 2016
Age now 30
Position then General manager, Charlotte Street hotel, London
Position now Assistant general manager, Crosby Street hotel, New York
"Winning an Acorn Award brought me into contact with like-minded individuals, and I will certainly stay in touch with a handful of them.
"It's an exciting time for me in my career as I have just moved to New York to take over the operational responsibility of the 86-bedroom Crosby Street hotel in the city's Soho district, where I report to the general manager and vice-president of Firmdale Hotels."
Acorn winner in 1990
Age now 54
Position then Sous chef, Connaught hotel, London
Position now Chef-proprietor, the Earl of March, Goodwood, West Sussex, and director, Giles Food Solutions
"When I won the Acorn, the award was a very new and exciting accolade and it was a huge boost to my confidence. More importantly, over the years, when times have been tough, I have glanced at it on my study wall and thought: 'Keep going, you can do it, don't let them down!'
"Running my country pub and restaurant, the Earl of March, has led to many spin-offs, such as promoting local produce through food fairs, cookery demonstrations and open farm days, and my involvement with local collages, such as West Dean.
"As founder chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts' Chefs Adopt a School, I work with various schools teaching children about the anatomy of taste. Giles Food Solutions is my consultancy company, involving other industry and charity work."
Acorn winner in 2012
Age now 32
Position then Guest services manager, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Position now Founder and chief executive, Evolvin' Women, Dubai
"The Acorn Award provided me with opportunities, not only to strengthen my professional network, but also to sit at the table with key people who have helped and inspired me to pursue my aspirations. The professional support and visibility gained made me realise how important such awards are for women in the industry and planted the seed for Evolvin' Women.
"The immediate objective of Evolvin' Women is to provide a social network to facilitate the professional development of women already working in hospitality or for women aspiring to join the industry.
"I am establishing partnerships with hotel groups and education providers who will support the advancement of women in the industry, and I'm also actively involved in mentoring, coaching, planning and running seminars to bring together high-achieving women to share their experiences. The Acorn Award has certainly sparked innovation!"
Acorn winner in 1996
Age now 49
Position then Assistant banqueting manager, the Dorchester, London
Position now Strategic development manager, Compass (covering education, government services and offshore)
"The Acorn Award provided me with a network of contacts across all sectors of hospitality, which opened my eyes beyond hotels to the amazing foodie culture of contract catering.
"Today I head up a team that supports business development for Chartwells, providing education catering from primary school to university, ESS Government Services (local and central government bodies, including police, fire services and prisons) and ESS Offshore (the oil and gas industry, both onshore and offshore)."
Acorn winner in 2001
Age now 44
Position then Sales director, Heritage Hotels
Position now Managing director, Bespoke Hotels International
"Winning an Acorn Award provided an invaluable springboard to greater success. Recruiters acknowledge the value of such an industry award and it was particularly useful for networking in the early years. It was great to meet up with other past winners at the event in December. I spoke with many of the winners and we're keen to create a LinkedIn group to support each other globally.
"As managing director of Bespoke Hotels, I'm responsible for the growth of the UK's largest independent hotel company, with 100 hotels here and a further 100 overseas."
Acorn winner in 2011
Age now 34
Position then Director of events, Marriott Grosvenor Square, London
Position now Director of events, the Dorchester, London
"Success in the Acorn Awards provides an attractive addition to your CV and gives you a network of individuals you can connect with. My job today involves managing a team of 12, who look after all the groups and events at the Dorchester and sister hotel 45 Park Lane."
How to nominate
Nominations for the 2017 Acorn Awards should be completed online by visiting
Nominees must work in the hospitality industry, be under the age of 30 on 21 May 2017, and be available for the winners' weekend at Cliveden House in Taplow, Berkshire, on 21-22 May.
The closing date for nominations is 17 February. For further information, contact Martha Allardyce at firstname.lastname@example.org
The venue: Cliveden House
Located in one of the most impressive buildings of any UK hotel, Cliveden House will provide a magnificent backdrop to the 2017 Acorn Awards weekend, on 21 and 22 May.
The winners will enjoy hospitality within a historical setting which, for more than 350 years, has been home to powerful personalities and has hosted decadent parties and scandalous affairs.
The Grade I-listed stately property, which is set within 376 acres of National Trust grounds overlooking the River Thames, dates back to 1666, when the original house was built by the second Duke of Buckingham.
Its most notable owner was the Astor family, during whose tenure Cliveden welcomed leading personalities from the world of politics and entertainment, including President Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw. The house's most infamous period came in 1961 when model Christine Keeler, mistress of a suspected Russian spy, met government minister John Profumo. An affair ensued, resulting in one of the biggest scandals in British political history.
Cliveden House was transformed into hotel in 1985 and two years ago, after
a multi-million pound refurbishment, was named AA Hotel of the Year - England.
As well as providing a palpable sense of history, the five-AA-star property also
offers the André Garrett restaurant, the Astor Grill, spa, swimming pool and boat trips on the Thames.
Acorn nominees will take part in a series of team-building activities, organised by Team Spirit, followed by an informal dinner. A formal awards presentation lunch will take place the following day.