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The judges celebrated many of the ways that Robert Bates proved himself worthy of this year's award, but one summed it up when they described him as a "true hotel chef". Bates has taken the Belfry and made marked improvements through hard work and dedication, managing margins, getting the best out of his team and giving true quality to his customers.
In particular, much was made of his ability to turn the site around and offer a boost to its reputation after some difficult years.
Bates oversees a brigade of 38 chefs and 27 kitchen porters split among 11 kitchens. It has therefore been no small feat for him to bring the overall hygiene rating across the site up to five stars.
The 24-hour food offer at the Belfry involves serving several hundred covers, from AA-rosette-worthy food to room service, with the maintenance of quality always a focus.
Over the past two years, Bates has always kept within budgeted costs and worked hard to deliver on sales targets. At the same time, he inspires and encourages his chefs to produce the best possible food for the huge number of customers who visit the hotel, conferencing facilities and Brabazon golf course, which is
the only venue in the world to have hosted the Ryder Cup on four occasions.
In particular, members of the brigade are given the space to enhance their own skills and excel as the result of the appointment of a team of cooks, who perform kitchen assistant roles such as handling mise en place.
By enabling his team to specialise, Bates has improved consistency and quality, while also enabling staff to balance their work and home lives with the introduction of a four-on, four-off shift pattern. This well-deserved free time
has also made his chefs more focused on the task at hand, and reflects ongoing industry trends of making careers in catering more amenable to boost satisfaction, quality and, ultimately, retention.
Bates also inspired his brigade by involving members of staff in appreciation days and handing out monthly awards to the best chef and kitchen porters.
Meanwhile, the hotel's head and sous chefs have been put through management programmes to ensure they are supported and equipped as they take on more responsibility.
Overall, it is the stewardship of the site that made Bates stand out among the judges. He has taken the lead in helping to build the Belfry into a success story, while keeping staff happy and motivated.
What the judges said
"The scope and range of Robert's responsibilities set him apart from the other entries this year. The continued improvement in the reputation of the Belfry is crucially down to Robert's input and hard work."
Phil Carmichael, executive chef, Berners Tavern, the London Edition
"Robert has orchestrated an immense improvement in the overall operation at the Belfry since his arrival. He has concentrated on building a team that understands quality, improved hygiene levels of all areas and has overseen the refurbishment of the kitchen."
Steve Munkley, executive chef, Royal Garden Hotel, London
"Robert has clearly taken the Belfry food operation to another level in terms of food quality, food hygiene and general standards. He is a worthy winner of this award."
Simon Young, executive chef, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London
Robert Bates The Belfry Hotel & Resort, Sutton Coldfield
Paul Bates Hilton London, Bankside
Calum Franklin Holborn Dining Room, Rosewood London
Zoltan Szabo Principal Blythswood Square, Glasgow
2017 Chris King The Langham London
2016 Chris Wheeler Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel, Buckinghamshire
2015 Lewis Hamblet South Lodge, near Horsham, West Sussex
2014 James Murphy Principal Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow
2013 Ryan Neill Cameron House on Loch Lomond
2012 Nigel Boschetti Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott hotel, London
2011 Martyn Nail Claridge's, London
2010 Steve Munkley Royal Garden Hotel, London
2009 Simon Young Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London
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