2019 Acorn Awards open for entries

03 January 2019 by
2019 Acorn Awards open for entries

Nominations are now open for the 2019 Acorn Awards, which recognise 30 of the most exciting hospitality operators under the age of 30.

Organised by The Caterer and now in their 33rd year, the Acorn Awards have recognised and honoured many people who have gone on to become big names in the industry over the years, including 2016 Hotelier of the Year Craig Bancroft of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire; Edward Fitzpatrick, deputy general manager at the Lygon Arms Hotel; Alistair Birt, head pastry chef at Harrods, London; Adam Rowledge, general manager at Georgian House hotel; and chefs Jason Atherton, Marcus Wareing and Tommy Banks.

There are only three criteria for nominees: they must work in the hospitality industry; be under the age of 30 on 17 June 2019; and be available for the winners' weekend, which will take place at Coworth Park hotel, Ascot, Berkshire on the 16 and 17 June 2019.


Jon Reed, brand director of Paddy & Scott's, an Acorn Award winner in 2006 and nominator of Kit Wilkins-Smith, head of coffee excellence and equity partner, Paddy & Scott's in 2018, said: "I've nominated three people for the Acorn Awards in recent years and as a former winner myself, I'm a huge advocate of what winners can gain from the experience. Recognising excellence is so important and being able to network with the best of the best really is a money can't buy experience.

"So much can be gained from the Acorn Awards. Sitting down, writing the application and taking stock of how much the individual has achieved and then seeing the sense of pride the team have when they see their colleague picking up the accolade. It really helps breed a culture of success.


"I've been involved with the Acorn Awards and Acorn Scholarship for nearly 20 years and can honestly say it has been a life-changing experience for me and the people I've supported through the process."

After a series of team-building activities and an informal dinner on the Sunday, a formal presentation lunch will take place the following day.

The closing date for nominations is 15 February 2019

Nominations for the 2019 Acorn Awards should be completed online by visiting www.acornawards.co.uk

For further information, contact Martha Allardyce at martha.allardyce@thecaterer.com or Lisa Jenkins at lisa.jenkins@thecaterer.com

The sponsor: CH&Co

CH&Co creates exciting and uplifting food and hospitality experiences for people across all life stages and locations, including workplaces, destinations, venues, events, education and healthcare. Our success is down to our talented people, who are our greatest asset; from the chefs and on-site teams serving our customers to our people working in our offices supporting our operations and clients.

Inspiring the next generation of talent is very important to us and our focus on supporting and nurturing rising stars to help them get the most out of their roles and fulfil their ambitions never stops.

Today the alumni of previous Acorn Awards hold many of the key leadership roles in our industry, so we're therefore very proud to play a part in supporting this inspirational initiative to recognise and celebrate the next generation of hospitality leaders.

The venue: Coworth Park

Coworth Park is the Dorchester Collection's 70-room luxury country house hotel with Michelin-starred dining set in 240 acres of picturesque Berkshire parkland.

Restaurant Coworth Park is led by Adam Smith, considered to be one of the UK's most talented executive chefs with a reputation for accomplished, classically based cooking with modern presentation. Last year Smith was awarded the Hotel Catey for Hotel Chef of the Year (fewer than 250 covers).


The estate includes an eco-luxury spa with indoor pool. It is the only UK hotel with its own polo fields and a full programme of polo tournaments, managed by Guards Polo Club.

The hotel, which is ranked at number 20 in The Caterer's Hoteliers' Hotels list 2018, also offers relaxed dining in the Barn.

What the judges say

Alison Gilbert, group human resources director, CH&Co

"This is such a wonderful industry we work in, with so many exciting opportunities, so it is important we encourage, recognise and celebrate young talent. Without a doubt, that 'pat on the back' and recognition helps us retain and grow talent in our industry and the Acorns are no exception. These are tomorrow's leaders.

"When I'm judging the Acorns, I look for someone who is already showing leadership qualities, who thinks broader than their job role, and how they take others on the hospitality journey with them."


Sean Wheeler, 1992 Acorn Award winner, director of people development, Principal Hotels at InterContinental Hotels Group

"I've been judging the Acorn Awards on a fairly regular basis for more than 20 years. It gives you an injection of energy every year. I love being inspired by the amazing talent we have coming through the industry and it's great to know the industry is in good hands for the future.

"The Acorns are critical, as over the years they have recognised the great talent in the industry of the day and also highlight those with great potential to grow into bigger roles tomorrow. Many Acorn winners have gone on to great things in the industry and are now industry leaders, so it is great to see that their potential was spotted so many years earlier by winning the Acorn Award.

"I know my career has grown and doors have opened for me since winning the award in 1992. I look for individuals that are self-driven, and those that have achieved their position through focus and perseverance, are still open to learn and are already giving back to the industry and our future talent. They should be passionate about what they do and the industry they work in and act as role models for the next generation."


Craig Jackson, 2015 Acorn Award winner, general manager, Northcote, Langho, Lancashire

"As a previous Acorn winner, I feel a strong passion and love towards the awards, to discover how hard others are working within the industry and the challenges that they themselves deal with and develop is special.

"The awards themselves are of a huge value to the industry - they provide recognition for the winners and targets for younger members of the team.

"The Acorns set the stage for those individuals who are pushing the boundaries of the industry - the ones to watch and those who have a keen eye on the top. I'm looking for the passionate, motivated, ambitious and spontaneous and those who aren't scared of hard work!"

What last year's winners had to say about winning an Acorn

Kit Wilkins-Smith:Head of coffee excellence and equity partner, Paddy & Scott's

What was your position when you won? Head of coffee excellence at Paddy & Scott's.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you? It really is such an honour to be recognised among the top 30 under 30 in the industry. It was a very proud moment to be on stage receiving the award. The opportunity to network and share war stories with some really talented people was fantastic.

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? This has to be the opportunity to meet the other top under-30s at the Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds.

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? The accolade has really helped fuel my career ambitions. When the time comes for me to set up my own business, having the Acorn Award on my CV will be hugely beneficial.

What advice would you give to the 2019 applicants? To be true to yourself, be authentic and open to every experience offered through the Acorn Awards.

Tom Shepherd:Head chef, Adam's restaurant, Birmingham

What was your position when you won? Head chef at Adam's Restaurant.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you?
It is singularly my best achievement. Having seen so many of my idols who have been fortunate enough to have won an Acorn, for me to do the same was just an incredible feeling. One I'll never forget.

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? The weekend itself is packed full of celebrations, I enjoyed every moment from start to finish. You're made to feel like a king (or queen) and it's just an awesome weekend. But, the best moment without doubt was actually receiving the award on the Monday, albeit with a sore head, but nonetheless unforgettable.

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? The award itself has given me a huge amount of confidence in myself, to approach each day with the belief that I'm doing well within my job, which in turn makes me enjoy my work even more and gives me the desire to strive and do better.

What advice would you give to the 2019 applicants? To all applicants I'd simply say back yourself, believe in your own qualities, because if you're chosen to become an Acorn, you most certainly have deserved it! You become a member of the Acorn family elite.

Charlotte Horler:Operations manager, New Hall Hotel & Spa, Sutton Coldfield, Hand Picked Hotels

What was your position when you won? Front of house manager, Montague on the Gardens hotel, London, Red Carnation Hotels.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you? Having been the 2016 Acorn Scholar, to then be awarded an Acorn Award - it was an incredible accolade. To follow in the footsteps of other previous acclaimed winners is something of which I am so incredibly proud and I am truly thrilled to be part of the Acorn alumni.

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? Exploring the beautiful Cotswolds with 29 other high achievers in hospitality was an absolute highlight. Some of whom I know will be friends for life.

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? My network within the industry keeps growing on the back of awards such as the Acorn. I am honoured to have contacts in high places now and am confident this will really support my growth within hospitality.

What advice would you give to the 2019 applicants? Don't ever be afraid to be yourself!

Darryl Harris:Duty manager at the Pig near Bath and soon to be opening restaurant manager at the Pig at Bridge Place (May 2019)

What was your position when you won? Restaurant manager at the Pig near Bath.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you? It meant the world to me. Back in my first ever interview for the Pig I said my goal was to win an Acorn!

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? Running around on the scavenger hunt with no shoelaces and asking strangers to be in selfies with us!

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? The main help I've gained is confidence in myself. Whenever I'm having a hard day at work I remember the feeling of receiving the award and it puts everything into perspective.

What advice would you give to 2019 applicants? If you don't succeed, try and try again! Our industry is really changing and the focus now needs to be on looking after yourself and the teams beneath you. That is the key to success in hospitality right now. If you keep your team happy and engaged then they help deliver fantastic service; without a happy team, everything becomes so much harder. Drive for a positive work-life balance for yourself and those around you and this will help you gain confidence from your colleagues. With the lowest unemployment rates in years, a good candidate for an Acorn in my eyes is someone who really cares about their job, the product/company they are working for and, most importantly, their team.

Rachael Henley:Food and beverage manager, the Idle Rocks and the St Mawes Hotel

What was your position when you won? F&B manager of the Idle Rocks & St Mawes Hotel.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you? It was a great recognition. When you look at what past Acorn winners have achieved, it helps you raise the bar when setting your own professional expectations and career goals.

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? Meeting young, motivated individuals from all areas of the hospitality industry and developing new contacts and your own professional network.

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? I definitely have greater confidence in my decision-making and have been able to expand my industry network and contacts.

What advice would you give to the 2019 applicants? The benefits of winning an Acorn Award only just start there. It is not just an award, but it is where it places you in the industry and the opportunities it gives you.

Ben Murphy:Head chef, Launceston Place, London

What was your position when you won? Head chef at Launceston Place.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you? I felt very honoured and really happy to be recognised with regards to something I love doing on a daily basis.

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? The final meal was really special. Having my general manager watch me collect my award was a great feeling, and also being among all the other Acorn winners.

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? It's given me more confidence and is another step in my career. I hope it will help young and up-and-coming chefs to apply and hopefully achieve something so special.

What advice would you give to the 2019 applicants? It's not a competition. Enter with full belief you have given everything to your career so far and fingers crossed.

Rhiannon Heseltine:Deputy general manager, Lexington Catering

What was your position when you won? Deputy general manager at Lexington Catering.

What did winning an Acorn Award mean to you? It's a fantastic opportunity to meet your peers and connect with a large network of like-minded people. Also, it is a fantastic way to be recognised for all your hard work at the start of your career.

What's your best memory from the winners' weekend? An amazing hotel and venue with lots of fun activities to get involved with.

Has the Acorn helped you in your career? Definitely, it gave me a boost and lots more confidence.

What advice would you give to the 2019 applicants? Be bold and go for it!

The closing date for nominations is 15 February 2019

Acorn Award 2018 winners revealed >>

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