Faces of 2016: Imbibe's Personality of the Year Awards

Andrew Catchpole

Andrew Catchpole

15 March 2016

Camaraderie and cocktails were the order of the day as the cream of the on-trade gathered to find out who had conquered at Imbibe’s 2016 Personality of the Year Awards. Andrew Catchpole reports 

Bowling, good-natured banter and the occasional burst of exuberant bawdiness (yes, you at the back, bar maestros!) marked this year’s hugely enjoyable Imbibe Personality of the Year Awards at The Croc Bowling Alley in Soho’s rather fabulous Ham Yard Hotel.

It was a fitting venue for a gathering of the influencers and shapers of the bar, restaurant, hotel and quality pub world as they congregated to find out who would be taking home the coveted awards for 2016.

As usual, the judging was a serious affair, with careful deliberation and debate about the merits of the various nominees in each category. But the awards evening was a fun celebration, with announcements made before an excited industry crowd.

Perfect serves
Thanks to our sponsors for
providing a fantastic range of quality drinks to toast our winners and lubricate our awards ceremony:
Bodega Argento – Frontier – Tanqueray No 10 – Mixxit – Patrón Tequila – Blackwell Rum – Bulleit – Schweppes – Red Square Vodka

Bespoke cocktails, great wine, craft beers and convivial conversation all flowed liberally as the winners took to the podium to accept their awards on the night.

It’s what these awards are all about: namely, those who deliver not just the best drinks and hospitality, but who do so with personality and professional ease; an unerring ability to set high standards and raise the bar for those around them, while creating an enjoyable and hospitable atmosphere wherever they may be.

If that’s the challenge set in determining our Personalities of the Year, looking back to those gathered for the awards night, the UK drinks world is in very good shape indeed. Here, then, are the winners of Imbibe’s Personality of the Year Awards 2016…

Restaurant Personality of the Year
Sunaina Sethi, JKS Restaurants

After an early foray into the world of finance, working for a global banking giant in Germany, Sunaina Sethi backed out fast and returned to the UK where she fell into the restaurant trade. Taking a job as GM at her brother’s highly successful restaurant Trishna, Sethi fast discovered the joys of wine too, turning a hobby into a career and a job into a joyful mission.

JKS restaurants has since gone from strength to strength, with the opening of the fêted Gymkhana in 2013, and more recently Hoppers in 2015, all reflecting the passion and commitment of Sue and the Sethi family. A popular choice for Restaurant Personality 2016.

‘Self-taught experts like Sue always have a bright authenticity and quality that shines through all they do. For me Sue is the stand-out winner’  Jack Adair-Bevan, The Ethicurean

Congratulations to the other nominees: Will Beckett & Huw Gott, Hawksmoor, London and Manchester; Alex Hannah & Dave Roche, Lucha Libre and Maya, Liverpool; Eddie Hart, Harts Group; Nathan Lee, Hyde & Co, The Milk Thistle, The Ox, Pata Negra, Bristol; Yannick Loué, Le Vignoble, Plymouth; Laure Patry, The Social Company, global; Clive Watson, Blixen and Village London

Bar Personality of the Year
Ali Reynolds, Hawksmoor

From Hausbar in Bristol to Hawksmoor in London’s Spitalfields, Nottingham-born and educated bartender Ali Reynolds has blazed an inspirational trail through the bartending world, winning a host of competitions. Most recently he represented the UK in Diageo’s World Class Competition 2015, where he was a close runner-up in the global finals.

His involvement in the hospitality trade began early on, working as a dishwasher in a local restaurant in Derbyshire for pocket money. Later, inspired by bar work while a student, Reynolds decided to go for full immersion in the world of cocktails and bartending, rapidly becoming recognised as one of the most innovative and inspirational people on the scene.

‘Ali has become a great personality in the bar industry and he’s a brilliant ambassador for the heights one can reach in the bar world’  James Fowler, The Larder House

Congratulations to the other nominees: Elliot Ball, Olly Brading & Andy Mil, The Cocktail Trading Co, Bristol and London; Marian Beke, The Gibson (and ex-Nightjar), London; Dan Berger, Lobby Bar at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch; Sophie Mackay, Barrio Bars; Anna Sebastian, Beaufort Bar at The Savoy; Davide Segat, The London Edition; Richard Tring, Red Light, Bristol

Pub Personality of the Year
Paul Newman, New Moon Co

As co-owner and co-creator of the New Moon Co, with a strong background in restaurants and hospitality, including being a founding member of the Living Ventures group, Paul Newman is clearly an experienced hospitality operator, known for his gusto and enthusiasm for achieving high quality in all that he does.

Since striking out with his own venture in 2011, he has grown New Moon Co to nine venues across the north-west, blending impeccably cooked, locally sourced food with a fantastic roster of cocktails, wines, beers and spirits, bringing a new level of community-rooted gastro-pubs and restaurants to innumerable delighted customers in the region.

‘Paul has fantastic outlook and vision in how he operates. He’s dedicated in the way he runs his business, investing in his personnel, in both time and training’ Philip Cutter, The Murderers, Norwich  

Congratulations to the other nominees: Kane Brooks, ETM Group, London; Lee Cash, Peach Pubs, nationwide; Joe Dick, The Hanging Bat, Edinburgh; Josh & Holly Eggleton, The Pony & Trap, Bristol; Merlin Griffiths, Priory Tavern, London; Terence King, The Angel at Burford, Oxfordshire; Frank Murphy, The Pot Still, Glasgow

Hotel Personality of the Year
Thomas Decan, The Ampersand Hotel

A wise head on young shoulders, with a good dollop of charm to boot, sums up the mix of professionalism and personable skill that Thomas Decan brings to his role as F&B manager at London’s rather exquisite The Ampersand Hotel.

As with the superb food offering at its Apero restaurant, the wines and drinks are impeccably chosen, overseen by a team that reflects the commitment to quality and attention to detail that Decan inspires. Then there’s the banqueting boudoir that is The Wine Room – a seductive oenophile’s paradise beneath the hotel.

‘Thomas Decan is a very dynamic, young yet experienced professional and there is no doubt that he has the skill and the passion for hospitality. A true talent that should be recognised by the industry’ Adam Pawlowski MS, wine consultant

Special Mention: Simon Magnus, The Town House Collection
With over 17 years’ experience at the leading edge of the luxury hotel sector, including Gleneagles and Hilton Worldwide, Simon Magnus has brought his mix of professionalism and inspiring F&B management to bear at Blythswood Square hotel and The Bonham, reinforcing their position among the very best of Scottish hospitality for quality drinks, food and all round service and style.

Congratulations to the other nominees: Steve Edwards, Michael Caines Limited, nationwide; Loyd Loudy, Dorchester Collection, London and Ascot; Nathan Merriman, Ace Hotel London Shoreditch; David Morgan-Hewitt, The Goring, London; Lance Perkins, The London Edition; Mark Sheppard, The Landmark London

Educator of the Year
Jane Peyton BS, School of Booze

A popular choice, Jane Peyton BS and her modestly named ‘School of Booze’ is in fact a vibrant hotbed of unpretentious yet insightful knowledge on the tasting, communicating and consumption of beers and other alcoholic beverages, winning plaudits from all those in the trade that cross her educational path.

With radio and television appearances, plus books, lecture tours and much training of the trade under her belt, Peyton is also a driving force behind the annual Beer Day Britain celebration in summer, helping spread her inspirational and down-to-earth knowledge of the beer category far and wide.

‘Jane’s passion and thirst for knowledge is like no other educator in the beer industry. She is eloquent as much is she is erudite, and her tenacious approach is inspiring. Congratulations Jane!’ Charlotte Sager-Wilde, Sager + Wilde, London

Congratulations to the other nominees: Melanie Brown, The New Zealand Cellar; Myles Cunliffe, Mixology Group, Brighton; Esther Medina-Cuesta, The World; Matthieu Longuere MS, Le Cordon Bleu; Lionel Periner, The Lucky Onion; Ben Reed, Cocktail Credentials; Mandy Stevens, Enotria

Innovator of the Year
Mike Aikman, Bramble, The Last Word Saloon, Lucky Liquor Co

Software engineer-turned-bartender Mike Aikman fell in love with the industry while travelling and working in bars in Australia. Returning to his native Scotland, Aikman worked in a succession of leading bars in Edinburgh, where the enjoyable process of honing his now impeccable skills began.

In 2006, with Jason Scott, he opened instant-hit Bramble, which rapidly gained a UK-wide reputation for its cocktails and innovation. The Last Word Saloon and Lucky Liquor Co followed in 2012 and 2013 respectively, sealing Mike’s reputation as one the bar’s leading lights.

‘Not only has Mike been instrumental in creating one of the most esteemed and enduring cocktail bars in the UK, he has also provided a platform for some of the most talented professionals in the business – and his dedication to playing hip-hop is also very admirable’ Ben McFarland, Thinking Drinkers

Innovator of the Year
Ryan Chetiyawardana, Mr Lyan

Blending in a peculiar and inspiring set of past interests, experiences and passions, including a stint at Central St Martins studying fine arts, training as a chef and a palate that is as perceptive as it is phenomenal, Ryan Chetiyawardana dedicates himself to the bar world where creativity, entertainment and food and drink all meet.

Having worked at, overseen and opened several hotspots along the way, including a defining stint at Bramble in Edinburgh, Chetiyawardana’s current lairs are White Lyan and Dandelyan, which continually serve up many of the most imaginative and palate-pleasing cocktails in London.

‘Ryan Cheti is a really inspirational character in the drinks industry. What he has achieved in making experimental drinks accessible is remarkable. In terms of revolutionising the drinks industry, down to the smallest and most basic details, there is no one quite like him right now. As a result our whole approach to bartending and drinks production has changed for the good’ Jo Radford, Timberyard, Edinburgh

Congratulations to the other nominees: Miguel Arbe, Ceviche; Tony Conigliaro, Drink Factory, London; Marcis Dzelzainis, Sager + Wilde Restaurant, London; JJ Goodman, London Cocktail Club and Craft Cocktail Company, London; Matt Whiley, Peg + Patriot, London; Richard Woods, Duck & Waffle and Sushisamba, London

Hot Stuff Award
Dee Davies, Red Light

Beginning her working life in a bar in a bowling alley aged just 18 to help pay her way through university, Dee Davies graduated to a classier establishment by her third year and, her love for the on-trade fully ignited, decided that this was the life for her.

Moving to Bristol upon graduation in 2010 she went on to make her mark on the bartending world in many ways, honing her talent for cocktails and hospitality at Hyde & Co and Milk Thistle, just as the Bristol cocktail scene was starting to boom.

Since then Davies has been a major shaker behind Bristol Cocktail Week, launched Anglo-Japanese gin Jinzu, joined Red Light as head bartender and grown her reputation far and wide, gaining the respect of the bartending fraternity that delivered her the winning vote in this year’s awards.

‘Dee’s passion and creativity is so inspiring for young bartenders. She’s very much a part of paving the way to making bartending a respected career option for young people’ Sam Fish, Mojo

Special Mention: Julia Oudill, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Leading the wine team at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Julia Oudill is one of the new breed of inspiring sommeliers, having stepped out of a more formal fine dining world to approach her chosen subject – not to mention her customers – in a relaxed and ego-free way. She’s a walking, talking lesson in how to make sure customers feel good and happy about ordering and enjoying wine.

Congratulations to the other nominees: Aidan Bowie, Dandelyan, London; Mathias Camilleri, Medlar, London; Dee Davies, Red Light, Bristol; Gus Gluck, Vinoteca, London; Tim Laferla, City Social, London; Julia Oudill, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, London; Selina Raggett, Hawksmoor Manchester

Chairman’s Award
Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

In a world where many chefs shy away from wine, Roger Jones has embraced it to the full, championing food matching with the same passion and obvious enjoyment that has delivered Michelin and AA glory for his cooking and hospitality at The Harrow.

Moreover, Jones reaches out far beyond Little Bedwyn with his active pursuit of new, fascinating and often cutting-edge New World wines, alongside his involvement in judging, taste-offs and general promotion of the relationship between food and wine.

While he likes to keep his remarkable charitable work below the radar, he has also made a difference to many lives through the self-motivated initiatives that he is engaged in. Jones is an inspiration for chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs alike.

‘Roger richly deserves this award. He is a true legend of our industry. Indeed, Roger is a rare man, being a highly talented chef, accomplished restaurateur and expert wine professional all wrapped into one package. And he’s an extremely charming chap too!’ Nina Bassett, Hotel Terravina

Industry Legends
Jared Brown and Anistasia Miller, Mixellany

Along with their publishing-cum-drinks consultancy Mixellany, this couple are perhaps the best-known and most inseparable duo in the drinks world.

Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller’s achievements over 20 years of full-on immersion in the world of cocktails and spirits are myriad. They’ve published many books, journals and innumerable articles; run countless masterclasses; co-founded The Museum of the American Cocktail; not to mention their work as distillery consultants, and in Brown’s case, as a master distiller… It’s all rather exhausting really.

Oh, and when they’re not trotting the globe they also raise chickens and quail in their spare time.

‘Two very talented people who with their passion and incredible hard work have enriched our bar culture with so much history and knowledge, they well deserve the award for all of their endeavours’ Salvatore Calabrese, Salvatore’s Bar

Congratulations to the other nominees: Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire; Alessandro Palazzi, Dukes Bar, London; Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan Group; Brian Silva, Balthazar, London

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