Be Inclusive Hospitality Spotlight Awards – get to know the finalists

Tonight we will find out who will be named Writer of the Year at the BIH Spotlight Awards, which celebrates exceptional talent and achievement from Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities working in hospitality, food, and drink.

As a proud sponsor of this category, below Decanter shares more about the finalists and their journeys within the industry so far…

‘I am so proud of the stellar line up of talented professionals in the Writer of the Year category. Their words and stories are ever powerful in our community and our industry. They all inspire me, my peers and future generations to continue to push to be heard.’

Lorraine Copes, founder of Be Inclusivity and the BIH Spotlight Awards

Emanuele Mensah @cocktailswithlele

[The Spotlight Awards] It’s something we really need. It makes us stronger and makes us confident to shine. Your voice is heard, it means a lot to be given the chance to be recognised.  

Did you always want to work in hospitality?

From a young age I was lucky enough to spend some time in Accra, Ghana. My grandmother owned a little restaurant on the corner of the street, selling traditional food like banku and fufu. I’d spend a lot of time there after school getting under everyone’s feet. I just remember being around lots of people, talking and laughing with them, this inspired me. I wanted to create this feeling in my adult career. I would actually like to open my own bar or restaurant one day.

How did it feel knowing you had been nominated for this award?

I honestly didn’t believe it was real at first, I had to double check. When it was confirmed, I called my mum in disbelief.

How important do you think it is to have awards that highlight the achievements of Black, Asian and minority groups in the industry?

For a person of colour, this industry can be a lonely place, I’ve been lucky enough to work in some of the best bars in the world, but no one looked like me. With awards like this, you don’t feel alone anymore, I’m grateful there are organisations taking steps in making sure we are seen.

What do you think the hospitality industry needs to do to be more diverse and inclusive?

Set the example from the top. Hire more people of colour in senior positions. This way people from underrepresented groups can see that it is achievable. 

You can now add author to your list of titles, how did this come about?

I was shocked how it all happened to be honest. During the pandemic and lockdown, I really missed being behind the bar and interacting with people, so I decided to make YouTube videos of everything I have learned throughout my years as a mixologist, and put it in one place for people to make at home. I was contacted by Whalen Book Works, who saw my videos and wanted me to write a recipe book. Just like my nomination, I wasn’t sure whether this was real, but after checking with a lawyer, it turns out that it was.

I wrote my first book Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails – during lockdown. It did really well, and I was commissioned to write a second book – Rosé Cocktails.

Why rosé? 

It’s a summer drink that people really love! But at the same time, a bottle only lasts about two or three days in the fridge. So that it doesn’t go to waste, taking the sustainable approach, I thought why not create rosé cocktail recipes. This book not only teaches readers how to make great cocktails, it also talks about the history of rosé, and which flavours work best with different styles. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into the industry?

Believe in yourself, believe in what you want and keep chasing it. Learn as much as you can and read from the first day. You can learn for people, but you should also do the work and read, read, read.

Melissa Thompson @fowlmouthsfood 
FOWL MOUTHS: Food & Recipe Project

When you put your all into writing, having the initial feedback is great acknowledgement for what you are doing’.

How important do you think it is to have awards…

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Be Inclusive Hospitality Spotlight Awards – get to know the finalists  
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