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Patrons’ Hall Of Fame

To mark the 25th anniversary of the National Restaurateurs’ Dinner in 2012, several leading lights of the industry were invited to become patrons in recognition of their support for the Academy of Food & Wine Service, The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and The Restaurant Association and their significant and generous contribution to the industry.


Roy Ackerman CBE FHI FRSA Roy Ackerman

Roy Ackerman is a well-recognised face in the international world of hospitality and gastronomy as well as being a respected personality in the world of publishing, film and art.

Roy started his career with apprenticeship training in the kitchen, and today holds positions, posts and credentials for contributions to hospitality and the culinary arts. His career spans over 40 years and has taken him all over the world in pursuit of good food, good wine and good company. In 1975 Roy opened his first restaurant, Quincy’s Bistro in Oxford, and went on to form Kennedy Brookes with then business partner, the late Michael Golder. From humble beginnings with five restaurants the group grew to over 130 restaurants and hotels.

His long-established consultancy, Tadema Studios, has gained prestige over the years with the corporate consultancy side offering a service to international and local hotel groups and provides links with restaurant owners and hoteliers with chefs and restaurateurs. The art division of Tadema Studios specialises in providing artwork for hotels, restaurants and private commissions. The studio works with both internationally renowned artists as well as emerging artists. Roy’s online TV food and drink review programme,, showcases leading chefs, sommeliers, restaurants and hotels in the UK and abroad. audience reach is in excess of two million.

Roy was Chairman, then President of The Restaurant Association in the 80s when he started this fundraising dinner and Chairman of the Hotel and Catering Training Board. His other honorary positions include President of the Academy of Food and Wine Service, Chairman of the Governors of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and Chancellor of The Wine Guild of the United Kingdom.

Roy was appointed OBE in 1990 for his contribution to tourism and training and a CBE in 2000 for services to gastronomy. In 2010 he received the coveted Catey’s Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the hospitality industry.

Jane Asher
JaneAsher-2 (2)

Jane Asher is an actress, author and businesswoman. She has worked in film, theatre and radio since she was 5 years old and has also written over a dozen books, including cookery books and three best-selling novels. She is currently starring in An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre, London.

She ran her business, Jane Asher Party Cakes in Chelsea, for 25 years selling bespoke celebration cakes and everything needed for sugarcraft. Her instructional YouTube videos on cake decorating received over three million views.

Jane was the first celebration cake designer for Sainsbury’s. She collaborated with Debenhams and Matalan, designing successful ranges of cookware under her brand. Since April 2014 she has worked with Poundland on a range of baking equipment and edibles which proved to be the most successful product launch the company has ever had.

Jane’s work in the charity sector, for which she has received two honorary doctorates, is well respected. She is President of Parkinson’s UK, of the National Autistic Society and of Arthritis Care; Vice President of Autistica; Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust; Friend for Life, Terrence Higgins Trust and a Patron of many other organizations. She sits on the advisory panel for the US Association for Science in Autism Treatment. 

Jane is a judge each year in the pastry section of the Annual Awards of Excellence for the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and is delighted to be a Patron of tonight’s prestigious dinner. 

Gerard Basset OBEGerard Basset OBE Photo

Born in France, Gerard moved to England in the mid-1980s where he embarked on a successful career as a sommelier.  His titles include: Best International Sommelier for French Wines 1992, Best Sommelier of Europe 1996, Best Sommelier in The World 2010.

His awards include: The Calvet Cup in 1989, 1990 and 1992, The Marqués de Cáceres Award 1993, The 1996 Dom Perignon Cup, The 2004 Sopexa UK On Trade Personality of the Year in 2004, The Catey Special Award in 2010, The 2010 IWC Personality of the Year, The 2011 Harpers Wine and Spirits Personality of the Year in 2011, The 2011 Imbibe Industry Legend, Harpers Wine and Spirits Magazine Best Ambassador/Communicator for French Wines 2013 and again in 2014, Decanter Man of the Year 2013 and The 2014 Wine & Spirit Ambassador Catey.

Gerard is currently the only person in the world to be simultaneously a Master Sommelier, Master of Wine and Wine MBA.

Gerard is the WSET Honorary President for three years (2014, 2015, 2016).

In 1994 with business partner, Robin Hutson, Gerard co-founded the Hotel du Vin which they sold in 2004 after having created six hotels.  In 2007, with his wife Nina, Gerard opened Hotel TerraVina.

In 1997, Gerard was given The Medal of Saint–Etienne, where he was born, by the mayor of Saint-Etienne (Michel Thiolliere).

In June 2011, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Gerard received an OBE which The Princess Royal Princess Anne gave him at a ceremony in October 2011 at Windsor Castle.

Photo copyright TAISUKE YOSHIDA


Geoff Booth Geoff Booth

Geoff is CEO of PACE, Founding Partner of the Mercury Intelligence Group for London based Hospitality Leaders, a Director of The Skills Republic, and the founder of the British Californian (BritCA) Food Development Foundation.

He now divides his time between London and Marseille, where he has established a Restaurant Service Academy, Wine School and Hospitality Apprenticeship delivery service.

Current projects include introducing British Apprenticeships to the expanding Hospitality economy in China, advising on the set up of three Training Hotel projects in the UK and in China, and introducing an App based learning platform to the Hospitality sector.

A Catey Award winner, the former Director of the School of Hospitality, Culinary and Restaurant Services at Westminster College led his team in 2016 to achieve the Queens Award for Education, for work in Hospitality Education.

His role as CEO of PACE (Professional Association of Catering Education) involves focussing a network of 240 colleges and schools offering Hospitality and Culinary Training on commercialising their offer in the wake of Brexit and falling Government funding.

PACE represents over 5000 lecturers and 120,000 students and a network of over 19,000 employers. Consultation, Competitions, Data management and Partnership working is a central theme of PACE. PACE is committed to collaborating on projects with international schools across the world, and has built an impressive portfolio of partners.

Educated to Master’s Degree level, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and the Institute of Directors, holding an NVQ5 in Management (Henley School of Management), and a member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.

Geoff is currently working with the University of East London, in the heart of the exciting Docklands development, to establish a state of the art Institute of Hospitality and Tourism

Karen Browne Karen photo

Karen is Chairman of William Murray Communications, the UK’s leading food, drink  and hospitality PR & communications agency.

Before joining William Murray in 1998 as Managing Director, Karen worked for Unilever, Allied Lyons, Douwe Egberts and Brasilia UK Ltd as Marketing Director.

Karen’s tireless dedication to the industry continues far beyond her work, living the agency’s ethos of giving something back.

Her passion and enthusiasm for the industry is unquestionable. In addition to the agency’s support of Hospitality Action, Karen is a Guardian member and has previously been a patron for the charity. She spent 10 years on the board of Arena, the hospitality networking association, and was on The Craft Guild of Chefs’ steering committee.

Equal to her passion for food is Karen’s appetite to see young chefs develop their careers. She was responsible for developing the PACE Patrons’ scheme which supports catering colleges in the UK. She gives her time to The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts to raise its profile and its Chefs Adopt a School initiative and also supports The Craft Guild of Chef’s Graduate Awards initiative.   

Closer to home Karen works with Andrew Bennett MBE, formally Food & Beverage Director of the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, and a team of well known chefs,  to deliver a biannual fundraising dinner to raise funds for Keech Hospice Care, a local charity that provides specialist palliative care for adults and children diagnosed with a life-limiting or terminal illness.  The last three events have raised in excess of £150,000.

Since 2008 Karen’s been listed in the ‘Who’s Who of Britain’s Business Leaders’ and in 2011 was voted as one of the top 100 most influential women in industry. Today she acts as a mentor to help women develop their careers.

When not spending time with her family, you’ll find Karen riding her horses or walking her beloved Rhodesian Ridgebacks Kali and Ishtar. On a Saturday she’s most likely to be shouting on Luton Town FC with her husband Stephen who is a Director of the football club.

Brian ClivazBrian Clivaz

Brian Clivaz is a well-known fuller figure in the hotel and restaurant world. His career began at The Dorchester Hotel working with Anton Mosimann. He trained in Paris at L’Hôtel Plaza Athénée and L’Hôtel Meurice. He was Duty Manager at the Mandarin Hyde Park Hotel and transferred to Dubai to help establish the Dubai International Hotel. He became MD of the Fourways Inn, Bermuda and then MD of Simpson’s-in-the-Strand. He was the founding Director of Home House private members’ club and MD of Scott’s Restaurant, Mayfair. In 2005 he became MD of The Arts Club and oversaw its transformation into London’s most exclusive and fashionable private members’ club. He is Chairman of L’Escargot restaurant, Soho; London’s oldest French restaurant.

Last year he opened Devonshire Club, a luxury private members’ club in the City of London. It has 68 bedrooms, three bars, a 120 seat brasserie, private garden and wellness centre.

Brian is a Freeman of the City of London, Liveryman – The Worshipful Company of Cooks, Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, former President of The Reunion des Gastronomes, He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.  He has a Hon. MBA from the University of London. He has been advisor to a number of private London clubs including, 50 St. James’, the Café Royal, and Keeper’s House, Royal Academy. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Tourism and on the tourism advisory board of Westminster City Council.

Michael Druitt 

For 60 years Michael Druitt has worked with the top restaurants and hotels in London and around the country. His career began as an apprentice in the cellars of Brown, Gore and Welch and then as a salesman for the company. In 1962 Michael moved as a Director to Mentzendorff and so began a long association with champagne. In 1975 he left Bollinger to set up his own wine company and soon acquired the UK agency for Perrier-Jouet Champagne, Berberana Rioja and Brown Brothers Australian wines. He has been on the judging panel of the Master Sommelier competition, and is a past Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. Until recently he was to be seen at many of the London on-trade tastings and events supporting the work of HallgartenDruitt & Novum Wines, but is now retired.


Ciarán Fahy FIH MI Ciaran Fahy small

Ciarán was appointed Chief Executive of the Hotels Division of Ellerman Investments Ltd in 2012, which includes The Ritz London, after the sale of The Cavendish London where Ciarán led the team for seven years as Managing Director.

Ciarán graduated from Shannon College of Hotel Management in 1986 and was General Manager of a number of small country house hotels before joining Whitbread Hotel Company in 1990. He spent 12 years with Marriott UK moving to London in 2000 to manage the conversion of the Swallow International Hotel to the opening of the London Marriott Kensington in 2003.

Ciarán is a member of the Executive Committee of MasterInnholders and organised the speakers for the 2012 MI Conference at Grosvenor House.  He is Chairman of the Jermyn Street Association and The London Committee of the BHA and is a Board Member of the Heart of London Business Alliance.

Ciarán is married to Catherine and has two sons.


Roland Fasel

Overseeing the Dorchester Collection’s three UK properties, Roland Fasel is Regional Director, UK and General Manager at The Dorchester.  Employing his leadership, insight and brand experience he is accountable for each hotel’s profitability, positioning and growth, as well as holding the overall responsibility for The Dorchester, the brand’s iconic flagship hotel.  He has overseen the pre-opening and opening of Ascot’s country house hotel Coworth Park in September 2010 and, one year later, London’s 45 Park Lane.

Fasel has 25 years of 5-star hotel experience across three continents but, like many leaders in the hotel world, his career in hospitality began at the prestigious Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland.  He later gained an MBA from the Golden Gate University San Francisco, more recently he has been awarded an Honorary Master’s Degree from the University of West London and a Professeur Honoraire de l’Ecole Hôtelière Lausanne.  His global experience embraces leadership roles within Rosewood Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Shangri-La Hotels and, over the years, he has been recognised as European Hotelier of the Year, Gault & Millau 2012 Schweizer Star im Ausland together with many more company affiliated awards.

He has focused on Corporate Social Responsibility and has supported charities at home and abroad including the Honeypot Children’s Charity, Fashion for the Brave, several military related charities as well as supporting and sponsoring the English National Ballet.  He established the Tree Lighting Charity in St Moritz, Switzerland which now raises an average of Swiss Francs 200k every year for the Institute of Disability and Blind Ski School.

Fasel is also proud to be a member of The Master of Innholders and several other trade related associations.   

With effect from February 2017 Fasel has assumed the position of Chief Operating Officer of Aman Group located in London and Switzerland.

Sir Rocco Forte 

Sir Rocco Forte is Chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels. Son of the late Lord Charles Forte, Sir Rocco founded the luxury hotel company in 1996.

At present the company operates hotels in key European destinations such as London, Edinburgh, Brussels, Florence, Rome, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. In 2009, Rocco Forte Hotels launched Verdura, the company’s first resort on the island of Sicily, and in February 2017 the company opened Assila Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He has also revealed plans to further extend beyond Europe and build the company’s presence in the Far East and further European destinations.

A veteran of the hospitality industry, Sir Rocco joined Forte Plc in 1969, becoming CEO in 1983 and Chairman in 1992, when he succeeded his father Lord (Charles) Forte, who founded the company in 1934. During his time at Forte, Sir Rocco had responsibility for more than 800 hotels, 1,000 restaurants and almost 100,000 employees in 50 countries around the world. As Chairman, Sir Rocco Forte significantly expanded the overseas operations of the company, with the acquisition of the Meridien Hotel Group from Air France and further transformed Forte from a UK operation to a multi-million pound business and global entity, encompassing several businesses and hotel brands, including notable iconic properties such as Hotel George V in Paris, Sandy Lane in Barbados, Hotel Ritz in Madrid and Hôtel Plaza Athénée in New York.  Forte Plc was sold in 1996 following a hostile take-over bid and has since been broken up.

Sir Rocco was knighted in December 1994 for services to the UK tourism industry and received the highest Italian accolade, the Gran Croce dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, for his entrepreneurial merits and strong links with Italy in March 2005.  From 1991-1996, he was President of the British Hospitality Association (the main trade body for the UK hotel and catering industry) and has also been an active member of the Executive Committee of the World Travel & Tourism Council.  

Born in Bournemouth on 18 January 1945, Sir Rocco was educated at Downside School in England and went on to read modern languages at Pembroke College, Oxford.  After graduating, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1969, later becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1979.  Sir Rocco is married to Lady (Aliai) Forte and has three children, Lydia, Irene and Charles. 

A keen sportsman, Sir Rocco represented Britain at the World Triathlon Championships in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007. In July 2005, he participated in his first Iron Man event at Klagenfurt in Austria, finishing 2nd in his category. A keen long distance runner, Sir Rocco has completed several marathons raising significant amounts for charity.  His other interests include shooting and golf.  He and Lady Forte are both Trustees of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Professor David Foskett MBE CMA FIH BED HONS David Foskett

Previously the Dean of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of West London. Visiting  Professor at a number of Universities and Colleges including New BUCKS University.  Chair of the newly formed Hospitality Global network.  Consultant on training and hospitality education to the International hospitality industry.

Professor Foskett is a member of The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Craft Guild of Chefs and a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality. He sits on various committees advising on hospitality education and training and has carried out extensive research in the hospitality and food industry.

He is co-author of Practical Cookery Levels 1, 2 and 3, Theory of Hospitality and Catering, Food and Beverage Management, Hospitality Supervision  These books have sold over 2 million copies and are used in 140 countries.

He has won many awards over the past 40 years, including a Queens Anniversary Award for exemplary Hospitality Education.  He has also been voted one of the most influential people in the hospitality public sector.  In 2005 he was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty The Queen and in 2007 a Chevalier dans l’ordre du Merite Agricole from the President of France.  In 2017 he will open a new University for Hospitality and Tourism in Scilly.


Jeremy Goring The Goring Hotel

Soon after graduating from the Lausanne Hotel School in 1988, Jeremy Goring began his career working at the Four Seasons and The Lanesborough in London, followed by a stint of opening hotels for Rosewood in Mexico, the Caribbean and Indonesia. He then went on to manage the Observatory for Orient Express Hotels in Sydney, before returning to the UK in 2005 to join the family firm as Chief Executive. Jeremy is proud to continue striving for innovation and excellence on behalf of The Goring and his guests, an ethos upheld since its opening by Jeremy’s great grandfather O.R.Goring, in 1910.

Patrick Gwynn-Jones MBE  

Catering has always been Patrick Gwynn-Jones’ passion. After careers in the navy, as a photographer in the music and theatre business and as a specialist with the Hairlok/Texofoam Group he decided to enter the catering business.

Pomegranates Restaurant on Grosvenor Road opened in 1974 and offered an eclectic menu based on the dishes that Patrick had enjoyed during his travels, making it one of the first restaurants to offer a multi-cuisine menu.
Thanks to Patrick’s photography and show business connections, Pomegranates became a hot spot with a clientele of music, theatre, cinema and politics, including royalty. In 2000 Patrick was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for his work for The Restaurant Association.


Julia Hands MBE

Julia is the Chairman and Chief Executive of Hand Picked Hotels, a unique collection of 20 country house hotels across the UK and the Channel Islands.

Julia studied Classics and Law at King’s College Cambridge. She then passed Law Finals at The School of Law, Chancery Lane, London. She joined Linklaters & Paines as an articled clerk in 1984 and qualified as a solicitor in 1986. Julia remained with Linklaters until 1996.

In 2001 she took over the management of Hand Picked Hotels becoming the company’s CEO and Chairman. Julia has acquired numerous accolades for herself and the hotel collection, and was awarded an MBE for services to the Hospitality Industry in 2008.


Stephen Moss CBE, FHCIMA
Stephen Moss

Stephen trained as a lawyer and took an MBA at the London Business School. In the 1980s Stephen’s ran Drakes Pond Place Restaurant; worked alongside Roy Ackerman, Richard Shepherd and Antony Worrall‑Thompson at 190 Queens Gate and was Michael Druitt’s partner at Michael Druitt Wines. Stephen then grew BCP into the country’s largest airport parking booking service until its sale in 2007.

Stephen’s roles since have included Chairmanship of Bibendum PLB Group until its sale in 2016.   He is currently Chairman of Bonasystems, a leading floor care and anti-slip specialist for  the hospitality sector, and of his family’s commercial property company, as well as an NED at youth hostel group, Safestay Plc.

Stephen founded and remains Chairman of Springboard, which helps young, disadvantaged and unemployed find life‑changing opportunities in hospitality.   He was the longest serving Trustee of the Hospitality Training Foundation and its successor, People 1st and remains a Vice President of The Restaurant Association.  He was awarded an MBE in 1992 and CBE in 2002.


Kevin OakesKevin Oakes

Kevin Oakes, Chairman of Royal Crown Derby, and previously Chief Executive of Steelite International, has over 40 years’ experience in the ceramic tableware industry. He is Chairman of the BPMF (British Pottery Manufacturers Federation) (Trustee) Ltd, Vice President of the British Ceramic Confederation and Board Member of both the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LEP and The British Ceramics Biennial. Kevin was awarded Ernst & Young Midlands Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012, presented with The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade Category in 2013 and has also been recognised with an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University in recognition of his distinguished career and his championing of the ceramics industry and UK manufacturing.

Royal Crown Derby was established in 1750 and is a world-leading manufacturer of fine bone china tableware and giftware, with all of its products made entirely in England.  The company became known as ‘Crown Derby’ after receiving its first of many Royal Warrants from King George III in 1775.  Queen Victoria bestowed the title ‘Royal’ in 1890 thus creating the company name of “Royal Crown Derby.”

Kevin acquired Royal Crown Derby in 2016, as a result of which the company is now focussed upon supplying the hospitality industry with high quality fine bone china tableware which is made exclusively in Derby, England.  Operating in over 50 countries, Royal Crown Derby’s Clients include The Dorchester, The London Hilton on Park Lane and Rolls Royce.

Ramon Pajares OBE 

Ramon Pajares’ professional life – always in the hotel industry – has taken him to many countries, holding differing responsibilities in companies at the top end of the market including Regional Vice President for Four Seasons Europe and Chief Executive of the Savoy Group of Hotels and Restaurants.

Ramon’s tenure at the Savoy Group has been recognised throughout the industry as the most successful period of improvement for the company. Since retiring from the Savoy Group he participates very actively with a number of organisations in voluntarily helping the general improvement of the industry. He was awarded an OBE in 1999 in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list and is currently a member of the Master Innholders, the Board of Governors of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, the Institute of Hospitality and Chairman of the Savoy Educational Trust.


Tracey Rogers Tracey Rogers portrait

Tracey is Managing Director of Unilever Food Solutions UK and Ireland, one of the world’s leading food companies. Before taking up her current role in 2009, she worked as Chairman of Unilever for Central Europe and Vice President of the European Personal Care business.

Tracey was born and bred in London, which is still her favourite city. Today, she’s well known and respected within the hospitality industry. Her personal drive to see responsible business high on boardroom agendas has seen Unilever Food Solutions and the wider industry, make significant inroads into tackling waste and doing the right thing.

However, Tracey’s responsible business commitments extend to increasing opportunities for all within the industry. As a trustee for Hospitality Action she helps industry colleagues in need find their feet again. Tracey also mentors for Women 1st, where she helps women realise their career ambitions.

It’s this passion for making a difference that saw Tracey recognised in the Top 100 of the most influential women in hospitality and tourism in 2011.

In her own time, Tracey sits on the Fund Disbursement Committee for Genetic Disorders UK, working to improve the lives of those affected by genetic disorders. She has a BA in Politics from the University of Exeter and is on their business school advisory panel.

She’s a proud mum to her two children. When not spending time with her family, Tracey can be found fine dining, walking, writing short stories or tending her rose garden with her husband Jon.

Richard Shepherd CBE  Richard Shepherd

Driven by an innate love of food and flair for cooking, Richard Shepherd’s career began as an apprentice in 1960 at the Mount Pleasant Hotel in Worcestershire.

After periods at The Savoy, The Grand Hotel, Cap Ferrat, France, followed by a couple of years at La Reserve de Beaulieu, being the first Englishman to be a Chef de Partie, he returned to London’s Dorchester, where he was offered the position of successor to Eugene Kauffler,  but decided to take a position at The Capital Hotel, another first, being the first Englishman to gain a Michelin Star in London, 1974.  Richard decided to change direction and joined Langan’s in 1977, which went on to become one of London’s most iconic restaurants.

His concern for recruitment, education and the future of his profession motivates his tireless efforts to encourage aspiring young chefs. He is a member of the original chef’s Club Nine, a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, and from being an active member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts since 1980; he was offered the position of Chairman in 1986 and appointed Honorary President in 2004. In 2005 he received an Honorary Professorship from the University of West London. He was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours  2000 for services to the hospitality industry.

He retired four years ago and now lives in the South of France, where he believes he has found his soul.  He says “After 52 years, I was becoming a Dinosaur in London and didn’t understand what was happening.  I have now rekindled my love of real cooking”.   He considers one of his greatest achievements was to be given three Catey Awards, not one for cooking!


Alastair Storey Alastair Storey

Founder, Chairman and CEO of WSH Ltd, owner of BaxterStorey, Benugo, Searcys, Portico, Holroyd Howe and Caterlink.

After a highly successful career with Sutcliffe, latterly as CEO where he saw sales almost double from £500m to £930m in 3½ years, Alastair founded WSH in 2000 with his colleague Keith Wilson. Their goals were to create a completely different proposition to the market offering fresh, seasonal food, great service based on a real commitment to training and a nimble entrepreneurial and service oriented culture.

Since being formed in 2000 WSH has grown steadily through its brands and combined sales for 2015 are forecast to be around £650m.

He holds a BA in Hotel and Catering Management and has further qualifications from other institutions, including Harvard Business School. He is ranked the most influential person in the hospitality industry and won the 2007 Contract Caterer of the Year Catey Award. He is also one of the Hot 100 entrepreneurs ranked by Strathclyde University’s Essential alumni entrepreneurial network.


Mike Sunley Mike Sunley

Mike is Chief Executive of Lexington Catering.

Mike started his career at Compass in London as a graduate management trainee. After holding a number of senior management positions, he left to join High Table as an operations manager. Mike was appointed operations director three years later and was made board director in 1999 with responsibility for all operations in London and group responsibility for personnel and training.

Mike founded Lexington in 2002, having a desire to form a business that put food and people right back at the heart of the organisation. He has since steered the business to £40m turnover winning a Catey Award for Foodservice Caterer of the Year in 2013 along the way. In 2014 the business was acquired by Groupe Elior, Mike continues as CEO of Lexington and additionally sits on the Leadership Board of Elior UK.


Tim Jones 

Following the merger of CH&Co with HCM Group in May 2015, Tim became Chairman of the Board of Directors for the new company, CH&Co Group. However, his connection to the company goes back to 1991 when he established CH&Co with his late wife Robyn.

He originally trained as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse and was Financial Controller of Marvel Comics between 1986 and 1990. At the time CH&Co began in 1991, Tim was Financial Director of RWS, one of Europe’s largest technical translation companies, a role that he performed in parallel with that of guiding CH&Co’s finances, until he relinquished this position in 2000 to concentrate full-time on CH&Co.

Tim has always been actively involved in all aspects of the business, focusing principally on strategic direction, business planning and client relations. He played a pivotal role in acquiring Chester Boyd in 2007 and in establishing CH&Co’s public catering division, Ampersand. Tim’s financial acumen and business flair always complemented Robyn’s vision and drive.

Tim worked closely with Bill Toner to create the new CH&Co Group and the company has continued to grow; most recently, it merged with the Brookwood Partnership, significantly increasing its presence in the education catering market.

Tim is a Trustee for the industry charities, Hospitality Action and the PM Trust, and is also actively involved in several other charities and organisations. 

Bill Toner 

Bill started his career with Gardner Merchant, a subsidiary of the famous hotel group, Trust House Forte, and he rapidly rose through the ranks to become the UK & Ireland Managing Director of its £600m B&I catering business. Following its sale to Sodexo, in 2000 he joined global catering giant, ARAMARK, as CEO of its UK subsidiary growing the company from £150m to £400m turnover in just five years through a combination of major organic growth, acquisition and entrance to new markets.  Bill was at the forefront of developing joint venture relationships and initiatives with leading chefs and has worked closely with Gary Rhodes, Brain Turner, Gordon Ramsay and Giorgio Locatelli in the past.  He was awarded a Catey for Foodservice Caterer of the Year in 2002.

Following an IPO in 2005, Bill chose to retire early but was tempted back in 2010 as CEO of Host Management, a small catering company, but one with huge potential for growth. Since 2010, Bill’s stewardship has seen growth outperform the industry norm and the company has integrated four mergers and acquisitions, including the merger with Catermasters in 2014, to create the HCM Group, a £60m turnover national catering company.

Bill worked closely with Robyn and Tim Jones to pull together the merger of HCM and CH&Co in 2015 and now leads the new CH&Co Group in the next stage of its evolution.  The Group has since merged with the Brookwood Partnership, significantly increasing its presence in the education catering sector.


Ed Vokes 

Ed started his illustrious hospitality career path when he studied Catering at the Northampton University in 1997 and upon successful completion of his course he joined a local Gastro Pub as Manager, which gave him the in-sight and appreciation that staff is a reflection of your brand and that the hospitality sector is very exposed to staff and skill shortages. 

This fuelled his vision to recruit the right candidate for the right client and started his recruitment career in 2001 in his home town, Welwyn City Garden, and joined Premier People.  After a very successful few years and Manager of the Year awards, he joined a major corporate specialist Catering Recruitment Company in London in 2006. 

The challenging and fast-past London market highlighted the skill-shortage again and the demand for more in-depth and industry relevant practical assessments for all temporary staff.  His passion, belief in uncompromising customer service and true understanding of his clients’ needs, were the catalysts that led to the birth of Evolve Hospitality in 2012.  

Ed started with a desk and a phone (and a lot of belief!) and knocking on clients’ doors and in a short 5 years Evolve grew to a National company with 4 branches, a 55-strong team and developing long standing relationships with major UK Catering & Event Companies and Hotels.  Ed’s dream and vision to provide practical vetted staff to the industry was the foundation of Evolve’s unique selling point where all Evolve’s consultants are from the hospitality industry and where a practical skills test is part of the registration process to ensure the profile match with a client is accurate. 

Ed also developed an accredited Front of House Training Centre (People First and Academy of Food & Wine Accredited) that all FOH candidates must attend before being registered. 

Ed’s persistent energy, care and true interest in the industry is evident in his involvement with the Craft Guild of Chefs, ACE as a Gold Member, and National Chef of the Year where Evolve has been a co-sponsor for the last 3 years.  His continual contribution to the industry was acknowledge by the Craft Guild of Chefs in 2016 by awarding him ‘Ambassador to the Industry’. 

As an inspiring ‘leader from the front’ he led the company to win the ‘Best New Agency’ at the prestigious Recruiter Awards in 2016 and recently got accepted as an Associate Member to the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and working with their Adapt a School Charity.

Ed’s focus on developing and supporting skill and enhanced retention back into the industry, led to a ground-breaking relationship with Swiss and UK Hotel schools to offer Internships and to offer a platform to gain valuable practical experience within the UK market.

When he is not supporting one of the associations, you will definitely find him on various side lines, but more specifically at The Arsenal or singing along at a Fleetwood Mac concert … all 43 of them and aiming for 44 in July!