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"The 60-seat Tom Aikens met with approval from both the dining public and, crucially, the country's restaurant critics"
Some Cateys are very clearly for individuals; others are for groups of people in the form of businesses. The Newcomer of the Year accolade can be given to either. It is also a pan-industry category, as a glance at the roll-call of previous winners reveals.
Look closely and among its graduates, and you will see chefs such as Paul Heathcote, and Jeanne and Paul Rankin; even a certain Gordon Ramsay (1994) and his erstwhile mentor, Marco Pierre White (a 1987 Catey winner). They rub shoulders with businesses that went on to become icons in their field - think Hotel du Vin & Bistro in its original incarnation in Winchester, for instance: or Calcot Manor in the Cotswolds, or Bank when it was a single entity in London.
All these businesses and individuals demonstrated two key things when they won their Cateys - an enviable reputation for quality and success in their chosen sector of the industry. But they also had a special X factor: and that was a willingness to take risks and stand out from the crowd.
Last year's recipient, Tom Aikens's eponymous restaurant in London, demonstrated this admirably. In theory, prior to launching, this must have looked to the outside world like a dead cert for success - the first business venture of a supremely gifted chef.
Yet Aikens had departed his job as head chef at London's Pied a Terre restaurant under a cloud of unwelcome publicity three-and-a-half years earlier. He'd been off the London restaurant scene ever since. Until in fact, in the full glare of publicity, he and his wife, Laura, launched their restaurant in 2003. They put lots of money into their business, knowing that the tinniest hiccup would be noted and gloated over. Success was very far from being guaranteed at that time.
Luckily, the 60-seat Tom Aikens met with approval from both the dining public and, crucially, the country's restaurant critics. The latter are notoriously difficult to get on side en masse and yet the restaurant, driven by Aikens's cooking and admirable attention to detail front-of-house, achieved that feat.
The hard-to-please Fay Maschler of London's Evening Standard remarked: "Does London need one more ambitious, ego-driven fancy-pants restaurant?…In my view, when it is the restaurant Tom Aikens, it does." The Guardian's Matthew Fort pronounced the restaurant a "terrific place" with food that had "weight and depth".
So, if you think you know a business, individual or group who can emulate the success of Tom Aikens, nominate them for the Newcomer of the Year Catey. The person or people should be at the start of their career, or a new business by a first-time restaurateur, hotelier, publican or contract caterer that has been operating for three years or less on 1 July 2005.
Just fill in the form on the back page. The closing date for nominations is Friday 4 February, with judging on Monday 25 April at London's Bentley hotel.
The Newcomer of the Year Catey is open to all entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry who have seized an opportunity and made a name for themselves. The winner will:
- Run a business that will have been operating for less than three years on 1 July 2005.
- Have established a reputation for quality and service.
All nominations in this category MUST be accompanied by a supporting statement.