Hail the heroes of hospitality

27 July 2006
Hail the heroes of hospitality

Sitting in the audience at the recent Caterer and Hotelkeeper Awards - the Cateys - one couldn't help but marvel at the achievements of the people whose talents were recognised by the judges.

Those of us who have built careers in this industry will recognise the hard work, long hours and dedication that are required to achieve the excellence of the winners.

They pose a stark contrast to the "heroes" we (English) worshipped during the recent World Cup, who ultimately served only to disappoint.

Those in our industry strive to reach peaks of performance at every meal session, every banquet, and to fill their bedstock every day. People who consistently achieve this are truly worthy of our respect.

But the importance of such awards goes well beyond that. Every young person is shown what he or she could achieve from entering an industry that's so often portrayed as unglamorous, hard work and poorly paid. The reality is that once upon a time Gordon Ramsay did peel tons of potatoes and Robert Cook had to undergo similar drudgery in hotels. If they can do it, then why shouldn't today's industry entrants? But by the same token, why shouldn't they rise to the same heights?

I would also argue that for every underperforming hotel or restaurant, there are similarly identifiable models of success that can be aspired to. There's no need to accept mediocrity. Indeed, in an age when excellence is so publicly lauded, the examples to be imitated are clear for all to see.

Investment in training and recruitment might be required, but this is nothing to be afraid of, being beneficial to both stakeholders and customers.

Finally, I would cite the benefits of recognising achievements in defining industry standards. To aspire to the standards achieved by establishments that are known as excellent is a worthwhile objective and a carrot of encouragement for the rest of the industry.

It's far more likely to drive the creation of a world-beating industry than the all-too-often-used "big stick" of government regulation and red tape.

So, well done to the Catey winners. You are our heroes, and let's hope that the whole industry aspires to match your standards and achievements.

Who's your hero… and why?

Norman Springford, executive chairman, Apex Hotels
"Peter Lederer would be my choice because he brings a distinctive air of professionalism to whatever he does and he looks at the real issues of hospitality. His service standards are also second to none in the industry."

Terry Holmes, executive chairman, Red Carnation Hotels
"Ramón Pajares would be at the top of the list. He's done great things with all the companies he's worked for. He's great at helping young people and has always got time for everyone. He's a good person and a great hotelier, a combination which doesn't happen that much in this industry."

Marcus Wareing, executive chef, Pétrus
"It would have to be Albert Roux, without a doubt. He was a pioneer of the new wave of cuisine in this city and the whole country when he introduced French cooking to England about 30 or 40 years ago. Le Gavroche has been a training ground for some of the finest chefs in the country, and it's all down to him."

Simon Woodroffe, founder of the Yo! companies
"There are three people in the restaurant industry I admire a lot: Robin Roland from Yo! Sushi, because he's everything that I'm not; Ian Neill at Wagamama also taught me a lot, and he's a very good operator, whereas I'm better at starting up companies. Finally, Alan Yau - he was a big influence on me in the early days."

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