The winners of the 34th Acorn Awards, which recognise 30 of the industry's most talented stars aged under 30, were recognised in a virtual awards ceremony last month, sponsored by CH&Co, with WSET as training sponsor.
At the tail end of March, just as the country was thrown into lockdown, a team of industry experts gathered in what was, at the time, a rather unusual forum: a Zoom judging session, to whittle down more than 160 exceptional entries for the 34th annual Acorn Awards.
After hours of debate, the top 30 under 30 were selected. The plan was for the traditional Acorns Awards ceremony to be hosted at South Lodge in Horsham, West Sussex, in June. The Acorns winners would be brought together to enjoy a winners' weekend full of team challenges, networking and an awards presentation lunch to accept their trophy and receive some well-deserved industry recognition.
Instead, after months of arranging and rearranging, the 2020 Acorn Award winners found themselves replicating the judging scenario and joined their nominators, sponsors and judges for a virtual presentation event.
Undeterred by the circumstances and armed with their trophies, the winners took to the virtual stage, following a citation describing each winner's achievement, to receive applause from their fellow Acorns and accompanying guests.
The awards were presented by The Caterer's managing editor Lisa Jenkins, Allister Richards, chief operating officer at headline sponsor CH&Co, and Rachel Webster, business development director EMEA at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
David Connell, general manager of South Lodge and 2020 Cateys Manager of the Year, invited the winners to join him at South Lodge in 2021 at an alumni drinks as well as announcing a surprise competition: a challenge for the winners to pose in the most creative way with their Acorn trophies and post a photo to social media, with the prize a night's stay at the hotel and spa.
Supporting partner Ridgeview Wines sent all the winners a bottle of Bloomsbury, its sparkling English wine, for a virtual tasting in association with WSET at the end of the event.
"It wasn't the Acorn Awards weekend we were anticipating and although we tried everything to make it work in person, it was not to be," said Jenkins.
"We hope to bring our 2020 and 2021 Acorn winners together next year. Our sponsors and partners are fully supportive, and it just goes to show that no matter what is thrown at us in hospitality, we prevail. Spirits are not dampened – and the future is in safe hands."
No matter what is thrown at us in hospitality, we prevail. Spirits are not dampened – and the future is in safe hands
Meet the Acorns
- Jessica Burrow, conference and events sales manager, the Montague on the Gardens hotel, London (Red Carnation Hotels)
- Ryan Doyle, director of sales, Park Regis, Birmingham
- Owen Farr, restaurant manager, the Queensberry hotel and Olive Tree restaurant, Bath
- Nicola Gartenberg, operations director, Adam Handling Restaurant Group
- Jakob Gowin, general manager, Leonardo Hotel London Heathrow Airport
- George Hunt, senior event manager, the Ned, London
- Chinwe Inyamah, people and development manager, the Ned, London
- Leo Kattou, head chef, Simpsons, Birmingham
- Jordan Kerridge, head chef, the Stafford London
- Josh Key, development and sustainability manager, Blue Apple Catering
- Sian Lewis, general manager, the Duke of Wellington, Surrey (Peach Pubs)
- Abbie Livesey, contract manager, Rapport at Broadgate, London
- Andrew Mackay, head pastry chef, Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Perthshire
- Edward Marsh, sous chef, the Manor House hotel, Castle Combe, Exclusive Collection
- Manuel Martínez-Infante, meeting, events, sales and planning manager, Park Plaza London Riverbank PPHE Hotel Group
- Dan McGeorge, head chef, Rothay Manor, Ambleside, Cumbria
- Tom McMillan, food and beverage manager, Park Plaza London Waterloo, PPHE Hotel Group
- Emma Monzon, spa manager, Hanbury Manor, Marriott Hotel & Country Club, Ware, Hertfordshire
- Richard Newell, assistant director of food and beverage, the Dorchester, London
- Oliver Palmer, global luxury account director – Leisure, Marriott International, London
- Charlotte Partridge, senior procurement analyst, CH&Co
- Hebe Richardson, wellness manager, Bartlett Mitchell
- Louise Roberts, sous chef, Lexington Catering
- Charlotte Rouse, head of mobilisations and supply chain for London, BaxterStorey
- Joe Rozier, head chef, the Mariners at Rock, Cornwall
- Jemma Wade, executive assistant and projects manager, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, London
- Charlotte Ward, regional HR manager, Leaf Hospitality
- Chary Wilson, sales and marketing manager, CH&Co
- Emma Wood, head of people, Casna Group
- Daniel Wratten-Sanchez, senior general manager, White Brasserie Company (Brasserie Bar Co)
Headline sponsor: CH&Co
"Many congratulations to the Acorn Awards class of 2020. All 30 talented rising stars each have inspiring stories of achievement and verve and they absolutely deserve this recognition.
"This year's awards are so significant given the challenges of 2020, because never in our recent history has the willingness and ability to lead been more vital to an industry's survival. And while models of modern leadership have of course been evolving for some time, Covid-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the change. We've seen across the globe that leaders able to demonstrate empathy and poise, with the humility to acknowledge mistakes while maintaining confidence in their judgement, can secure and sustain support far more successfully than the more dated style of chest-thumping, bombastic leadership.
"These qualities of inclusive, engaging and pragmatic leadership are what we need as we look to exit a tough 2020, and I'm delighted that from what I've learned and read, they are in abundance among the Acorn Award winners this year.
"And one thing I am completely assured of is that the features of our industry, which don't just permit but actively encourage true career mobility from a very young age, will be alive and well. If you have the energy, commitment, resilience and perhaps (if I may) a bit of natural charm thrown in, you can forge a truly fantastic career in hospitality, and no pandemic is going to change that.
If you have the energy, commitment, resilience and perhaps (if I may) a bit of natural charm thrown in, you can forge a truly fantastic career in hospitality, and no pandemic is going to change that
So as our industry bounces back (which it will), I know that the skills, aptitude and strength of character shown by our winners will help ensure its future, and we will watch with great anticipation as they continue to grow and develop in the years ahead."
Allister Richards, chief operating officer, CH&Co
Training sponsor: The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
WSET is an awarding body and educational charity devoted to the development and delivery of qualifications and courses in wines, spirits and sake.
Established in 1969 for the UK wine trade, WSET has since grown to become the global industry leader.
WSET offers qualifications across four levels, from one-day beginner courses through to an expert-level diploma. WSET qualifications are designed to inspire and empower those who are just starting out in their careers, as well as established professionals and the many enthusiasts who have a passion for wine, spirits and sake.
As an independent, not-for-profit organisation, WSET offers impartial and sound learning on which individuals and businesses can build knowledge and expertise. Qualifications are available through a network of over 900 Approved Programme Providers (APPs) working in over 70 countries and in 15 languages. Since 1969, WSET has awarded more than a million individuals a WSET qualification.
WSET also has its own flagship school based at its headquarters in Bermondsey, London. WSET School London offers the full suite of WSET qualifications alongside tasting sessions, career talks and bespoke training.
To learn more, click here.
South Lodge (Exclusive Collection)
South Lodge is a luxury hotel in West Sussex with a state-of-the-art spa.
With views over the South Downs, the hotel offers award-winning dining across its three restaurants, from tasting menus at the Pass to contemporary takes on British classics in Camellia and plant-based and Mediterranean-inspired dishes in Botanica, as well as afternoon tea.
Each room and suite is individually designed, some with their own balconies or garden terraces and two with a hot tub on a private balcony.
The hotel is just 45 minutes by train from London Victoria, and offers conference and banqueting facilities for meetings, weddings or celebratory events.
There are 93 acres to explore and a spa complete with a large gym, holistic and spin studios, 14 treatment rooms, mud room, Ridgeview Beauty Room, thermal cabins, infinity pool, vitality pool and a wild swimming pool.
Ridgeview was founded in 1995 by Mike and Chris Roberts. With a love of England and a passion for wine, they investigated the English wine industry with a view to understanding the type of wine production they felt would thrive best in the cool climate of southern England. Their research pointed towards traditional method sparkling wine made from the three classic varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Twenty-five years later, Ridgeview won the trophy for Best Sparkling Wine in the World at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010.
Ridgeview wines are exported to countries including the US, Scandinavia and Japan and have been served at Buckingham Palace state banquets and 10 Downing Street.