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Every year, the winner of this award is singled out because of the remarkable contribution they are making - or have made - to the hospitality industry. This year, the Special Award goes to Sara Jayne Stanes in recognition of her ongoing work to improve a sector she clearly loves.
Stanes wears many hats, but she is best known in the industry as director of the Academy of Culinary Arts, the association of head chefs, pastry chefs and restaurant managers. She has held the position since 1996, steering its principal aims - which include raising the standards of food, cooking and service through education and training and providing career opportunities for young people.
In particular, she has tried to rebuild confidence in school meals among children and parents, which have suffered a lot of bad press. To this end she worked with organisations such as Caterer and LACA. She is also a trustee of the Chefs-Adopt-A-School initiative.
Among the other initiatives run by the Academy under Stanes's directorship are FEAST (Food Education at School Today); chefs apprenticeships programmes, Master of Culinary Arts and the Mutton Rennaissance Campaign, launched in 2003 to put mutton back on to the menu and to link farmers, abattoirs, butchers and chefs in the process. The campaign is jointly run with the National Sheep Association.
Other commitments include acting as an external verifier for BSc in Culinary Arts at Thames Valley University (since 2001) and as a committee member of the Ark Foundation.
Besides her role at the Academy, Stanes is also a food and wine writer and chocolate expert - indeed she is a professional truffle maker. Besides launching the Academy of Chocolate in 2005 to promote awareness of fine chocolate, her book Chocolate, The Definitive Guide, was well received as an "authoritative text book".
Her services to the hospitality industry were recognised in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours List when she was awarded an OBE. One of her more recent triumphs, however, is being listed in the Women 1st Top 100 Women in Hospitality, Travel and Tourism, compiled by Sector Skills Council People 1st earlier this year.
Without doubt, Stanes has worked constantly to try to encourage young people to see the hospitality industry as a career option and her work has been recognised by her peers with this award.
The Judges Nominations for the Special Award were compiled from recommendations by Caterer and Hotelkeeper readers and from suggestions from each of the Catey judging panels. The judging panel was made up of members of the Caterer and Caterersearch.com editorial teams.