LHVA Awards 2022: Vote for the inspiring Leeds staff who have made the final of the People's Choice award

It’s been a rollercoaster two years for the hospitality industry.

By Abbey Maclure
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:45 am

Hotels and venues were hard hit by the pandemic and were one of the last industries to see a recovery.

In the peak of the pandemic, some hotels across Leeds had to shut up shop, while others gave safe haven to the homeless and vulnerable, looked after front-line staff and offered a warm bed and breakfast to blue-light workers.

Many hospitality staff who were furloughed used their talents to serve their local communities, with food parcels and wellness visits or volunteering as marshals and tea and biscuit givers at vaccination and testing centres.

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Clockwise from top left: Lamin Darboe, Marriott; Nigel Howland, Hilton Leeds City; Gabriella Giona, Park Plaza; Paul Collins, Marriott

When hotels and hospitality opened for business, there was with an entirely new set of touch point and hygiene rules.

Housekeeping teams were revered and operational practice hit a new level of two-metre distancing, hand sanitiser, screens and face masks.

Hospitality workers smiled on behind the mask as they battled with an unprecedented level of Staycationers, a record-breaking number of weddings, staff shortages, linen shortages and everything in between.

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Clockwise from top left: David Townsend, Double Tree Hotel; Dean Sygrove, The Queens and Louise Balderson, Hilton Leeds City. Also nominated is Steven Gleed, Thorpe Park Hotel.

The Christmas party season was wiped out overnight leaving hotels with an awful lot of turkeys, Christmas puddings and a very quiet New Year.

In 2022, things began to return to some form of normality.

Conference and events are picking up and after a long two-year delay, the Leeds Hotels and Venues Association (LHVA) Awards are coming back for 2022.

LHVA is a not-for-profit, membership-led organisation representing 30 hotels and venues across the city and outskirts of Leeds.

The annual LHVA Awards celebrate the outstanding work of the people who work in the city's hotels, ensuring that guests, business and conference visitors have an enjoyable visit, and leave the city with a great guest experience and a desire to come back again.

There are nine categories in the awards, which includes a popular favourite, the People’s Choice award, which this year is sponsored by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

The YEP is asking its readers to vote for their favourite candidate in a shortlist of amazing nominees.

Voting is now open and closes on Friday June 3.

The winner will be announced at the LHVA Awards at Headingley Stadium on Thursday June 16.

Here are the eight nominees for the People's Choice Awards and what their employers had to say about them.

You can read their full stories and vote for them by visiting the People’s Choice page on the LHVA website.

David Townsend, kitchen assistant, Double Tree by Hilton

The Double Tree by Hilton team said: "David has been with the team for more than five years and nothing is too much trouble.

"He arrives early and sets up everything so that the breakfast for both front of house and the kitchen is ready to deliver an amazing experience to guests.

"He bakes all the fresh pastries, breads and buffet items to the highest standards to create the perfect guest experience.

"We’ve nominated David for the People’s Choice because he is always thinking about the other people around him."

Dean Sygrove, front of house manager, The Queens

The Queens hotel said: "Dean is quite simply a legend.

"He joined The Queens in September 2021, walking into a place with a brand-new team where the most experienced receptionist had only been with the business for three months.

"He gets so many great guest comments that praise his welcome.

"He’s an unfailingly positive man and is often the person to remind us why we do what we do using his favourite phrase 'one team'".

Gabriella Giona, hotel administrator, Park Plaza

The Park Plaza said: "Gabriella is the metaphorical glue that helps connect each department across Park Plaza Leeds.

"With a wealth of knowledge from her time in housekeeping, her previous history in food and beverage and now as her time as hotel administrator, Gabriella is a pillar of the hotel that has enabled our team to run efficiently throughout the course of the pandemic.

"A chameleon in that whatever gap needs to be filled, she has masterfully morphed into roles with a willingness and eagerness to help, learn and provide a fabulous service to our guests and colleagues within the hotel."

Lamin Darboe, housekeeping/breakfast chef, Marriott

The Marriott said: "Lamin has been nominated for this award for the amazing charity work he has done and continues to do for Darboe Kunda Charitable Association in his native village in The Gambia.

"All the money that Lamin earns working at The Leeds Marriott Hotel he sends back to support his wife and four daughters and also the other people in his village.

"He has built and furnished a mosque in his home village, without this facility the children would not be in school.

"Now they have this safe facility they can attend five days a week. He is extremely humble and selfless, and we think Lamin should be recognised for this amazing selflessness and the valuable contribution he continues to make."

Louise Balderson, sales executive, Hilton Leeds City

The Hilton team said: "Louise joined our Group Conference and Events Sales team at Hilton Leeds City in May 2021 and has been an integral part to the success of the group, conference and events team, delivering a successful Christmas budget despite operating in difficult circumstances.

"Louise has used her own initiative to drive sales across all revenue segments.

"She has built relationships with the local student’s unions and organised an open evening for students which was very successful.

"A natural salesperson, enthusiastic and passionate about hospitality, there is no doubt that she will go far within her career in Hilton."

Nigel Howland, maintenance supervisor, Hilton Leeds City

The Hilton team said: "When the world went into lockdown and we were looking for someone to lead by example Nigel stepped up. Big time.

"Working throughout lockdown on his own (departmentally) and with one other person on site, keeping the building ticking over.

"For years Nigel’s favourite saying has been, 'I’m just a painter.'

"Nigel isn’t just a painter, not anymore. During lockdown, Nigel was rising to new challenges brought on by a near empty hotel.

"He is the perfect embodiment of hospitality. It’s one thing to be ‘prepared’ to help and another thing to be ‘actively looking’ to help others and improve a guest’s stay. Everything Hilton and Hospitality stands for, is regularly demonstrated by Nigel.

"Nigel, N-noticeably, I-Integral, G-genuinely, E-enthusiastic, L-likeable – NIGEL."

Paul Collins, guest relations manager, Marriott

The Marriott said: "Paul is one of the longest serving employees at the Leeds Marriott.

"He began his Leeds Marriott Journey on November7, 1994, as the bar manager in what was then John Ts Bar when everything was still very new.

"Three years later, he took up the position of assistant night manager then onto night manager.

"There isn’t much that he hasn’t had to deal with during his time at the Marriott and his depth of knowledge within the hotel and the Marriott is second to none.

"He makes sure that everyone who visits leaves happy."

Steven Gleed, head chef, Thorpe Park

Thorpe Park said: "Steven is a much-loved and long-serving member of the team at Thorpe Park.

"Despite working in a fast-paced and challenging environment he makes time for his teammates and for his colleagues throughout the hotel.

"Steven acts as a mentor to new staff, with his good humour and endless patience, he coaxes his colleagues to excellence and remains someone to whom the kitchen team can turn to for advice or motivation.

"Steven approaches periods of exceptionally high demand with his trademark good humour and commitment to an excellent offering.

"His skills are appreciated by guests, and we are nominating him for the People’s Choice Award, in recognition of his work."