June 2024

Graduate Daniel celebrated in top 30 under 30 rising stars in British hospitality 

By Melanie Hall

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Read time: approx 7 mins

Hospitality graduate Daniel Bennett has been recognised as one of 30 of the industry’s top rising stars under the age of 30 at the 2024 Acorn Awards.

Daniel, who graduated from the University’s BA (Hons) Hospitality Business Management* degree with first class honours in 2019, was presented with the national award at the Belfry Hotel & Resort in Sutton Coldfield, home to the British Masters golf tournament.

The 28-year-old general manager at the Michelin-starred Heft inn and restaurant in High Newton, Cumbria, is on a winning streak, also being recognised in this year’s Harpers Wine & Spirit 30 Under 30.

It comes in a week that has seen Heft make the top 100 restaurants in the UK in the National Restaurant Awards and rank in European restaurant guide OAD's Top New Restaurants.

Daniel said, "It feels amazing to have been even nominated for the award, let alone to win. There have been a lot of prestigious previous recipients, including people like Gordan Ramsay. To receive that level of recognition and to be part of that group is incredibly humbling and very special."

Before his degree, Daniel had the opportunity to do a placement at Alhambra Hotel in Grenada, Spain, and Hotel de Paris in France, supervise a 60-80 person chalet at Chester Races, and work at Manchester United FC.

He was already working for Michelin-starred Carter’s of Moseley, owned by fellow graduate Brad Carter when he joined the course, but with the support of his lecturers, he worked his way up to the position of head waiter at Forest Side, Ambleside.

Through his course, he got to meet award-winning winemaker Kieron Atkinson during a gastronomy trip to Renishaw Hall and Gardens in the Midlands, and was chosen out of 800 applicants to attend an ‘inspiration lunch’ for restaurant staff at Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin star Fat Duck.

Daniel is now general manager at Heft in Cumbria

Success after success

Less than a year after graduating, the pandemic hit, but Daniel stayed busy, running a pop-up restaurant at the Simpsons Eureka Culinary School with MasterChef: The Professionals 2019 winner Stuart Deeley.

As restaurant supervisor at St. JOHN in Smithfield, London, he was the only entrant without formal silver service training to make it to the Young Chef Young Waiter of the Year finals, where he won bronze. And as assistant general manager at KOL, London, he led the team to be placed 23rd in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Daniel moved to Heft, a 17th century inn serving modern British food using locally reared and farmed produce, as general manager in 2023, and was in the hot seat to guide the restaurant team in retaining its Michelin star, as well as its ranking in the Top 50 Gastropubs 2024.

To attract young talent into the industry, as well as giving talks at universities and schools, Daniel mentors team members through their front of house apprenticeship, and in terms of personal development,  is about to embark on Level 3 of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Wine Award.

Daniel’s nomination read: “It’s testament to his self-discipline and determination that he has risen so high in such a short time.”

Daniel told The Caterer magazine: “We have an incredibly young team at Heft, with the majority of staff being still in high school and college.

“I allow them to use their initiative and make their own decisions, so they not only learn from their mistakes – if they make them – but also take leadership of a restaurant, a chance they would not ordinarily have at such a young age."

He described what was exciting about his future in hospitality.

"The next day, because it is a dynamic industry where we never repeat the day before and are always evolving and adapting,” he said.

“We are always meeting new people and getting ourselves out of new, trickier situations. I have worked in a few one-Michelin-starred restaurants, and they have all been different. At each, I have learned new techniques and styles of management and I am always seeking to improve myself."

“Creativity, ambition and energy”

It’s the second year in a row a University College Birmingham graduate has made the 30 Under 30 Acorn Awards, run by The Caterer to recognise the top up-and-coming talent across the sector, all of whom are nominated by their peers.

Presenting the 2024 awards, Allister Richards chief operating officer for awards sponsor company CH&Co, said: “The creativity, ambition and energy of all the winners is a magnificent reminder of how exciting and full of opportunity our industry is.

“While they’re all succeeding and flourishing as individuals on their own unique development pathway, they’re all empowered by a shared desire and determination to succeed and make a difference, and a sector that fully embraces diverse talent.

“Early on in their hospitality careers they have shown unbounded potential, remarkable ability and vision, and they’ve laid their claim as future hospitality leaders and influencers.”

Daniel Bennett (picture credit: Jenny Jones Photography)

Superstar student

Daniel's lecturer, Ros McAteer, said, from the off, he demonstrated a great interest and passion for the industry.

"He was already working at Carter's in Moseley when he joined us and shared his knowledge with the rest of the group," she said. "It was a pleasure to teach Daniel on the gastronomy option module, which he completely embraced.

"He did such a memorable presentation when he went to the Fat Duck, I asked him to present it to the next group of students the following year. Needless to say, he is a worthy winner of this award and it is a privilege to be part of his journey. Despite all of his achievements, Daniel is always willing to support the University and will be presenting at our Inspire conference as part of student induction in September."

University College Birmingham is a leading provider of specialist training for the food and hospitality industries, with students learning in our award-winning training restaurant and industry-standard kitchen facilities.

Discover our courses within our Department of Hospitality and Tourism and Birmingham College of Food.  

*Now International Hospitality and Tourism Management 

“The University is renowned in the fields of hospitality and food, and when people across the UK – or even in Europe – find out you’ve studied here, they know you’ve done well.

“While studying you’re taught by amazing industry professionals who are incredibly supportive and only want the best for you, but you also maintain contact with them even years later. It’s a fantastic network to be a part of.”

Daniel Bennett College of Food Hospitality Business Management BA (Hons) Graduate and 2024 Acorn Award Winner

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