Five hospitality superstars shine –

Hospitality New Zealand announced the winners of the five People Categories of its Hospitality Awards at a special event, held in Auckland last night.

This was the second year the awards were made for Leader of the Year in Hospitality, Leader of the Year in Accommodation, Chef of the Year, and Future Leader of the Year.

There was an additional award for Supplier of the Year, in recognition of industry icon and pioneer, and the former Awards for Excellence Head Judge, Michael Friend, who died during the year after 50 years in the industry.

The winners will be joined tonight by the winners of 20 other categories across the hospitality and accommodation sector who will be crowned at a gala dinner event at the Pullman Hotel – the final night of Hospitality New Zealand’s Conference #HNZ23 – along with the People’s Choice Award , which was voted on by the public.

The awards were held at Sweatshop Brew Kitchen, and was sponsored by Coca-Cola Europacific Partners. Hospitality NZ Chief Executive Julie White said the winners were again of exceptional quality.

“We introduced these awards last year to celebrate some of the leaders who helped get the industry through the past few tough years, and each of these winners are deserving of our highest praise.

“They are standouts among a whole lot of standouts who did a huge amount for our industry over the past year, both internally as well as for our customers with their quality and standards.”

The winners announced are:

Hospitality Industry Leader of the Year, sponsored by CCEP: David Allot, GM Hospitality Auckland, SkyCity Entertainment.

David Allot took on the role of GM of food and beverage at SkyCity at the peak of the COVID pandemic and carried the business through, serving 3.4 million guests in the 2020-21 financial year across 18 restaurants, 15 bars and 2 hotels.

His nominator said his five-year plan and pandemic leadership have been accentuated by the opening of four new restaurants/rars in 2023 and the 5-Star Horizon Hotel, due to open in 2024.

“David’s decisive and certain leadership gave the team direction in incredibly unstable times. To be where we are now, with the people we still have with us, is a testament to his dedication to this industry. His capacity for empathy and kindness continues to remain the backbone of our team, giving us the support to push through challenges, but more importantly the enthusiasm to perform under once-in-a-lifetime economic pressures.”

Accommodation Industry Leader of the Year, Bunnings Trade: Doron Whaite, GM, QT Auckland.

Doron Whaite boasts a 15-year career in hospitality and a strong food and beverage background. He faced the challenge of opening QT Auckland amid the pandemic in 2020. Under his leadership, the hotel has become an Auckland icon, and was awarded Supreme Winner in the 2021 Hospitality Awards for Excellence.

His nominee says he continues to motivate his team, and despite the challenges at the start of 2022, to date has managed to bring the hotel to budget. “Doron has continued passion and commitment to developing staff into new roles and responsibilities within the group, which is evident in the professional development of long-time staff.

“Doron has a relentless commitment to improving culture in the hotel, surveying and listening to the team, and in turn acting on this information. It’s also due to Doron’s commitment to improving the culture that QT Auckland is a fully staffed hotel despite the challenges in the industry.”

Chef of the Year sponsored by Gilmours: Casey McDonald, Executive Chef, Craggy Range Restaurant and Mary’s.

Casey McDonald’s contribution to the overall Craggy Range story has been integral, and recently resulted in him being elevated to Executive Chef.

Chef Casey McDonald. Photo credit, Richard Brimer

He led initiatives through the pandemic that transformed the hospitality offering in many ways. These included first establishing a temporary cellar door burger and fries diner as social distancing cutting customer numbers, and later making it a permanent offering in nearby Havelock North. His nominee says part of Casey’s desire to use local produce has resulted in him developing Craggy Range’s own herb and kitchen garden, with its own dedicated gardener, and which will become the restaurant’s primary source of produce. “The restaurant has never been so successful from a numbers perspective, but the main change has been culture. The restaurant attracts and retains a highly experienced and talented team, and Casey is a major factor. He has a knack for recognizing talent and untapped potential and understands the value of imparting his knowledge to young team members and nurturing their progress.”

Future Leader of the Year sponsored by Loaded: Mason Lattimore, GM, Kaiser Brew Garden, Christchurch

This award recognizes an individual working in the hospitality or accommodation industry who is making a significant contribution in their role. With applicants considered across all roles from entry level to senior leaders and business owners, the winner would demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities and is seen as an industry leader of the future.

Mason Lattimore.

Mason Lattimore was always committed to owning his own hospitality business and he was integral to the successful opening and first two years of Kaiser Brew Garden. He became GM at age 23 and last year was offered a 10% stake in the business. His nominee says everyone who walks into the establishment is greeted with a genuine smile from Mason.

“If anyone outside of work ever talks to me about Kaiser Brew Garden, 9 times out of 10 they will mention the unbelievably friendly blonde-haired manager. Mason leads by creating an open culture that allows people to talk and ensures opportunities to check in with each colleague on how they are finding things. Everyone knows Mason has our backs and he cares. It has been a breath of fresh air to work with someone who walks alongside you to help you succeed rather than pointing out the negatives. In what can be a particularly tough industry, I believe it takes leaders like Mason to help hospo workers maintain passion and a drive to keep hospitality growing.”

Michael Friend Supplier of the Year: Aaron Kedzlie, Gilmours Mt Roskill

The aim of this award is to honor true hospitality industry professional suppliers who are dedicated to their profession, and who contribute to and inspire confidence in the hospitality industry. The nominee should have been involved with Hospitality Industry as a supplier for at least three years.

Aaron Kedzlie, Gilmours Mt Roskill

For over 10 years, as Owner of Gilmours Mt Roskill, Aaron has been a proud supporter of both businesses and the Hospitality industry as a whole though out Auckland.

Aaron was originally a chef who transitioned into the grocery sector with a desire to operate a traditional supermarket. After successfully operating the Tauranga store for a number of years Aaron took over the Mt Roskill site and has spent the last decade + (I’m not too sure when he actually took over the store) transforming the business to a point where it could arguably be called Auckland Hospitality’s preferred supplier of choice. It’s certainly the only one that provides 6 days a week service on all the ingredients required to run a cafe, bar or restaurant in 2023.

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