Hotel Cateys 2022: Outstanding Contribution Award – Craig Bancroft, managing director, Northcote

08 December 2022
Hotel Cateys 2022: Outstanding Contribution Award – Craig Bancroft, managing director, Northcote

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Craig Bancroft took his first job as a kitchen porter at the Kensington Close hotel before joining the Trusthouse Forte management trainee scheme. He served as a chef at London's Grosvenor House hotel and the two Michelin-starred Plaza Athénée in Paris, followed by trainee roles at the five-star Browns and Westbury hotels in London.

After stints at London's Regent Palace Piccadilly and Strand Palace and Yorkshire's Beverley Arms hotel and with just six months training left to complete, Bancroft was lured to the (then) unimpressive Northcote Manor in December 1983 as general manager. One of his first moves was to bring Nigel Haworth on board as head chef in March 1984 with Haworth and Bancroft going on to purchase Northcote outright in 1989.

Following the change in senior management with Haworth relinquishing his role from chef-patron and joint managing director to ambassador in 2017, the property has continued to develop into a first-class country house hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The hotel underwent a £7m redevelopment, and in 2019 became part of the Stafford Collection.

Bancroft's awards and accolades include The Caterer's Hotelier of the Year in 2016, and the Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award, in 2017. It is his range of skills and his expertise in wine and food that are the backbone of the hotel and his personality front of house that elevates the hugely successful Obsession event that is now in its 23rd year.

Obsession is Northcote's annual homage to the finest food and wine, established since 2001 as one of Europe's premier gastronomic events with guest chefs travelling in from all over the world.

Bancroft's role in proceedings involves a considerable share of the planning and organising, to being the ‘front man' every night, and the face of the festival. The person who greets guests, hosts the evening and maintains an entertaining level of banter and conversation. But none of these demonstrate the extraordinary skills he possesses in his real area of expertise – fine wine. In 2023 he will be matching wines for 20 chefs holding 16 Michelin stars all serving Northcote's guests across 17 nights.

On a normal day, with his team of five sommeliers, Bancroft takes great pride in curating a wine list to complement executive head chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen's menu. The broad list currently includes 52 champagnes and sparkling wines and 500 bins of still wines from 20 different countries. Bancroft and therefore Northcote is also involved with charities Springboard and Prince's Trust, which nurture young people into sustainable employment and works with Hospitality Action, who provide support and assistance to struggling members of the hospitality industry.

The recipient of The Caterer's Acorn Award in 1987, Bancroft personifies an outstanding contribution to the industry, his region and his team.

Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of the Stafford London, who was Bancroft's first ever apprentice in 1991, commented: "There is no other individual within our industry that deserves this award more than Craig. His dedication, passion and commitment is nothing short of exemplary and he is probably one of the kindest human beings you could meet."

Past winners

2021 Peter Hancock

2019 Sean Wheeler

2018 Jonathan Slater, Oddfellows Hotels

2017 David Morgan-Hewitt, the Goring hotel

2016 Robin Sheppard, Bespoke Hotels

2015 Philip Newman Hall, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

2014 Robin Hutson, Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels

2013 Patrick Dempsey Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants

2012 Paul Gayler, The Lanesborough

2011 Gordon Campbell Gray, Campbell Gray Hotels

2010 Alan Parker, Whitbread

2009 Willy Bauer, AB Hotels

2008 John Williams, The Ritz London

2007 Grant Hearn, Travelodge

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