Peter McAlister, restaurant manager at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast, was last night named 2012 UK Restaurant Manager of the Year.
He triumphed in the final of the event, organised by the Academy of Food & Wine (AFWS) at the Westbury Mayfair hotel, London, which saw four restaurant managers being quizzed on their food and wine knowledge, business acumen, management ability and customer service skills.
McAlister, 31, who previously worked for Malmaison Belfast, said the he was "delighted and absolutely shocked" at his success, having got through to the final on two previous occasions.
"I have loved every minute of the competition, it has been so exciting. It has been a big team effort - I've had a lot of support from my colleagues and my general manager. Without them I wouldn't have been here and I couldn't have won."
As part of his prize McAlister receives a stage in some of Daniel Boulud's Dinex Group of restaurants in New York, staying at the boutique MAve hotel, gaining a unique insight into the running of various departments. The Culloden Estate and Spa also receives a year's subscription to the Livebookings reservation system.
Runner-up, announced at the awards dinner following the final, was Paul Taylor, general manager of TGI Friday's Wembley, who receives a place at the business summer school run by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, sponsored by the Savoy Educational Trust.
Following the final, chairman of the judges and former winner Peter Avis, restaurant manager at Babylon, Roof Gardens, offered to act as a mentor for finalist Tobias Barfoot, restaurant manager of The Ambrette Restaurant in Margate, while Stephen Mannock of the Edge Hotel School, Wivenhoe House, offered fellow finalist Paul Shanahan, operations manager of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, mentoring at the hotel school.
During the final, the four restaurant managers undertook a customer service scenario, a staff management task and an Dragon's Den-style presentation in which the competitors pitched a business plan for a new restaurant concept to a panel of potential investors.
Avis said McAlister was a clear winner. "He didn't put a foot wrong. In the Dragon's Den he presented well and with a real passion, conveying the information in an interesting and informed way. He sold us with the concept verbally and impressed us with his research and attention to detail."
During the celebration dinner, five industry personalities were invited to join the Academy's Restaurant Manager Hall of Fame. They were: Rémy Lysé, chief operation office, The Arts Club; Edward Griffiths, The Royal Household; Elaine Watson, F&B support services manager, Gleneagles; Simon Girling, executive F&B operations manager, The Ritz, London; and Connor O'Leary, F&B director, Hyatt Regency London.
By Janet Harmer
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