Sarah Herrick, 22, a chef de partie at the Crown Inn in Tur Langton, Leicestershire has been named the Learning and Skills Council's Apprentice of the Year 2006.
Herrick is training with learning provider the Hotel and Catering Training Company and beat more than 1,000 pan-industry apprentices to the national title.
Originally set on a career in the army, Herrick was discharged after being injured.
"I wasn't sure what to do next, but when I went to work at The Crown Inn, I knew I'd found my niche. I couldn't wait to get into work each day," she said.
Herrick received a trophy and a cheque for £1,500 at an awards ceremony held at the Park Lane Hilton last week.
Apprenticeships, previously know as Modern Apprenticeships, mix on and off-job training and allow employees to earn as they learn.
By Chris Druce