Hospitality industry raises glass in memory of Derek Patterson
Hundreds of members of Northern Ireland's hospitality industry have drunk a toast to the memory of their tragic 'champion' Derek Patterson, the Hillsborough chef and restaurant owner who died last month.
The moving tribute to the 53-year-old entrepreneur who was behind the Plough Inn and several other establishments came at a glittering awards ceremony organised by the Licensed & Catering News (LCN) publication in Belfast.
Mr Patterson, who cooked for royalty and secretaries of state staying at Hillsborough Castle opposite the Plough Inn, was described as a huge friend and pioneer of the hospitality industry. His body was found near his home in Hillsborough on May 28.
LCN publisher Bill Penton took to the stage and said: "This is a night of celebration but it is also a time to reflect and look back to last week when we lost Derek Patterson, a champion of the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland. He was a great supporter of the industry. He really was an icon. And I would ask you to raise your glasses to Derek Patterson."
At the ceremony the lifetime achievement award went to retired hotelier Patsy O'Kane who recently sold the luxury Beech Hill Country House Hotel she developed on the outskirts of Derry.
Patsy, a former occupational therapist who opened the Beech Hill in 1991, received a standing ovation from over 400 guests as she collected her award.
During her time running the Beech Hill she played host to a veritable who's who of famous guests including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, John Carey, poet Seamus Heaney, actor Will Ferrell, comedian Billy Connolly and music stars Bono, Chuck Berry, Van Morrison and Ed Sheeran.
Lord Saville resided at the hotel with 18 members of his staff throughout the long-running inquiry into Bloody Sunday.
The citation for Patsy O'Kane said she was an exceptional woman who had made a unique contribution to the hospitality industry. Mrs O'Kane said the award was a massive honour.
She added: "It's especially gratifying to receive recognition from one's peers in the industry who understand the challenges and the level of commitment required to lead a successful team"
Mrs O'Kane revealed she had been in hospital when she got a phone call telling her about the lifetime achievement award
She went on: "I thought it was someone taking the hand out of me. I couldn't believe it."
Among the other awards, The StillHouse in Moira won pub of the year; James Street in Belfast was restaurant of the year, and Paul Cunningham of Brunel's restaurant in Newcastle was voted chef of the year. The award for bar person of the year went to Stephen Dodds of McHugh's bar in Belfast.
The winners of the best hotels were the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort near Ballymena (over 75 rooms section) and the Killyhevlin in Enniskillen (for up to 75 rooms). Best newcomer was the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast.