Looking Back On 2018 As ACE Chair

21 November 2018
- Ace News
Reflections on a Great Year

The year has gone so fast and I can’t believe I am writing an end of year article already. It’s been action-packed and as soon as we’ve completed one exciting event, the next one is soon upon us. We recently completed our final event of the year, ACE Ready Steady Cook and, as we begin to make plans for 2019, it seems the perfect time to reflect on what’s happened this year.


My aims as ACE Chair

When I took over the reign of ACE Chair, my goal was to encourage wider activity from the next generation community. Former Chair, Paul Hurren got this project off to a fantastic start by introducing the ACE Robyns Award. I’ve moved this event on by building the alumni and inviting two of the finalists onto the ACE council to give us a fresh and young perspective at meetings and events. It’s about encouraging these talented young stars to talk amongst themselves and push themselves into the spotlight. I always say “Don’t wait to be nominated for ACE Robyns. Talk to your management and push yourself forward to be nominated, have the confidence to go for it and use these opportunities to build your network and raise your own profile.”


Another aim of mine is to ensure young people in our industry can use ACE as their network too. We want them to feel that they can contact any one of us for advice, knowledge and inspiration, regardless of the companies we work for. Something else that’s important to me is to encourage all hospitality workers to get away from behind their email and get people to talk and build relationships. Social media is great as it’s so instant, but it is also forgettable and disposable, and I want to encourage people to build more meaningful work relationships in the longer term via face to face networking.

Why I love the role

The main thing I love about being ACE Chair is the connectivity. Whilst we are all in a competitive industry, ACE is a level playing field as we simply focus on working together to add value to our industry. From seeing the young chefs’ faces as they win Ready, Steady, Cook to watching consultants having fun together at the annual quiz, ACE is one of the few vehicles for getting people together. There’s no hidden agenda and I love how much trust there is amongst those who attend our events, even if we’ve spent weeks competing against each other for new business.


My highlight of 2018

It’s tough for me to pick out just one highlight as every event has brought something special. However, for me the ACE Robyns on the Bateaux Cruise was just incredible. We had an amazing evening celebrating fresh talent but also the scenes of London provided the perfect backdrop to network and have fun. In the days following the event, I had so much positive feedback about the evening. Also, ACE Ready, Steady, Cook continues to go from strength to strength, year after year and I love how we now provide a way for young chefs to take that step onto the competitive stage. Graham Eveleigh heads up this event and always does an amazing job to pull it altogether.

This year also saw us adapt our annual wine dinner, now known as the ACE Charity Dinner supporting my charity Wiggley Worm. We constantly look for ways to move our events on, keeping the good but twisting them slightly so guests learn to expect something new and a little different each year. This keeps guests coming back to ACE events, time and time again.

The challenges for the industry
When I think about the year ahead and the challenges we currently face, I think our biggest challenge is the retention of good talent. The industry has seen such pressures, especially the casual dining sector. As we all face uncertainty in business during 2019, the spotlight is really on hospitality to come good and it’s about attracting and retaining great talent. It’s important we all reward and recognise success so our staff know they are valued. If people feel acknowledged for what they do it can lift the spirit of the whole industry. As a service industry, we spend so much time making sure our customers are happy, but let’s all focus more on recognising great performance and help overcome some of these staffing challenges our industry is facing.  

The charity work continues
When I took over as Chair, I made the pledge to continue supporting the incredible work of The Wiggly Worm charity. Personally, I think what they do is phenomenal and as an organisation we are able to see that the money we raise is being put to great use. The work they do is literally life-changing, and I feel so proud when I hear some of the success stories.

My goals for 2019
During the first half of 2019 I want to work closely with the ACE Robyn’s alumni and look at doing some pop-up events that will really entice a young audience to attend. I’ll also continue to promote the importance and benefits of stepping away from the day job and from behind a computer or phone. We’ve got some of the most successful people in the industry, both on our council and membership, who are all ready and waiting to offer support to this young talent. There’s so much we can all learn from each other to drive our industry forward and I find that an exciting prospect for the future.

Blog written by
Gaye Bullard
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