The I-Factor

August 21st, 2013 | Posted in: Features

Over the years I have met some great people in the trade, but some of them are really unsung heroes. Here’s my take on just some of the folk who I think have the impressibility factor.

James Brown – Manager, Rhoderick Dhu
James, is smart and sassy and is very definitely a career publican. He also gets a real buzz from motivating his staff. He picked up the Strongbow Manager of the Year title, and has won countless other accolades for his pub, the Rhoderick Dhu in Glasgow’s Waterloo Street. Why is he impressive? I get exhausted just talking to him, because he has a massive amount of energy, and he totally understands how the business works. He is an asset to Belhaven, because he is not content with the status quo and is always striving to drive the business forward. But perhaps this is where his experience kicks in because he has worked in the trade for more than 22 years. Pubs that he worked in include Lauders, The Waldorf in Cambridge St, Phileas Fogg, The Murray in East Kilbride, The Pines in Crookston and Molly Malone’s to name but a few! The day after the DRAM Awards he walked up Goat Fell for charity… impressive!

Georgie Bell – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
I first met Georgie when she was working at Tigerlily and took part in the Mixxit Bar Apprentice Programme. At the time she was a student studying Geography. Today she is a Society Ambassador for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and she has just put herself through a diploma in distillation with The Institute of Brewing and Distilling. I heard her describe the taste of John Walker & Sons Odyssey recently at a dinner, other guests were well-established whisky writers and bloggers. She very definitely held her own, and brought her own vocabularly to the tasting. It’s not a surprise that she is doing so well. With young experts and enthusiasts like Georgie getting behind whisky, it can only be great for the industry. She is also a regular tweeter. You can follow her at twitter.com/BellesWhisky

Peter Sim – General Manager, Fonab Castle
Peter is certainly one of the characters of the hospitality business, and he has a great sense of humour. At the same time he is the consumate professional and obviously a great ambassador of Scottish hospitality. He joined Fonab Castle at the beginning of the year, and it launched last month, but prior to that he won awards for his previous hotels – the Mary Culter House Hotel in Aberdeen the Cuillins Hotel in Skye and Dunalastair Hotel. He describes himself as “a self-motivated, passionate individual”. He certainly is. He is also passionate about his dog – Molly, a wirehaired Fox Terrier who he has trained to do a hotel walk – a leisurely stroll around the hotel. He believes that his staff should all enjoy their jobs, and he obviously enjoys his and he also has a passion for ensuring his guests have a wonderful stay. I am sure they do.

Tom Lewis, Monachyle MHOR/MHOR84…
Tom Lewis is a dynamo – he talks faster than I do, and that is saying something! When he is not cooking in the kitchen, he is cooking up ideas and growing the MHOR brand. Monachyle MHOR the hotel created by his parents, is in good hands with Tom, while his siblings and partners, focussed on building the business which now includes MHOR 84 Motel, a family-focussed restaurant, bar and motel. The other MHOR businesses are Fish – a fishmongers, restaurant, fish and chip shop, MHOR Bread – an Artisan bakery, tearoom and shop and MHOR Farm providing venison, sheep, cattle, pigs and hens from its 2000 acre estate and an outside catering business too. He and his family have established the MHOR Festival which takes place as the start of the summer. It includes baking competitions, a Great British Feast with food prepared by star Scottish chefs, beer festival, food market buffet, BBQ and many more activities for kids and adults as well as live music.

Executive Chef James Murphy – Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow
Chef Murphy and his Grand Central team including Head Chef Zoltan Szabo, came up with a banquet fit for a Queen at the DRAM Awards. They took the theme ‘The Coronation’ and after a tastings came back with a menu which proved to be a massive success with our guests. One said, “It’s the first time I have finished every morsel at a function in years.” The feedback, excuse the pun, was the best yet and unanimous! Chef Murphy who joined Grand Central from The Hilton Hotel, when it reopened a few years ago, originally studied under the guidance of Anton Mossiman at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane in London and over the years he has worked in a variety of top restaurants and hotels developing his skills. He is also award winning a past Scottish and he was also voted on to the Academy of Culinary Arts in 2005. But he really doesn’t like the limelight… but he and his team deliver. He has been known to say that “you are only as good as your last service”. I think everyone there will remember the DRAM 2013 meal for a long time to come, and for all the best reasons.

Karen McGregor – Area Manager for Colin Beattie
Karen has a wealth of experience in the licensed trade and she has brought that experience to Colin Beattie’s pub group as Area Manager – she looks after all his outlets outwith Oran Mor. She comes from a background which sees her phoning ahead as soon as she knows the boss is on the way to make sure everything is as it should be. She has her finger very firmly on the pulse when it comes to looking after Colin’s estate and she is on hand to sort problems, discuss numbers, negotiate buying deals and deal with staff. Her boss says she “has discipline and is not afraid to make tough decisions”, and calls her “one of my most professional employees”. That too comes from experience not only with Eagle Taverns but with Dark Star too. She admits she doesn’t party as much as she used to, but now and again can really let her hair down! The guys at Boteca Do Brasil might confirm that!

David Johnston – The Paper Mill & Montpeliers
David Wither always says that one of the reasons that Montpeliers has been so successful is that he has a great team around him, and one of his star players is David Johnston, who is Development Director. In fact DJ (as he is known) was the driving force behind the new look Indigo Yard (see design). In fact over the last 19 years he has been pivotal in developing Montpeliers outlets including Rick’s, Opal Lounge, the Candy Bar and Tigerlily and last year he also realised one of his other ambitions, to open his own place with Karen Calvert, and that is The Paper Mill in Lasswade – a lovely riverside bar and restaurant. There is no truth, however, to the rumour that his other ambition is to perform in a Frank Sinatra tribute band!

Catherine Conaghan – Sales Manager, Reserve Brands
If Diageo give watches for 20 years service Catherine is due one. I must have known her for at least 15 of these 20 years, and she is still as positive and motivated as she ever was. She epitomises what a professional sales person is all about – and delivers what she promises. She doesn’t just know her brands inside out, but she has a great understanding of the Scottish on-trade, and brings that knowledge to her team. She is also a great ambassador for Diageo/Reserve and is a very comfortable host at trade events, putting customers and journalists at their ease. You always find her the same, impeccably turned out and with a ready smile. Her bosses must be delighted to have retained her all these years, and even happier that she entered a competition in the first place, which led to the job.

Dennis Forsyth – Cheers Café Bar & Tavern, Fraserburgh
Dennis is a very motivated individual who has thrust his pub into the limelight by entering awards throughout the length and breadth of the UK. He now has a list of awards as long as his arm from trophies for the quality of his beer, to awards for training. There is no doubt about it he has firmly put his Fraserburgh pub Cheers on the map since taking it over 8 years ago. One of the most impressive things about Dennis is his vision for his pub – already he has added rooms, one of Scotland’s best outside areas, and earlier this year he added an outside bar, which is as well stocked as many cocktail bars in Glasgow! He doesn’t like to stand still, and he certainly hasn’t.

James Brown

James Brown

Georgie Bell

Georgie Bell

Peter Sim

Peter Sim

Tom Lewis

Tom Lewis

James Murphy

James Murphy

Karen McGregor

Karen McGregor

David Johnston

David Johnston

Catherine Conaghan

Catherine Conaghan

Dennis Forsyth

Dennis Forsyth


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