Peter McAlister, restaurant manager at the Culloden Estate & Spa in Belfast, was last night crowned the 2012 UK Restaurant Manager of the Year by the Academy of Food and Wine Service (AFWS).
Announced at an Awards Dinner held at the Westbury hotel in Mayfair, 31-year-old McAlister from Belfast beat three other finalists to the title, with Paul Taylor of TGI Friday’s Wembley finishing runner-up.
Having worked at the Culloden Estate & Spa for 18 months and previously with Malmaison Hotels, McAlister, who has clocked up 15 years in the industry, said he was ‘delighted and absolutely shocked’ to win the award after reaching the final of the competition for the third consecutive year.
“I have loved every minute of the competition, it has been so exciting. It has been a big team effort – I’ve had a lot of support from my colleagues and my general manager. Without them I wouldn’t have been here and I couldn’t have won.”
Restaurant Manager of the Year 2012 finalists:
- Tobias Barfoot - restaurant manager,The Ambrette, Margate
- Peter McAlister - restaurant manager,Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast
- Paul Taylor - general manager, TGI Friday’s, Wembley
- Paul Shanahan - operations manager, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxfordshire
The 2012 Restaurant Manager of the Year competition saw the four finalists undergo a customer service scenario, a staff management task and a Dragon’s Den-style presentation in which they each pitched a business plan for a new restaurant concept to a panel of potential investors. They were also quizzed on their food and wine knowledge, business acumen, management ability and customer service skills.
Chairman of the judges and former winner Peter Avis, who works as restaurant manager of Babylon at the Roof Gardens, believes McAlister was a clear winner. “He didn’t put a foot wrong,” Avis said. “In the Dragon’s Den he presented well and with a real passion, conveying the information in an interesting and informed way.
“He sold us with the concept verbally and impressed us with his research and attention to detail.”
John Croft, AFWS executive director, added: “Peter McAlister was extremely professional as well as having a warm personality and good management skills. The judges were unanimous in awarding him the title. He will be a great ambassador for the industry.”
Prizes & mentoring
As part of his prize, McAlister received a stage in some of Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group of restaurants in New York, staying at the trendy, boutique Mave Hotel in the FlatIron district, gaining a unique insight into the running of various departments. Meanwhile the Culloden Estate & Spa receives a year’s subscription to the Livebookings reservation system.
Runner-up Paul Taylor of TGI Friday’s Wembley, received a place at the renowned business summer school run by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, sponsored by the Savoy Educational Trust.
Following the final, Babylon’s Avis offered to act as a mentor for finalist Tobias Barfoot, restaurant manager of The Ambrette Restaurant in Margate, while Stephen Mannock of the Edge Hotel School, Wivenhoe House, offered fellow finalist Paul Shanahan, operations manager of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, mentoring at the hotel school.
Last night’s Restaurant Manager of the Year dinner also saw five industry personalities invited to join the Academy’s Restaurant Manager Hall of Fame, sponsored by Lanson International. Rémy Lysé, chief operation officer of, The Arts Club; Edward Griffiths LVO, The Royal Household; Elaine Watson, F&B support services manager, Gleneagles; Simon Girling, executive F&B operations manager, The Ritz, London; and Connor O’Leary, F&B director, Hyatt Regency London were all recognised for their contributions to the industry.