Now in their 24th year, Caterer's Acorn Awards, sponsored by Unilever Foodsolutions, acknowledge rising talent within the industry and celebrate the future stars of hospitality. The 2010 awards are being hosted at an exciting new venue, as Rosie Birkett reports
As anyone who has worked in hospitality can attest, working your way up the ladder at the start of your career can be tough. Whether you're a young sous chef cutting your teeth in a kitchen, a hotel manager trying to gain recognition in a big company, or an entrepreneur running your own business for the first time, the chances are you've been faced with some big challenges, long hours and difficult decisions.
In 1986, Caterer created the Acorn Awards to give something back to the young people who have chosen to contribute their talent to hospitality. Designed to acknowledge flair and reward good work, each year the Acorns recognise 30 people under 30 who are nominated by their peers and colleagues for having made an impression in their field.
As well as adding the coveted title of "Acorn" to their CV, something which has set many a fledgling career ablaze in the past - the Acorns count industry leaders Michael Caines, Marco Pierre White and Marcus Wareing among its previous winners - successful Acorn entrants will be invited to take part in an Acorn Weekend on 13-14 June.
During the weekend, they will be treated to some top-notch accommodation at the new Abode Chester hotel, a day of team building activities organised by Team Spirit, an evening meal and a celebratory award lunch at the neighbouring Chester Racecourse on the Monday. Here they meet and mix with other Acorns and their nominators, an experience that judge William Baxter, deputy chief executive of BaxterStorey, believes is a highlight of the accolade.
"The Acorn Awards offer recipients the opportunity to be noticed and publicly recognised for their outstanding achievements in their young careers to date," he says. "However, perhaps more importantly, the Acorn winners are afforded a brilliant networking opportunity with individuals whom they can share knowledge and industry best practice for the future."
But what will sway the judging panel to make that all-important selection this year? Passion and drive, says Baxter. "The judges will be looking for enthusiastic high-achievers who go the extra mile. The candidates will need to possess a passion for their chosen sector and be able to demonstrate their effective communication and leadership skills. Furthermore, we will be looking for a commitment to the industry and how they may become involved in influencing its future."
The 2009 Acorn weekend of team building went down a storm at Von Essen's sister hotels Lower Slaughter Manor and Washbourne Court in the Cotswolds, and 2009 winner David Hopkins, regional IT manager at UK Park Plaza Hotels, Europe, explains what it meant to him to receive the award. "There are so many young, innovative and dynamic managers and supervisors in the UK hospitality industry that, to be nominated for and actually selected in the top 30 award entrants is, for me, an outstanding achievement."
For Acorn 2009 winner Helen McDonald, food and beverage manager of Premier Inn, London Heathrow, winning the award changed her career outlook and the way she perceived her chosen industry. "Since wining the Acorn Award I have felt and behaved differently," she says. "I was so happy to be recognised for this prestigious accolade. The two days in the Cotswolds made me look at how I viewed the industry I work in, and after speaking with so many different types of people in so many different jobs, I went home invigorated to learn more about this fantastic industry and the world outside of Whitbread.
"Since then I have read every industry magazine I could get my hands on and regularly surf the internet for hospitality news. I have been contacted by a couple of other hotel chains asking me about how I achieved this accolade and inviting me to come in and meet with them, which I turned down as I am very happy at Whitbread. Overall it has opened my eyes to how big and fascinating the industry is and how blinkered we become in our own little worlds. I urge everyone to get out there and start exploring, but most of all take pride in everything you do as you never know who's watching."
Former Acorn winner and this year's venue host, Michael Caines, adds: "Being an Acorn means a lot. For many people who are approaching their thirties, it's a real benchmark, and it's about recognising their contribution to the industry. It's also important for employers to get involved and acknowledge young people's potential and it can give a huge amount of confidence to those nominated. It's about recognising the next generation that will take the industry forward - these are the driving force of industry's development."
2010 ACORN NOMINATIONS
To make the entry procedure as fair as possible, we're asking all entrants to make their nominations online. For the nomination form, visit http://www.caterersearch.com/acorns2010" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.caterersearch.com/acorns2010. The closing date for nominations is 26 February 2010 with judging taking place on 7 April.
If you have any queries, please firstname.lastname@example.org
2010 ACORN SPONSOR MESSAGE
Tracey Rogers, managing director, Unilever Foodsolutions
At Unilever Foodsolutions, we never underestimate the importance of nurturing young talent. It is because of the merits and integrity of the Acorn Awards that we have remained a firm supporter since its inception.
Customer insight is at the heart of everything we do as a business. It's because we know and understand this industry, and our customer's businesses, that we are so well placed to help them to better address the challenges they face.
In difficult times, supporting and encouraging high achievers becomes even more important. It is these people who will drive our industry forward and encourage more young professionals to aspire to be part of it.
An Acorn Award is a truly prestigious prize and one that the winners fully appreciate. A nomination is a great way to show how much you value their commitment and demonstrate your nurturing credentials as an employer. If you know people who lead and inspire teams, who work hard, don't take shortcuts and relish every challenge, then enter them for an Acorn Award.
I wish this year's entrants the very best of luck and look forward to meeting the winners at the awards weekend next year.