Every year, a valuable Acorn Scholarship is awarded to make a career dream come true. If you've got drive, passion and clear goals, then the next Acorn Scholar could be you. Janie Manzoori-Stamford finds out more
The Acorn Scholarship is coming of age. This year the announcement of the 2020 Acorn Scholar will bring to 18 the number of winners since John Price was named the inaugural Acorn Scholar for 2003. In the intervening years, the judges have identified, celebrated and supported incredible talent from across the hospitality industry as they take the next exciting steps in their illustrious careers.
Jon Reed, the 2004 winner and now an Acorn Scholarship judge (above), went on to win an Acorn Award before joining the board of Purple Cubed and latterly burgeoning coffee brand Paddy & Scott's. The 2010 Acorn Scholar Will Torrent (below) also went on to win an Acorn Award, while further cementing his reputation as an award-winning chocolatier and pâtissier, and cookbook author.
And Charlotte Horler (below), who was an operations manager for the Hotel Collection when she won in 2016, went on to work with Red Carnation Hotels before joining Hand Picked Hotels in her current role as operations manager at New Hall hotel and spa in Sutton Coldfield.
"The scholarship has stayed true to its core values, supporting high achievers in hospitality to achieve their dreams and aspirations," says Sean Wheeler, Acorn Scholarship judge and director of people development at Kimpton UK & Regent Hotels.
"The things that have changed are people's aspirations and support needs. These vary every year, based on who the winner is, so a bespoke 12-month development plan worth £5,000 is put together with the judges soon after the winner is announced. Each year is unique."
According to fellow judge Jo Harley, managing director of Purple Cubed, the judges are looking most of all for untapped potential.
"It's never the most polished, or the best presenter, or the person who has already achieved great success," she explains. "The scholarship is about people who want to make a difference in the industry, through their own career trajectory for example, or have a great idea they need help to take to market.
"We like people who have a story, are authentic, and love hospitality and its people."
It's never the most polished, or the best presenter, or the person who has already achieved great success. The scholarship is about people who want to make a difference in the industry
Hannah Horler, managing director of Cartwheel Recruitment and scholarship judge, agrees. She says the key to finding a worthy winner is all about someone with drive, passion and clear goals.
"They may already be on their journey, and we can enhance that; or they may benefit from structure and guidance in order to achieve their goals," she says. "We look for someone who is going to put in the effort in order to reap the rewards the scholarship can present."
It's clear that the judges are as intent on supporting their sector as they are about supporting each new Acorn Scholar, as Ruston Toms, Blue Apple founding director, judge and chair of sponsor the PM Trust, points out. He says: "Nurturing young talent in our industry is so important. There are various market sectors out there that compete for the attention of great talent, and we have to ensure that we spot it and retain it in hospitality. The Acorn Scholarship raises the profile of hospitality and ensures we create a legacy for others to follow."
How to enter
The Acorn Scholarship, developed by a group of former Acorn Award winners, is designed to seek out individuals in the catering and hospitality industry whose potential has yet to be realised.
Applicants are asked to fill in an entry form and, if shortlisted, present their submission to the panel of judges at the Kimpton Fitzroy hotel, London on the 25 November 2019.
The closing date for entries is 25 October 2019.
You will be in with a chance of winning a bursary of £2,000 that can be spent on career development, such as training, equipment or study tours.
The entry will consist of a business plan that can demonstrate to the Acorn Scholarship patrons an understanding of what the applicant needs to achieve in their scholarship year so that they can advance in their career.
The balance of the prize is allocated to one-to-one personal development sessions with Purple Cubed and the individual mentor(s) assigned to the winner.
For more advise on winning an Acorn Scholarship, check out the Facebook Page
Shortlisted finalists will be asked to present their submission to the panel of judges on 25 November 2019 at the Kimpton Fitzroy London hotel in Bloomsbury.
The 334-bedroom, five-AA-star hotel became the first UK property in the luxury, boutique Kimpton brand last year when it was rebranded from Principal London, following the group's acquisition by French investor Covivio from US-based Starwood Capital Group.
Adam Bateman, group operations and development chef, IHG
Jo Harley, managing director, Purple Cubed
Hannah Horler, managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment
James Horler, chief executive, Ego Restaurants
Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor, The Caterer
Moira Laird, human resources director, Valor Hospitality Partners
Jon Reed, brand director, Paddy & Scott's
Ruston Toms, founding trustee, the PM Trust
Sean Wheeler, director of people development, Kimpton UK & Regent Hotels.
Kayleigh Wiltshire, global learning and development manager, Dorchester Collection
Where are they now?
Shane Cooke, 2019 winner
Then Senior company executive chef, Vacherin
Now Senior company executive chef, Vacherin; company mental health first aider; founder, Jasper Workplace Wellbeing
Thoughts "I wasn't seeking the scholarship for my own self-development; I was looking for training in mind health and the positive impact of food on wellbeing and mental health so that I could give back to the industry as a whole. The judges told me that my passion for my subject was evident.
"With the support of Vacherin and the Acorn Scholarship team, I can now start to fulfil my ambition to help others. As I perform my day-to-day role, I am now more aware of people's wellbeing needs, whether it's Vacherin staff or customers within our clients' teams. This awareness is a result of the training and mentoring I've received. Longer term, winning has given me the skills and know-how to map out my future in which mental health and wellbeing plays a huge part – it's fuelled my ambition!"
Sandra Preciado, 2018 winner
Then Events assistant manager, Rosewood London
Now Head of hospitality, Goldman Sachs, BaxterStorey
Career highlights 2018 promoted to events operations manager, Rosewood London
Thoughts "I believe my story and my passion for hospitality made me stand out to the judges. Plus, I was told I was a very good storyteller. I got to know the judges Lisa [Jenkins], Hannah [Horler], Jon [Reed] and Jo [Harley] who were supporting me and giving me advice. They helped me to believe in myself and my personal growth. I won friends and connections in this world.
"The Acorn Scholarship helps people with no support or those who have had a bad experience to find the way to overcome difficulties and make them stronger. The support you get is immense. Everyone can benefit from the value of having a mentor and if that mentor becomes a friend… well, then it's win-win."
Simon Houston, 2012 winner
Then Group manager Europe, BaxterStorey
Now Director, Houston & Hawkes
Career highlights 2013-19 sales director, Bartlett Mitchell; 2019 launched own business
Thoughts "I actually applied for the Acorn Scholarship in 2010 and it went spectacularly wrong. I went to Borough Market before my presentation having prepared very little, and spent a small fortune on food, which I then presented to the judges. From blocks of cheese through to vanilla pods and vinegars, I have absolutely no idea what I was trying to achieve!
"On a positive note, I felt like a complete idiot and never wanted to feel like that again. The judges gave me feedback and encouraged me to return, which I did in 2012, when I was well prepared and won the scholarship.
"The judges were impressed I had taken on board their feedback from 2010. They were also excited by my long-term ambition to start my own business, as they felt they could really nurture me to achieve this goal. Needless to say, this support has been in abundance and has undoubtably encouraged me to take the plunge."
John Price, 2003 winner
Then Restaurant and bar manager, Courtyard by Marriott Lincoln
Now General manager, Mercure Darlington Kings hotel, Cairn Hotel Group
Career highlights 2005-11 managing and opening hotels for Bannatyne Hotels; 2011-18 launching and running Ginger Village Pubs (his own business)
Thoughts "I probably didn't realise then how big a deal it was [to be the first winner]. I believe the reason I stood out was my passion for the hospitality industry. The other finalists were using the scholarship for what it was meant for – to develop themselves and their careers; I wanted to help the image of the industry.
"In the short term I met some amazing people, many of whom I am still in touch with. They were a huge help in my winning year and have continued to be. I am an honest and hardworking individual. Spending time with some of the sector's top performers, you realise they are honest and hardworking individuals too, which gave me huge confidence in my own abilities."