CHESHIRE’S first-ever Cocktail Bartender of the Year has been named during the visitor economy’s most glamourous night of the year.

The honour went to Farzad Dashti, of Bar Lounge in Chester, one of the eleven outstanding winners in this year’s CATS Awards (Celebrating the Achievement of Talented Staff) at Tatton Park.

Bar Lounge Manager Jason Bligh praised Farzad for his passion and drive: “He has such commitment, not only to Bar Lounge but also to the world of mixology. He’s a pleasure to watch!”

The CATS awards event was organised by tourism board Visit Chester & Cheshire, provided a showcase for the industry’s top performers and their employers.

Jamie Bridgett Carden Park Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa won the accolade for Most Up and Coming Chef while Stephen Wundke of the Restaurant Association of Chester and Cheshire received the Exceptional Contribution to the Visitor Economy award.

Pat Bowring of Duttons Winer Bar in Chester was amazed to be presented with the Commitment to Industry award.

“I thought I was just going out for a meal with the Duttons’ team. I had no idea there’s be any question of an award, especially in a category with so many well-known and important people. I was just in shock and still am. How I got on to the stage for the award I’ll never know.”

Pat added: “I’m really grateful to the management team here at Duttons. The award is a tribute to my colleagues, and to my customers – they’re all the nicest people in Chester.”

There was a double celebration at the Alvanley Arms with James Fosbrook winning the award for Individual excellence in Customer Service, and Sue Bouch taking the Highly Skilled Front of House award.

Owner Janet King praised James, a waiter and bar person, for his mature, caring and pro-active approach to meeting customer needs. “At only eighteen years old, he has become a real asset to the business and knows what the customers need even before they know they need it!”

Congratulating Front of House Manager Sue Bouch on her successes, Janet continued: “She leads from the front, training, encouraging and motivating the staff to make sure the customers have the best possible experience in every aspect of their stay. She also liaises closely with the kitchen team to ensure there’s a seamless relationship between them and the customer.”

Janet added: “For a small country inn to be so successful against such high-profile nominees is a real honour.”

Nick Rushforth of West Cheshire College was voted Most Promising Trainee in the Visitor Economy. College Principal Sara Mogel commented: “West Cheshire College is truly delighted that Nick’s high level of skills and his dedication to learning and development has been recognised by this prestigious award.

“We hope he will continue to go from strength to strength and also that t his award will encourage other people to consider hospitality and catering as a career.

The Most Outstanding Manager award went to Peter Gregory at Chester Crowne Plaza Hotel. Peter is the manager of Silks bar and restaurant within the hotel offering 24 hour food and drinks service in the bar, as well as the club lounge, room service and 160-seater restaurant.

Operations Manager Paul Borg commented: “Peter Gregory is a highly motivated manager who drives the results in our restaurant through his Team members.”

Carden Park Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa celebrated the success of employee Jamie Bridgett winning the’ Cheshire’s Most up and Coming Chef’ award. (awaiting quote)

The Apprentice star Ruth Badger was welcomed as guest speaker to the event.

Now in their ninth year, the CATS awards provided a perfect opportunity to showcase the top performers across Chester-Cheshire’s travel, tourism, leisure, retail, education, training and hospitality sectors, and its attractions, events, food and drink and accommodation providers.

Visit Chester & Cheshire’s Emma Clarke congratulated the winners. “The commitment, skill and style they have shown exemplify the standards that need to prevail across the visitor economy if we are to reach our goal of encouraging more people to visit more often, stay longer and spend more. These are the approaches that will set us apart from our competitors.”

The winners are:

• Exceptional Contribution to the Visitor Economy: Stephen Wundke, Restaurant Association of Chester and Cheshire

• Cocktail Bartended of the Year: Farzad Dashti, Bar Lounge, Chester

• Cheshire’s Most up and Coming Chef: Jamie Bridgett, Carden Park Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa

• Commitment to Industry: Pat Bowring, Duttons Wine Bar, Chester.

• Individual excellence in Customer Service: James Fosbrook, The Alvanley Arms, near Chester

• Highly Skilled Front of House: Sue Bouch, The Alvanley Arms, near Chester.

• Most Promising Trainee in the Visitor Economy: Nick Rushforth, West Cheshire College.

• Unsung Hero: Tracey Capper, The Rams Head Inn, Grapenhall.

• Most Outstanding Manager: Peter Gregory, Chester Crowne Plaza, Chester

• Most Valuable Volunteer: Miranda Shufflebotham, Nantwich Food and Drink Festival

• Team of the Year: The Vital Health Club, Macdonald Hill Valley Hotel.