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Craig Bancroft, Northcote
As managing director of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire, along with joint managing director and chef-patron Nigel Haworth, Craig Bancroft has created a gastronomic haven in Northcote.
The property, which Bancroft joined in 1983, is the AA's current Hotel of the Year for England, and the holder of a Michelin star for 21 years, four AA red stars and four AA rosettes.
On a more personal front, he is a Master Innholder, a member of the Academy of Food and Wine's Hall of Fame, Imbibe's Hotel Personality of the Year 2014, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Maitre d'Hotel 2014 and, along with Haworth, was the winner of the 2009 Catey Special Award. And in 1987, the inaugural year of The Caterer's Acorn Awards, he was among our very first 30 under 30.
A key thread throughout his tenure at the hotel has been the time and energy he has put into inspiring and encouraging staff to reach their potential. Together with Haworth, Bancroft has provided the platform to create a culinary legacy that includes Lisa Allen, now executive head chef at Northcote, and Mark Birchall, former executive chef at the two- Michelin-starred L'Enclume, who is set to open Moor Hall, near Ormskirk, Lancashire, early next year. Meanwhile, many hoteliers have been nurtured at Northcote, including Bancroft's first trainee, Stuart Procter (now general manager at the Stafford London) and Northcote's current general manager and rising star Craig Jackson.
What particularly caught the judges' eye was Bancroft's commitment to secure spending behind the scenes in new staff accommodation, which includes a computer room and canteen. "These facilities are available in large conglomerates and large operations, but they are not necessarily in smaller [hotels] because banks won't let you invest in things that don't make a return", says Bancroft. "I would argue that these things make huge returns because they allow you to retain staff."
In addition, he runs apprenticeships with local colleges and offers training loans, and personally demonstrates the importance of continuous development by attending courses with the rest of the team.
Essentially, Bancroft is a people person, as evidenced by his commitment "to make a difference" with a national multi-million pound campaign to tackle the skills shortage that is threatening the future of the hospitality industry. If successful, there could be no more fitting legacy for the 2016 Hotelier of the Year.
What the judges said
"Craig is a highly skilled hotelier who is passionate about standards, obsessed with the art of gastronomy and a true charismatic host."
Harry Murray, chairman, Lucknam Park and 1986 Hotelier of the Year
"Craig shows huge passion for everything hospitality, but he has also demonstrated that drive, determination and tenacity are key to success in his sector."
Richard Ball, chairman, the Calcot Collection and 2006 Hotelier of the Year
"Craig possesses the holy trinity of skills that make up a great hotelier: he is a great host, a great business man and a great practitioner."
Andrew McKenzie, managing director, the Vineyard Group and 2008 Hotelier of the Year
"Not only does Craig inspire the current and next generation of hoteliers, but his story shows that in this amazing industry anything is possible."
Danny Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Hotels and Venues and 2014 Hotelier of the Year
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