Colleagues past and present have paid tribute to Denver Jeffrey, the director of food and beverage at Sopwell House hotel, who died suddenly aged just 46 earlier this month.
A popular figure in the industry, as well as being an accomplished toastmaster, Jeffrey joined Sopwell House (part of AB Hotels Ltd) in January 2013 and in that time helped the hotel's restaurant to gain an AA rosette, as well as bringing in record numbers of afternoon tea customers.
Originally from Jamaica, he had enjoyed a highly successful career with Marriott International, and in 2008 was named a Marriott Awards of Excellence Honoree - one of just nine in total - while food and beverage service manager at the Renaissance Chancery Court, where he worked from 2004 until 2009 (see video below).
He also helped open Gillray's steakhouse and bar at Marriott's County Hall hotel in Westminster, as the food and beverage director working under general manager Theresa Maw, and was also part of a Marriott team under Edward Harvey (former director of food and beverage development and design - Middle East, Africa, UK and Ireland at Marriott International) that worked on projects around the world.
Just two days before he passed away, Jeffrey spent the day at Oaklands College, hand-picking the first team of apprentices he planned to train and mentor in a brand new initiative he was driving at Sopwell House.
The hotel said it would continue with the plans in recognition of his enthusiasm for the scheme and his passion for hospitality, and has re-named the initiative the Denver Food & Beverage Academy in his honour.
Abraham Bejerano, proprietor of AB Hotels said: "Obviously this news was a huge shock for us all and it will undoubtedly take some time for friends and colleagues to come to terms with this sudden and devastating loss. Denver was a true gentleman with a big heart, the most infectious smile and we will all obviously miss him terribly."
Meanwhile, Frederic Billet, currently operations manager at Luton Hoo hotel, who worked with Jeffrey at the Chancery Court hotel also paid tribute to his former colleague who he described as a "big character" who was recognised for his excellent skills as a toastmaster.
A celebration of Denver Jeffrey's Life will be held on Tuesday 1 July and Sopwell House will host a reception for his family and close friends after the burial.