Acorn Awards: Our rising stars

If you know a superstar under the age of 30 who works in hospitality, it’s time to recognise their achievements. Katherine Price takes a look at some of the far-flung places past Acorn Award winners have set down their roots

Dubai, New York, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong – these are just a few of the widespread locations where Acorn Award alumni have landed. Roles former winners now hold include president of EMEA hotel operations for Four Seasons; assistant general manager of Firmdale’s Whitby hotel; and group managing director of a lifestyle PR company.

The winners of The Caterer’s Acorn Awards, affectionately known as ‘the 30 under 30’, are just as diverse themselves and come from all corners of the industry. All are united by an excellent work ethic, a passion for the industry and an ambition to succeed.

Past Acorns include hoteliers Stuart Procter (2000), general manager of the 105-bedroom, five-red-AA-star Stafford hotel in London; 2016 Hotelier of the Year Craig Bancroft (1987) of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire; and Gareth Banner (2009), managing director of mega London hotel the Ned; as well as chefs Jason Atherton (2000), Marcus Wareing (1997), Marco Pierre White (1987), Michael Caines (1996) and Gary Rhodes (1988).

More recent alumni include Adam Reid, chef-patron of Adam Reid at the French in Manchester (2014); chocolatier and pâtissier Will Torrent (2014); Mark Froydenlund (2013), chef-patron at Marcus at the Berkeley in London’s Knightsbridge; and Adam Handling, chef-patron of the Frog (2013). With a list like this, it’s no wonder hospitality leaders watch each year’s winners keenly for emerging talent.

So what are you waiting for? If you know a young professional who goes over and above what’s required, now is the time to recognise that by nominating them to join this elite hospitality club – just 930 people have won the award over the past 32 years in an industry that employs three million people.

Entrants from all sections of hospitality – from pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, foodservice and contract catering – are welcome. All will be judged by a panel of experts from their sector.

Sponsor’s message

act_cleanAt ACT Clean, we know that our business and its success begins and ends with the quality, commitment and aspirations of our team and the job that they do. Creating great experiences and partnerships, demonstrating excellence and making impressions is all about people. The Acorn Awards have long recognised, rewarded and celebrated these attributes and the exceptional talent within our fantastic and dynamic industry that enhances its reputation. That’s why at ACT Clean we’re proud and delighted to continue our support of the Acorn Awards.

We see our support as playing a very small role in a vital scheme in an industry we can all be proud to belong to; recognising its future leaders and giving them a platform from which to shine still further.

John Stevenson, founder and director, ACT Clean

How to nominate

Nominations for the 2018 Acorn Awards should be completed online by visiting

To qualify for this award, nominees must meet the following criteria – work in the hospitality industry, be under the age of 30 on 4 June 2018, and be available to attend the winners’ weekend at the Lygon Arms in Broadway, Worcestershire, on 3-4 June 2018.

The closing date for nominations is 26 January.

For further information, contact Martha Allardyce at or Lisa Jenkins at

The venue: Lygon Arms, Broadway, Worcestershire


The lucky 2018 Acorn Award winners will get to spend the weekend at the new-look, 16th-century Lygon Arms on 3-4 June.

Last year, the hotel underwent a multimillion-pound refurbishment under general manager Graeme Nesbitt, after being acquired by property group L+R, owned by brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone.

The 86-bedroom property holds much affection among hoteliers and is steeped in history. In the 17th century it served both sides of the Civil War with Oliver Cromwell staying at the inn before the Battle of Worcester in 1651, and Charles I using the inn to meet his supporters.

In more recent history, it was owned by the late, great hotelier Douglas Barrington, who operated the property for more than 40 years and won the Lifetime Achievement Catey Award in 1989.

As part of the refurbishment, overseen by interior designer Anita Rosato, the hotel opened the Lygon Bar & Grill and the Mediterranean-inspired Lygon Wine Bar, as well as the Lygon Spa.

Today, the Lygon Arms sits within the newly formed Iconic Luxury Hotels – headed by Andrew Stembridge – alongside sister properties Cliveden in Taplow, Berkshire; Chewton Glen in New Milton, Hampshire; and 11 Cadogan Gardens in London. The latter hotel is managed by the company on behalf of its owner Cadogan.

Acorn nominees will take part in a series of team-building activities, organised by Team Spirit, followed by an informal dinner. A formal awards presentation lunch will take place the following day.

Past winners

Nick Hamdy

Nick Hamdy
Acorn winner in 2016
Age now 31
Position then General manager, Charlotte Street hotel, London
Position now Assistant general manager, Whitby hotel, New York

“The Acorn Award was amazing recognition after working super-hard. It was also a chance to meet with other like-minded hospitality professionals from throughout the UK. It really meant a lot and I really thought the weekend was fantastic. I’m still in touch with a couple of the winners, too. The Acorn Award itself for me gave me a lot more confidence in networking and made me realise the value of the hospitality industry.

“New York is a great city, quite different to London – the service culture is also very different. The hospitality industry is to a certain degree more respected and highly regarded than in the UK. No one really frowns down on a career as a waiter or chef, and I think it has taken a long time for that mentality to change in the UK, although it is getting there.”


Nicola Oldfield (née Monks)
Acorn winner in 2004
Age now 38
Position then Private dining manager, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, London
Position now Group managing director, GHC Asia, Hong Kong

“I remember feeling very surprised at getting picked, especially as hospitality was new to me. I studied design and art direction, so moving into restaurants and event management was quite a big leap. It was a huge confidence booster and it really made me feel part of the industry and very connected. Having the recognition from the award made me feel more confident in my skills and embedded a genuine passion for the industry.

“I still work with a lot of restaurants, chefs, hotels, and food and wine brands in Hong Kong as a group managing director. Hong Kong is a vibrant place and although hospitality unfortunately doesn’t get the same recognition as London in terms of career choices, there are some fantastic brands and very talented people who continue to shape Hong Kong and make it an exciting and vibrant place to live and work.”


Simon Casson
Acorn winner in 1993
Age now 50
Position then Room service manager, Four Seasons Inn on the Park, London
Position now President, hotel operations – Europe, Middle East & Africa, Four Seasons, Dubai

“Being nominated by Ramon Pajares and then winning an Acorn Award was a memorable moment and important inflection point in my career. It gave me a sense of being special and recognised as having elevated potential. It also created in me a greater sense of purpose and ambition to achieve a career that would, in retrospect, make me worthy of the accolade. The event itself was so much fun as it was my first photoshoot and to be on cover of what was then Caterer & Hotelkeeper was such a proud moment to share with my family. That I always include my Acorn Award on my CV speaks to the regard in which I hold it.”

“Dubai is very entrepreneurial and aspirational. The people here really believe in quality and being the best that you can be. At the same time, it’s a fun place to live. The sun shines every day, it’s tax-free, and it has a world-class restaurant scene.”

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