Janine Swales of BaxterStorey has become the first employee of a contract catering business to win the Academy of Food and Wine Service's UK Restaurant Manager of the Year award.
Swales, 33, who works as general manager of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club training centre in Enfield, was named as the winner at a gala dinner at the Westbury hotel in London last night.
She beat seven other finalists to the title, all of whom were put through their paces yesterday in a series of demanding tasks, including a role play situation which saw the finalists handle a customer complaint, a food and wine pairing exercise, and a "Dragon's Den" style business presentation.
"Janine is the consummate restaurant manager - she has strong interpersonal and technical skills, she is creative, capable and business-minded. She ticked every box for the panel of judges," commented chairman of judges Peter Avis, restaurant manager at Babylon, Roof Gardens, and former winner of the title.
Speaking about yesterday's final she said: "It was really challenging and completely took us out of our comfort zone, pushing the bar very high. We have come out learning something completely new - and I am really proud of what we have achieved and we have hopefully made some new friends along the way."
Swales's prize for winning is a stay at the Manhattan hotel in New York, with a stage at a top New York Daniel Boulud restaurant.
The runner-up in last night's awards was Stephen Morrison, from La Vallee Blanche, Glasgow. He won a place at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne on one of its summer courses.
During the dinner three industry personalities were invited to join the Academy's Restaurant Manager Hall of Fame. These were restaurateur and consultant Michael Gottlieb, sommelier and hotelier Gerard Basset and Brian Clivaz, chairman, Langan's Coq d'Or Restaurant
John Croft, AFWS executive director said: "We are delighted to have Janine as our titleholder this year, she will be a fantastic ambassador for the Academy and for the profession. It was particularly pleasing to receive entries from a wide range of establishments from across the board including pubs, foodservice, casual dining and fine dining. The skills of the restaurant manager apply to any establishment, regardless of which sector they operate in and the competition now reflects this."
The eight finalists in this year's competition were:
Shaun Corrigan, Grand Jersey hotel & spa, Jersey
Louise Denton, BaxterStorey at the English National Opera, London WC2
Rebecca Galland, the Vineyard, Stockcross, Berkshire
Clement Joseph, Royal Automobile Club, London SW1
Stephen Morrison, La Vallee Blanche, Glasgow
Paul Shanahan, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire
Nola Sheng, the Hawksmoor, Spitalfields London E1
Janine Swales, BaxterStorey at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, London N17
The Academy's annual UK Restaurant Manager of the Year competition aims to find a restaurant manager who excels front-of-house, has fantastic people skills, is able to manage and inspire a team, and can demonstrate strong business acumen and a thorough knowledge of the restaurant trade.
Previous winners of the award include:
2012 Peter McAlister, Culloden Estate and Spa, Belfast
2011 Michele Caggianese, Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, London
2010 David Hennigan, The Crown at Whitebrook and Celtic Manor, Monmouthshire
2009 Peter Avis, Babylon restaurant at the Roof Gardens, London
Pictured: Janine Swales with competition judge Peter Avis