Hospitality NZ Congratulates ‘People’ Award Winners

Hospitality New Zealand congratulates the winners of the four special people categories at its recent Hospitality Awards.

This was the first year that 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. They joined winners of 18 other categories across the hospitality and accommodation sector.

The aim of these awards is to honour true professionals in the hospitality industry who are dedicated to their profession, and who contribute to and inspire confidence in their sectors.

The winners were:

Hospitality Industry Leader of the Year: Jamie Freeman, Operations Manager, Joylab, Auckland

Jamie’s nominator described him as a hospitality champion in our midst. He not only oversees Joylab’s 23 venues. The judges said Jamie has stepped up to the plate on behalf of the industry without hesitation, fronting all forms of media (without any formal training), and he has held a seat at the table advocating directly to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson for targeted industry support. He is also helping to lead the revitalisation of the Super City Accord and ensuring the industry is at the forefront of policy and advocacy in New Zealand’s largest city.

Accommodation Industry Leader of the Year: Jacqui Cheal, Group Regional General Manager, Marsden Group

The judges said Jacqui is an inspiring leader who goes above and beyond for her staff and company. She puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of creating a great culture, celebrating, and acknowledging special occasions from cultural events like Diwali, through to birthdays.  Jacqui is continually growing and training her people, actively supporting and mentoring staff. During COVID she led the implementation of Hospitality NZ’s online education platform Tyspy for all 70 of the employees at Marsden, creating tailored learning, upskilling, and personal development plan for each of them.

Chef of the Year: Jiwon Do, Executive Chef, QT Wellington

The judges were looking for a chef whose attitude and dedication in the kitchen contributed to the success of their business. The Chef of the Year should demonstrate leadership, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence.

Jiwon Do is the Executive Chef of Hippopotamus Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, QT Wellington’s award-winning French fine dining restaurant; and Hot Sauce, QT Wellington’s Asian-inspired restaurant, and bar. He is extremely innovative, his work including partnerships with non-food-related brands and creating ways to bring them to the table. His most recent high tea collab was with Antipodes Skin Care. He is passionate about local and sustainably sourced ingredients.  He gives back to his community, regularly participating in charity gala dinners and local food shows, sharing his culinary art and teaching aspiring chefs.

Future Leader of the Year: Ashleigh Gee, Miss Gee's Bar and Eatery, Tauranga

This award recognises 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.

A gin drinker, queen of events, and strongly connected with local businesses, Ash opened a brand-new venue just over two years ago, and through the industry’s toughest trading period built one of the most popular and profitable venues in Tauranga. Miss Gee’s is now making noise across New Zealand and is becoming a must-play venue for DJs, both nationally and internationally.  She actively advocates on behalf of the industry and is currently working with the local council on a local accord.  She is passionate about helping others succeed and likes to create opportunities for her team to shine. She has created individual pathways for her people from the glassie to the bar manager, to the chef, and believes we should invest more in our younger workforce.

Hospitality NZ Chief Executive Julie White said the winners were of exceptional quality, but she is in no doubt they are just the tip of the iceberg.

“We introduced these awards to celebrate some of the leaders who got the industry through the past two years, and we have four exceptional people who are deserving of our highest praise.

“They really are standouts who do a huge amount for our industry, both internally and also externally for our customers with the quality and standards they bring.

“But we know there are many more of their quality out there and we look forward to unearthing them next year.”