Graham Rooney was crowned Tourism & Hospitality Hero at the Thistle Awards held in Edinburgh on 9 February.
The 42-year-old owner of the bar and restaurant Platform 1864 in Tain in the Scottish Highlands was commended for his determination to save the business post-Covid and for his ability to create a strong sense of community during a tumultuous time.
Before his national victory, he received the same award on a regional level at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards held in Inverness last November.
Rooney trained as a chef and started working full time from age 15 under John Wynne of the Morangie Hotel in Tain.
For a while, Rooney had his eyes set on Tain's derelict train station. After he was approached by Susannah Stone of Highland Fine Cheeses to a Civic Trust Meeting discussing the future of the station, Rooney received the green light to build Platform 1864.
Rooney invited local contractors to transform the space into a bar and restaurant, which has been described as a "pillar of the community" since it first opened in November 2015.
During the pandemic, Rooney founded his own ‘Deliverooney' business using his refrigerated van. He worked 16-hour days every day to deliver hot meals across the Highlands to elderly and vulnerable communities.
After the lockdowns, Rooney also hosted ‘An Event to Give Thanks', where he invited NHS staff and key workers for a free five-course meal, Champagne reception and live music and awards ceremony.
Fiona MacDonald, general manager of Platform 1864, said: "I've always said it's one thing to build a business but it's something else entirely to build a community around your business and that's something Graham has in abundance."
Photo: Chris Watt