Caterer's 23rd set of Acorn Award winners was brought together last week for two days of presentations, team-building, networking… and one or two slightly silly games.
They're back: our awards that celebrate the best of young talent in hospitality, known as the industry's top "30 under-30" - or the Acorns. This year we have an outstanding array, and over the coming pages we give you the lowdown on exactly what makes our current crop so good, as well as why we think they are the future of the sector. Over a weekend at Von Essen's Cotswolds properties, along with sponsors Unilever, we found out more about our young stars
Every year for 23 years Caterer has been recognising 30 young members of hospitality as the best rising talent in the industry. For 23 years they've been known as the Acorns. And every year for these 23 years, these Acorns have been making fools out of themselves. Oh yes: they've dressed up as Coronation Street‘s Bet Lynch, impersonated Colombo, squeezed clues from fancy dress convicts up Oxford city centre trees and generally done anything and everything asked of them on the ever-memorable awards weekend. And this year was no different. The 30 under-30 gathered at Von Essen's adjacent Cotswolds properties, Washbourne Court and Lower Slaughter Manor, on 7-8 July to catapult eggs, transport toxic waste, navigate minefields and generally make fools of themselves in the name of breaking the ice and getting to know a peer group that should steadily grow alongside one as they reshape the industry over the next 30 years.
The Sunday is traditionally about getting to know each other. After the afternoon's activities there is an informal drinks reception and a dinner that can - and did on this occasion - go late into the night. The Monday, however, is the formal event where the Acorns officially join a set of alumni that includes Marco Pierre White, Gary Rhodes and Michael Caines. The Acorns' nominators, which this year -varied from two-Michelin-star chef Marcus Wareing to Premier Inn Heathrow general manager Dean Madge, and the panel of judges who selected the 30 from the hundreds of entries, gather as each Acorn collects their awards, before ending the weekend with a sumptuous three-course lunch at Lower Slaughter Manor and a speech from 2000 winner Stuart Procter, general manager of the Stafford hotel in London.
So here they are: meet the 2009 Acorns on the following pages. And, however the impressive biographies, keep an eye out for them: there's plenty more to come.
OUR HOST HOTELS
Von Essen's bucolic sister properties, the adjacent Washbourne Court and Lower Slaughter Manor, provided the setting for the awards. Set in the Cotswolds village of Lower Slaughter, complete with country church and ambling stream, the two properties have been part of the Von Essen portfolio since 2003. Lower Slaughter Manor, headed up by general manager Andrew Thomason, is part of the Relais & Châteaux collection and boasts 19 luxury bedrooms, while Washbourne Court, situated over the road, is a more contemporary hotel geared for the business market, with 30 rooms. Von Essen currently owns 28 hotels across the UK and France, with a new-build Battersea hotel due to open later this year.
Watch the Acorns weekend online at www.caterersearch.com/acorns2009
This was my second year attending the Acorn Awards and, once again, I am astounded by the quality of talent present within our industry. Personally spending time with each of the exceptional winners at this year's Acorn Award winner's weekend, leaves me in no doubt that they are all worthy of this high level of recognition.
The Acorn Awards' practice of rewarding and nurturing young talent mirrors the values inherent in Unilever Foodsolutions; as a company we believe in doing good business and using our knowledge and consumer insight to invest in our customers and the hospitality sector. Supporting the Acorn Awards is an extension of this philosophy and as a company which encompasses some of the world's most well-known and successful brands - including Knorr, Hellmann's, Flora, Colman's and PG Tips - we strive to deliver responsible products that go one step further than our customer's expectations. I can certainly say that I have seen this drive in each and every winner and it is this desire to shatter expectations which contributes to the success and diversity of our industry.
Our congratulations and praise go to this year's winners, their hard work and passion sets them apart from their peers and I'm certain they'll go far. Their stories serve as an inspiration to the industry and I hope employees are encouraged to nominate other talented young people for the 2010 awards.
Claire Sullivan, marketing director, Unilever Foodsolutions
Position Revenue manager, Rezidor Hotel Group
Nominated by Jens Hollman, general manager, Radisson SAS Hotel London Stansted Airport
Archer worked her way up from reservations assistant to assistant revenue manager and was promoted to revenue manager at the Radisson SAS Hotel London Stansted Airport aged 25, overseeing the meeting facilities at Rezidor's biggest UK property.
But Archer's big break came this year with her appointment as revenue manager for Rezidor's Park Inn Hotel Manchester Victoria, which opened on 10 June. "It has been a fantastic opportunity for me to get involved in the opening of this hotel," she says.
Position HR Business Partner, Business Dining, Aramark
Nominated by Robbie Wheeler, Aramark director for the UK and Ireland
Bowen joined Aramark in 2004 as an HR and development adviser, rising to human resources business partner for Business Dining London in 2006 and expanding her responsibilities across the UK a year later. Business Dining covers £95m of revenue and 3,000 workers, and Bowen has helped shape a new human resources structure, reworked Aramark's reward strategy, and created a People Pipeline tool to help staff new businesses. Bowen also line-manages the new role of human resources operations manager and has contributed to many high-profile tenders. "Winning this recognition, I am sure, will raise my profile within Aramark and support my future progression," she says.
Position Head chef, the Old Mill, London Road, Berkhamsted
Nominated by Lee Cash, founder, Peach Pub Company
Although she claims to have become a chef by chance, Barr has certainly shone at her accidental vocation. In her college years she captained the England Student Team to win Best Hotel School in Great Britain, then led the team in the European Final, finishing sixth. Her career in professional kitchens has encompassed stints at Le Caprice, Winteringham Fields, Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and Simpsons in Birmingham, before joining the Old Mill pub in Berkhamsted as head chef 2007. Despite only being 29 she has won Egon Ronay Chef of the Year 2001, Seafood Chef of the Year and MAC Team Chef of the Year 2001, as well as being named one of Birmingham's five food heroes in 2005.
Position Executive head chef, Rookery Hall hotel, Hand Picked Hotels
Nominated by Stephen Fernley, Rookery Hall general manager
After winning three rosettes for his main property at Macdonald Hotels, Badley joined Rookery Hall in late 2008 and immediately seized Hand Picked's top position for finance, food safety and food standards. A talented chef with a number of awards, Badley is not only responsible for 45 food and beverage staff, he has created and implemented a food safety management system and a three-year food and beverage strategy for the entire group. His nominator praised his diversity, passion, experience, financial acumen, and inspirational leadership. Badley says he is "overjoyed to win such a well-known award, which has helped the careers of other talented winners" that he has worked with.
Position Store manager, Costa Coffee, Gateshead
Nominated by Suzie Welch, UK HR manager, Costa Coffee
Burnip joined Costa Coffee 10 years ago when it had 200 stores. During this time, she has managed three different sites within the group, which now has a portfolio of 800 outlets. Burnip currently manages the site at the Metrocentre in Gateshead, where she leads a team of 20 members of staff and is responsible for their training, coaching and developing as well as the day-to-day running of the store and £800,000 in turnover.
Position: Hotel project manager, Hotel Verta, Von Essen hotels
Nominated by Andrew Onraet, creative director and development architect at Von Essen Hotels
Joining Von Essen as a 16-year-old receptionist seven years ago, Chenery progressed to central sales and marketing coordinator at the company's Bath head office, which involved the start up of Von Essen events. Next she became events manager, overseeing the relaunch of Lower Slaughter Manor as well as overseeing the running of the hotel, sales and marketing, GDS systems, website maintenance and training front-of-house staff. Last year, Chenery was appointed hotel project manager for Hotel Verta, due to open this autumn. Her responsibilities include co-ordinating and collecting information relating to the pre-opening of key areas of the hotel and liaising with relevant stakeholder and Von Essen hotels head office departments.
Position Director of human resources, Grosvenor House
Nominated by Marianne Barlow, Director of Human Resources, Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel
Marais began her career with internships at Thistle Kensington Park and Palace Hotels, and, following graduation, has never looked back. She joined the Hilton London Heathrow as a human resources co-ordinator, then the Langham as human resources officer, before her move to the Grosvenor House in 2006 as human resources manager. Last year she took on the director of human resources role.
The variety of the industry is what draws Marais to hospitality both in terms of working around the world and the different characters which makes each day varied. Of receiving an Acorn, she says: "I was really shocked in the first instance - and then proud to have won such a recognisable hospitality award."
Position: Regional IT manager, UK, Park Plaza Hotels Europe
Nominated by Kurt Kuen, senior vice-president, Park Plaza Hotels Europe
Hopkins is responsible for all UK IT operations and best-practice solutions in messaging and collaboration services for Park Plaza Hotels Europe with a budget of £1m. He started his career in 1999 at the Thistle Hotels Group as part of the duty management team, before moving to events accounts executive at Park Plaza Victoria, London, generating £400,000 of revenue in the first six months. In 2002 Hopkins moved to the field of IT, working his way up from IT assistant to senior IT manager. Hopkins says: "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 of the award entrants, is for me an outstanding achievement."
Position Restaurant manager, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London
Nominated by Gillian Thomson, head of operations, Gordon Ramsay Holdings.
Being the youngest restaurant manager of any three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the world says a lot about Defremont, who only got into the industry accidentally when his friend began training as a chef and he thought it seemed "cool". After a year in the kitchens, though, Defremont moved to front of house and found a job at Alain Ducasse's restaurant in Paris, where "everything really started for me." From being one of 10 head waiters at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's to restaurant manager in Ramsay's flagship property within four years is "quite exceptional" admits his nominator.
On being awarded an Acorn, he says: "I feel proud and happy: this is a great recognition for all the hard work!"
Position Head chef, La Bécasse, Ludlow, Shropshire
Nominated by Alan Murchison, chef-patron, La Bécasse and L'Ortolan
Holland has never wanted to be anything other than a chef and left school "as soon as he could" to join catering college. After graduating, he honed his skills at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Homewood Park in Bath and Gravetye Manor in West Sussex.
In 2004 he joined the Michelin-starred restaurant L'Ortolan in Reading as sous chef and after a few months chef-patron Alan Murchison promoted him to head chef. But his real break came when Murchison took over the former Hibiscus site in Ludlow in 2007 to launch a second restaurant and put Holland in charge. La Bécasse gained a star this January, 18 months after opening, making Holland one of just five Michelin-starred UK head chefs below the age of 30.
Position Hotel manager, Intercontinental Hotel Group - Holiday Inn Kensington Forum
Nominated by Alex Carvalho, general manager, Holiday Inn Kensington Forum
It is Flinter's obvious talent and passion as a hotelier that has seen him win an Acorn Award. His current role is as hotel manager at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum - the largest Holiday Inn in the world, accommodating more than 250,000 guests per year and generating in excess of £30m annually. Flinter is responsible for the overall operation of the hotel and 300 staff. Every role Flinter has occupied in his short career has come with unremitting success, including operations manager for two Thistle Hotel properties in Bloomsbury with a £7m combined turnover, and operations manager of the 311-bedroom Holiday Inn Bloomsbury hotel, where he improved year-on-year performance by almost £500,000 at gross operating profit level.
Position Regional sales and marketing manager, Sharrow Bay Hotel - Von Essen hotels
Nominated by Mandy Ley-Morgan director of marketing and communications, Von Essen
Hall started out studying marketing at university and then joined Marks & Spencer where he "fell in love" with food marketing. He joined Sharrow Bay hotel in 2007 as the sales and marketing assistant, later being promoted to sales and marketing manager across all six of Von Essen's Relais and Châteaux properties. He has continued to work at the hotel for the past four years. Sam puts his win down to his talent for innovation - he has been responsible for developing the Sharrow Bay food range, and being the first UK hotel group to develop culinary podcasts. "I've always been given freedom by Von Essen and it has supported my initiatives while honing my skills. I couldn't have done it without the company's support," Hall says.
Position: Marketing manager, 3663 First for Foodservice
Nominated by Annemarie Penderis, account director, William Murray PR
Davis graduated from the University of Southampton with a first-class honours degree in management sciences. She joined 3663 as a marketing executive, working on key accounts and as marketplace editor for the company's monthly magazine, which goes out to 30,000 customers. She was quickly promoted to marketing manager, looking after 3663's most profitable categories including frozen food, Christmas and ViVAS wine. "I'd always thought it would be great to be an Acorn but never thought it would happen to me and I'm very excited. I love the variety of my job and working with people at 3663 and in the industry and I next hope to manage my own team," she says.
Position PR and marketing manager, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel, London
Nominated by Theresa Maw, general manager, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel, London
Corfield graduated with an honours degree in hospitality and communications from Oxford Brooks University and his first job out of college was marketing executive at the Marriott hotel Grosvenor Square in London.
After a brief stint at a PR agency covering the hospitality sector, Corfield joined the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel aged 24 as its in-house PR and marketing manager. "I'm really proud to have got to a managerial role at such a young age," he says.
Corfield is in charge of the 356-bedroom hotel's PR strategy, which also includes its spa and the 70-cover Pearl restaurant. He says in the current climate the most important aspect of marketing is return on investment.
Position Food services manager, Leeds City Centre Debenhams
Nominated by Susan De Pledge, Debenhams brand operations manager
One of Debenhams' youngest food services managers, Fogarty oversees more than 50 staff at one of its top 10 sites, where he has boosted turnover by 20% and profitability by 10%. Fogarty started working for the group 10 years ago, rising within six months to become supervisor of Debenhams' first Intercafe. He whizzed through the management trainee programme in six months, running Debenhams' largest Douwe Egberts concession at the age of 19. His next role involved new store openings and troubleshooting problem sites. Fogarty has turned around unprofitable businesses and trained and coached staff. Fogarty says he is "really chuffed" with his win as retail catering did not always win the acknowledgement it deserved.
Position Founder and managing director, Tossed
Nominated by Ian Pengelley, owner, Gilgamesh
Over the past four years, McKevitt has opened seven Tossed salad bars, created 85 jobs and been picked as "the one to watch" for hospitality in TheObserver‘s "Future 500" list.
Having graduated with a first-class degree in business administration, McKevitt spent the following year researching the salad bar market in California and New York, before opening his first unit in Paddington in 2005.
On a mission to educate the world that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring, McKevitt was "ecstatic" to become an Acorn. He says: "As an entrepreneur it can be lonely sometimes so it's good to be acknowledged. It's also really good for the team as it is really them that make us successful."
Position Sous chef, Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley
Nominated by Marcus and his wife, Jane Wareing
Nicholson studied law for four years at university, but always had a passion for cooking, and worked part time in restaurants throughout her studies. After one-and-a-half years as a banker, all the while doing catering jobs, She entered the Gordon Ramsay Scholar competition, which visited New Zealand that year, and made it through to the final, where she met fellow New Zealander Josh Emmett. He offered her a job as demi-chef in London. "It was too good an opportunity to miss," she says. A year-and-a-half later she joined Pétrus as junior sous chef, working her way up to her current position of sous chef. "But the university training wasn't a waste as I now do two days a week in the office working on the Pétrus accounts, and two to three days in the kitchen. I love the variety."
Position Food and beverage manager, London Heathrow Bath Road Premier Inn
Nominated by Dean Madge, general manager
Having begun her career as a banqueting casual at Trust House Forte 10 years ago, McDonald has been "incredibly successful - you can see the legacy she has left in each role," according to her nominator, Dean Madge.
Joining Whitbread initially as a holding reception manager, McDonald has now become a key member of the team, opening Premier Inns and supporting the pre-opening of seven new-builds as well as delivering substantial savings through overhauling the food procurement system. She says: "When I first found out I was in disbelief, I had been telling myself not to get too excited. So when Dean told me I was shaking and crying and could not stop smiling! I still can't stop."
GRANT McKENZIEAge 27
Position General manager, Malmaison Leeds
Nominated by Operations director Scott Harper and Andrew Mackenzie
McKenzie has wanted to win an Acorn ever since he saw his colleague, Stuart Procter, walked away with one when he was working as the assistant manager at the Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel in Bolton Abbey at the age of 17. He joined Shire hotels at Thorpe Park Hotel and Spa as bars and courtyard manager, and then the Four Seasons hotel in Canary Wharf as their senior bartender. A chance meeting with Robert Cook at Marble Arch then led to him becoming assistant operations manager at Malmaison. In April 2006 he became deputy general manager at Malmaison Newcastle. In July 2008 at the age of 26 he was further promoted to his current position of general manager at Malmaison Leeds. "It's fantastic to work for this company," he says, "and Robert - every day is different and so inspiring."
Position Hotel proprietor, Fishmore Hall hotel, Ludlow
Nominated by Stuart Mitchell, Perception
Penman started working for her referee, hotelier Ian Taylor at Cotswold House hotel in Chipping Camden 14 years ago, while taking a hospitality degree. On her return from a year in New Zealand, Taylor hired her as front-of-house manager at the Noel Arms, where she rose to general manager within two years. Penman took the plunge into hotel ownership in 2007, building up a business with no previous goodwill on a tight budget in a difficult trading climate. Taylor praised her positive and focused approach, her calmness in a crisis, her ability to take difficult decisions, and her qualities as a leader and a team player. Penman says she is "ecstatic and very surprised" to win an Acorn.
Position Acting director of human resources, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel
Nominated by Theresa Maw, general manager, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel
In just seven years, Phillips has risen from human resources administrator at London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square to acting director of human resources at Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel, a five-star, 356-bedroom hotel in central London that turns over more than £30m per year. An example of her bubbling initiative is in her recruiting and developing of a training officer, increasing training by 500 hours from between 2007 and 2008 without overburdening staff. Since Phillips has stepped into her current role, the country has plunged into recession, making her job in human resources even harder. "While it has been a difficult year for all our staff its great to be recognised for what I have achieved," she says.
Position Director, Strattons Hotel
Nominated by Vanessa Scott, proprietor, Strattons Hotel
For someone who has shaken up Strattons Hotel with her drive and focus, it is remarkable that Scott has had no formal training in hospitality. After joining the hotel from a Fine Arts degree at Northampton University, as a temporary position covering staff holidays and days off, she was soon given a full-time role as a duty manager. And she got straight to work; appointing more key staff, introducing a structured training programme, in-house training and working manuals. Her roles since then have brought success in every department, most noticeable as the sales and marketing director, in which capacity she won the hotel 30 regional, national and international awards. The skill with which she leant her hand to all these jobs saw her appointed a director of Strattons in January 2009.
Position Assistant director of sales, Starwood Central London Hotels
Nominated by Colin Bennett, Starwood
Shovlin is responsible for Starwood's London sales team, which generates revenue of more than £25m across four hotels. After gaining an accountancy degree, she joined Starwood's select Vita Futura Graduate Management Programme in 2004 and progressed rapidly through the Central London events team, where she regularly exceeded targets and helped transform the division into a centre of best practice. Shovlin took her current role in 2008, when she was also chosen for Starwood's Grow Global programme to fast-track top talent to executive committee level within two years. Shovlin says it is a "huge honour" to join the ranks of Acorn winners, adding that the award is a great advertisement for the industry.
Position: F&B manager, the Westbury Hotel
Nominated by Andrew Jones, executive chef, the Westbury Hotel
Shaw currently works as food and beverages manager at the Westbury Hotel, managing a team of 82. "The best part of my job is helping to develop young people coming into the industry," he says. Shaw started working in hospitality aged 14, and later joined Claridge's, where he was promoted to assistant back-of-house manager, managing a team of 18 and was further promoted to special services butler for VIP guests. Following a stint in Denmark helping to open a restaurant with a head chef and proprietor, Shaw returned to the UK to join the Ritz as head waiter and to the Cadogan Hotel as assistant food and beverage manager. "I feel very proud and honoured to be made one of the 30 Acorns," he says.
Position Deputy general manager, the Cavendish
Nominated by General manager of the Cavendish, Ciaran Fahy
Penn started his career as a part-time waiter while completing his studies at school. He then joined the Management Training Programme at Hartwell House Hotel and Spa in Buckinghamshire, was promoted to assistant manager at the age of 20 and was the youngest-ever assistant manager of the Historic House Hotels Group. After two years his next move within the group was assistant manager of Bodysgallen Hotel in North Wales. Penn returned to Hartwell after this placement and at 23 and became the youngest house manager. After three years, Penn moved to the Stafford hotel in London. In 2008, he joined the Cavendish hotel, London, as deputy general manager. "The atmosphere at the Cavendish is wonderful - there's a passion from all the staff to see the hotel succeed," he says.
Position: Director of sales, the Brewery
Nominated by General manager Maria Duddin
Varah was alerted to the fact that he'd won an Acorn when he heard a scream emanating from general manager Maria Duddin's office, "It was a bit of a surprise - this is a fantastic place to work but that was the cherry on the cake," he says. Varah discovered his passion for the hospitality industry after putting on Drum and Bass nights at Exeter University. After graduating he got a job at Initial Style (now De Vere Venues). "When my boss left and I was promoted to her position it was a sink or swim scenario and I managed to prove myself." He joined the Brewery in 2004 (won over by the fact that it was hosting the Kerrang Awards). He was promoted to director of events sales within five years. He says the best thing about his job is the people in his team and the fact that he was encouraged and promoted in a short space of time.
Position: General manager, Dartmouth Apprentice
Nominated by Jane Sanderson, managing director, Hospitality for Life
Warner started his career in 2000 as a bartender at the Hobgoblin Pub in Devon and was promoted to head barman and then assistant manager, overseeing the re-launch of the pub. He was headhunted in July 2003 to become assistant manager at the Hogshead in Bristol and again a year later to become operations director for the Oyster Shack in Devon - doubling sales revenue within 12 months. He joined Wykham Inns as general manager in August 2006, developing two restaurants and a bar, managing 35 staff. "To be recognised for your efforts is a great motivator. You feel like you have to sacrifice a great deal to succeed in this business, but to actually win a prestigious award like this makes it all worthwhile," he says.
Position General manager, Homewood Park, Von Essen
Nominated by Nick Romano
Having started his career as a commis waiter at Thornbury Castle aged 20, Verrier's rise to general manager at Von Essen's Homewood Park a mere eight years later has been described by his nominator as "meteoric, driven by ambition, passion and considerable skill". Coming from a hospitality background - his father was a chef and also worked front of house and his brother is also in the trade - being named an Acorn was just the icing on the cake.
Verrier says: "Getting an Acorn is great, brilliant. It is nice to be recognised for the work I've done over the past few years and by people from the industry. To see my name mixed with some of the previous winners such as Marco Pierre White is amazing."
Position General manager, Abode Hotel Glasgow
Nominated by Ros Young, group human resources manager, Abode Hotels
Stevens started his hospitality career at the Malmaison hotel in Glasgow and soon after joining the property enrolled in the group's graduate scheme. As part of this he spent 18 months training at the Malmaison Newcastle and after graduating joined the Malmaison Manchester as operations manager. He joined Abode Hotels as group operations support manager in 2007 and last year was named general manager of the Abode hotel in Glasgow, aged just 28. He oversees a team of 65 members of staff at the 59-bedroom hotel.
Stevens says what motivates him most of all is "exceeding customer expectations" and he and his team have recently been awarded Glasgow hotel of the year 2009 by the Scottish hotel awards.
Position General manager Hamilton Park Racecourse (Prestige Scotland) and company director, Sizzling Scot Ltd
Nominated by Vivien Kyles, chief operating officer, Hamilton Park Racecourse (Prestige Scotland
Like so many young industry entrants, Tiffin's first job was as a glass collector in the Hilton Hotel Aberdeen. After working his way to assistant bars manger, before becoming bars manager then duty manager at the Hilton in Edinburgh, he soon graduated to food and beverage manager at the Glasshouse Hotel in Edinburgh then conference and banqueting Manager with Edinburgh First. It was during this time that he also branched out on his own, setting up the Sizzling Scot Scottish Steakhouse and Grill in partnership with a business friend. His current position is as general manager for Hamilton Park Racecourse.
Our thanks go to the organisers of the weekend activity, Team Spirit (0870 855 0606), who helped provided all the fun and games so enjoyed by the Acorns and members of the Caterer team