Winner of the 2012 UK Restaurant Manager of the Year award, Peter McAlister is the food and beverage manager at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast. He shares with Janet Harmer what he loves about working in front-of-house hospitality
Congratulations on winning the award, organised by the Academy of Food and Wine Service. How do you feel to have carried off the top prize? It has been an absolute honour and privilege. Since winning, I've been completely overwhelmed and flattered by the number of texts, emails and messages I've received congratulating me.
What was the toughest aspect of the competition? Definitely the Dragons' Den style-presentation in which we had to pitch to a panel of five judges our idea for a restaurant near to the Olympic Park. It was like being in front of a firing squad. My suggestion was for a classic British neighbourhood restaurant in Hackney as I know it is an up-and-coming area.
As part of your prize, you will spend time in New York completing a stage at some of Daniel Boulud's Dinex Group of restaurants. What do you hope to gain from the trip? I hope it will provide me with an insight into how an international business operates, and will enable me to pick up some ideas and make some great contacts. I also hope to have a bit of fun.
What is it that you love about working in hospitality?
Describe the ideal restaurant manager Someone with a great personality and an attention to detail, who is able to motivate the team as well as control a dining room full of customers - all who have different demands. He or she also needs to be positive, quick-thinking and thick-skinned - as you have to take the good with the bad.