Aleks Riitmaa has been announced as the winner of the 2018 KP of the Year competition, organised by The Caterer in partnership with warewasher manufacturer Winterhalter UK.
Stephen Kinkead, managing director of Winterhalter UK, said: "We have seen the quality and quantity of entries improve year-on-year and were completely overwhelmed this year. The hardest part of our judging day is getting a top 10, but Aleks shone through as a winner from the start!"
The judges also announced the presentation of three highly commended awards to Suhail Ahmed from the Social Pantry, London; David Gadsby from BaxterStorey, London and Martyn Dickers from Cardiff Marriott Hotel.
Riitmaa has worked at Crathorne Hall in North Yorkshire, part of the Hand Picked Hotels group, for nearly 12 years and he made every judges' shortlist.
Described as the most mature KP at the hotel, and known as Father Riitmaas, this year's winning KP of the Year is a keen environmentalist and is a firm believer in elbow grease.
He lives in staff accommodation close to the hotel and helps with the care and upkeep of the 15 acre grounds, from looking after compost bins, to bees, blue tit nests and the roses.
His manager Alan Robinson, executive head chef of Crathorne Hall Hotel, said in his entry: "He does so many thoughtful things for the team in the kitchen and back of house. He inspires others and knows everyone's names. He hand scrubs areas the other KP's don't even know about!"
"He also attends every staff party and is the life of soul of them all. At 65 he is still the king of the dance floor and is fondly known and loved throughout the hotel."
Elizabeth Raine, general manager of Crathorne Hall Hotel who supported Robinson with Riitmaa's entry was delighted to be part of the celebration. "It's wonderful to acknowledge what Aleks does for us all here. He is a real asset to the hotel."
Kinkead and Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor of The Caterer, surprised Riitmaa at Crathorne Hall with news of his success at a gathering organised by Raine, allowing his colleagues to join in his celebration.
On presentation of his winning trophy, Riitmaa said: "This has been such a surprise today and to have all of my colleagues here with me makes it very special."
The brainchild of Winterhalter UK, the KP of the Year competition launched in 2013 to recognise kitchen porters working in restaurants, pubs, schools, contract catering and hotels across the country.
The judging panel consisted of: Stephen Kinkead, managing director, Winterhalter UK; Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor, The Caterer (chair). James Horler, chief executive of Ego Restaurants, and non-executive director of Patisserie Valerie, Charterhouse Leisure, Ping Pong and Cartwheel Recruitment; Richard Davies, executive chef of Calcot Manor Hotel in Tetbury; Anne Pierce, chief executive, Springboard UK; Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive, the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts; Hayden Groves, executive chef, BaxterStorey; Mark Surgut, hotel manager at The Stafford, London and Brian O'Hannon, co-founder and director of Super 8 Restaurants - owners of Kiln in Soho, Smoking Goat and Brat in Shoreditch.
As the 2018 KP of the Year winner, Riitmaa wins the coveted KP of the Year trophy, £1,000 cash and a celebratory meal with friends and family in a casual-dining restaurant of his choice. Crathorne Hall Hotel will receive one of Winterhalter's warewash products worth up to £8,000.
The judges look for kitchen porters who demonstrate that they are going above and beyond their day job, with good integration within the front of house and kitchen teams and evidence of 'going the extra mile'.
Judge James Horler, who started his career as a KP said: "This competition gets more difficult to judge every year, and we had more entries than ever this year."
Kinkead, managing director of Winterhalter UK, was delighted with the continued response to the competition and added: "The calibre of entries continues to be outstanding and our winner and top 10 are truly representative of the best of the best KP's in the country."
Every kitchen porter put forward will receive a KP of the Year bespoke Oliver Hardy apron from Winterhalter UK in due course and the three highly commended will also receive a cash prize.
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